First Advisor

Alex Sager

Date of Publication

Summer 1-1-2012

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies (MAIS)


Interdisciplinary Studies




Human trafficking -- United States -- 21st century, Slavery -- United States -- 21st century, Slave labor -- United States -- 21st century, Human smuggling -- United States -- 21st century, Indentured servants -- United States -- 21st century



Physical Description

1 online resource (ii, 163 p.)


Human trafficking and slavery are horrific crimes that require strict penalties for perpetrators and effective protections for survivors, but these crimes are in part facilitated by a system of laws and norms that effectively marginalize certain populations--the "unskilled" migrant. In this thesis I aim to reexamine and reinterpret the problem of human trafficking and slavery in a way that highlights the background conditions to the problem. I argue that the framework used as a conceptual foundation for addressing the problem limits the scope of responsibility. Specifically, the framework fails to acknowledge structural contributing factors I show to be relevant: law, policy, and norms impacting immigration and migrant labor. I assert that the limited scope of responsibility, which focuses heavily on direct perpetrators of the crime, leaves largely unexamined the role of social-structural processes in contributing to the problem. I use the United States as a case study in order to provide a targeted analysis of social-structural processes that contribute to the problem. In this examination of the United States, I focus on agricultural and domestic slavery. In conclusion, I attempt to build a new conceptual framework that calls attention to social-structural processes and includes this understanding in assigning responsibility for the problem. I assert that anti-trafficking efforts must account for the role of social-structural processes and that these contributing factors must be adequately addressed and incorporated into the framework for prevention.


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Portland State University. Office of Graduate Studies. Interdisciplinary Programs

Persistent Identifier