September 21, 2023


It's Your Education

With new awards, humanities, social sciences college to progress scholarship on freedom, sexuality

Q: How did you getting operating alongside one another soon after your respective arrivals at Brown?

Shih: We begun at Brown at the very same time, and we bought to know just about every other since we’re both of those fellows at the Middle for the Review of Slavery and Justice

I attempt to be extremely mindful about how the examine of “human trafficking” is affiliated with CSSJ. Not long ago, it’s develop into very trendy to equate up to date sex trafficking with historical racial slavery — for occasion, contacting human trafficking “modern-day slavery.” But this is amazingly hazardous and has negative penalties. It captivates people who experience guilt that their ancestors participated in the trans-Atlantic slave trade and moves them to talk out from trafficking, which sad to say tends to displace interest and funding from comprehending the heritage of chattel slavery and its modern day racial legacy.

I assume Emily’s and my function, taken collectively, highlights the issues and complexities of modern day human trafficking even though also delivering historic context for it and reminding folks that we are nevertheless grappling with the consequences of racial slavery.

Owens: We have a collaborative CSSJ research cluster in the performs that will be named Sexual intercourse and Unfreedom. We initially arrived up with the notion due to the fact we discovered we ended up mentoring, advising and serving alongside one another on several students’ thesis committees, which confirmed the similarities in our exploration focuses. As soon as we both equally end our guide assignments, we hope to launch that cluster and delve a lot more into the ways our operate intersects. 

Q: How does your scholarship overlap?

Shih: I consider one particular factor we’re both doing is bringing forward stories of women’s current survival tactics. In the early 2000s, the World wide North, the United Nations and policymakers developed a narrative about human trafficking and framed the anti-trafficking movement as a humanitarian initiative. But students have shown that what they genuinely did was generate a really slender definition of who can be regarded as a sufferer of trafficking and who are unable to. They excluded migrants, undocumented employees and persons with any sort of legal background, for instance. And they turned to the current market economic climate to “rescue” and “rehabilitate” these girls, training them in matters like jewellery-earning and purse-sewing so they could make so-termed slave-free of charge goods to be marketed in the U.S. It implied this thought that we can obtain somebody’s freedom. 

In my guide, I’m inquiring: Relatively than featuring new, industry-pushed varieties of rescue and rehabilitation for victims of intercourse trafficking, how do we shift this by on the lookout at approaches that women were being already organizing? Like the gals Emily is finding out, how did intercourse personnel find their possess paths to independence when the condition wasn’t conferring it on them? 

Owens: Another web page of convergence in our assignments is that we both examine the specific ways women of all ages have to current by themselves in get to be identified as a target. My get the job done utilizes court docket transcripts to fully grasp the life of the ladies I study. What is so hanging to me is the way they designed their arguments. They were so savvy. They understood accurately what kinds of arguments would or would not assistance them get much more no cost. They couldn’t argue that slavery was mistaken, or that a person beating up a woman was erroneous, since they knew that wouldn’t sway any one at the time. Likewise, in Elena’s work, you see sex personnel staying requested to accomplish a particular type of femininity, like taking a job creating jewellery, in purchase to be introduced as suitable for “rehabilitation.” Like the women of all ages I study in the past, marginalized girls in the existing are strategizing inside of, by means of and from a established of buildings established up by people today who are not fundamentally intrigued in observing them survive and thrive.

I feel in the long run we’re both equally arguing that rules, then and now, are structured in a way that makes it as well quick to blame gals for violence they’ve endured. To enable us rethink sexual violence and how to answer to it, the initial matter we require to do is to hear to females a lot more and consider gals far more severely.