First Advisor

Michele Gamburd

Date of Publication

Summer 8-20-2019

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.) in Anthropology






Child trafficking victims -- Care -- United States, Child trafficking victims -- Institutional care -- Oregon – Portland -- Case studies, Psychic trauma, Becoming (Philosophy), Grief



Physical Description

1 online resource (vii, 124 pages)


My cultural anthropology master's thesis focuses on the workings of Inanna House, an emergency shelter/residential program for commercially sexually exploited (CSEC) youth in Portland, Oregon. In the summer of 2017, I did participant observation and interviewed youth and direct care staff members at the CSEC shelter I had been working at for 2 years. I begin by situating ideas about domestic minor sex trafficking (DMST) within larger historical, legal, economic, and political contexts. I consider concepts of childhood, race, class, gender, and sexuality on the story of DMST in the United States.

Next, I explore the ways humans and institutions move around, and sometimes through, a shared human vulnerability. By considering the functions of trauma and CSE youths' experiences of resilience and relationship, I make a case for care based on interconnectedness. Using the lens of commensurability and social commensurability, I highlight how care oscillated between a disciplinary gaze and a deep relatability. Further, I discuss how rules meant to consider trauma's impact on the mind and body of youth often faltered with inconsistency, forming traumatropisms instead of trauma-informed care. I draw out the evidence for the tangle of care and control in the shelter.

In addition, I examine youth and staff experiences of living and working at Inanna House. I focus on how Inanna House used techniques of quasi-total institutions and disciplinary power along with tools of trauma-informed care to structure its program, and how all three often fell apart. In the cracks of the crumbling foundational structures though, I bring into view instances of what I call "becoming". Becoming refers to the ways both youth and staff disrupted roles based on discipline and control or being trauma-informed, and were more malleable, more desiring, and more unknown than the structures around them accounted for.

Finally, I discuss the role of grief, often missing in the organization of care in institutions like Inanna House, as well as in the anthropology of violence working on identities and relations in the aftermath. I try through this thesis to express the complexities and connections, the messiness and tenderness, running through the relationships and institution of a shelter for commercially sexually exploited youth.


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