Alex Sager

Date of Award

Summer 1-1-2012

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies (MAIS)


Interdisciplinary Studies

Physical Description

1 online resource (ii, 163 p.)


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




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.


Portland State University. Office of Graduate Studies. Interdisciplinary Programs

Persistent Identifier