More Than A Movement: Unpacking Contemporary Anti-Human Trafficking Efforts in Washington, D.C.
Struna, Nancy L
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Trafficking in persons has attracted seemingly boundless attention over the last two decades and the work aimed at fighting it is best understood when this cause is contextualized against the backdrop of other social forces—economic, social, and cultural—shaping contemporary nonprofit activities. This project argues that the paid and volunteer labor that takes place in metro Washington, D.C., to combat trafficking in persons can be understood as both a movement and an industry. In addition to arguing that anti-trafficking work is part of a nonprofit industrial complex that situates activist and advocacy work firmly inside state and economic institutions, this project is concerned with the ways in which trafficking work and workers conduct their business collectively. As an organizational study, it identifies the key players in the D.C. region focused on this issue and traces their interactions, collaborations, and cooperation. Significantly, this project suggests that despite variations in objectives, methods, priorities, and characterizations of trafficking, thirty organizations in metro D.C. working on this issue “get along” because they are bound by the benign common goal of raising awareness. Awareness, in this context, is best understood as both a cultural anchor facilitating cohesion and as a social currency allowing groups to opt into joint efforts. The dissertation concludes that organizations centralize awareness in their collective activities over more drastic priorities around which consensus would need to be gained. This is a lost opportunity for making sense of the ways that individual bodies—men, women, and children—experience not just trafficking, but the world around them.