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Title: Human trafficking : women's stories of agency
Author: De Angelis, Maria Ivanna
Awarding Body: University of Hull
Current Institution: University of Hull
Date of Award: 2012
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This thesis is about women’s stories of agency in a trafficking experience. The idea of agency is a difficult concept to fathom, given the unscrupulous acts and exploitative practices which demarcate and define trafficking. In response to the three Ps of trafficking policy (prevention and protection of victims and the simultaneous prosecution of traffickers) official discourse constructs trafficking agency in singular opposition to trafficking victimhood. The ‘true’ victim of trafficking is reified in attributes of passivity and worthiness, whereas signs of women’s agency are read as consent in their own predicament or as culpability in criminal justice and immigration rule breaking. Moving beyond the official lack or criminal fact of agency, this research adds knowledge on agency constructed with, on, and by women possessing a trafficking experience. This fills an internationally recognised gap in the trafficking discourse. Within the thesis, female agency is explored in feminist terms of women’s immediate well-being agency (their physical safety and economic needs) and their longer term requirements for agency freedom (their capacity to construct choices and the conditions affecting choice). This feminist exploration of the terrain on trafficking found ways in which female agency takes shape in relationship and in degrees to women’s subjective and structural victimisation. Based upon the stories of twenty six women gathered through an in-depth qualitative study, agency is visible in identity, decision making and actions. Women fashioned individual trafficking identities from their subjective engagement with the official trafficking descriptors. Additionally, their identification with ties to home (expressed via family relationships, occupational roles, national dress and ethnic food) helped to sustain their pre-trafficking personas. Women exhibited agency in risk taking and choices (initial, shared, constrained and precarious), which characterised their journeys and explained their grading of trafficking ‘pains’. Significantly, the fieldwork raised women’s engagement with ‘the rules’ and practices of the host society, as a way of realising new social, recreational, educational, employment, sexual and consumer related freedoms. Acknowledging the international and UK serious organised crime frame on trafficking, the fieldwork also included fifteen interviews with anti-trafficking professionals involved in delivering the three Ps of trafficking policy. This complementary standpoint to women’s stories presents ways in which official actors helped and hindered women’s achievement of well-being and agency freedoms. Crucially, in addressing trafficking as an evolving and integral aspect in contemporary global movement - displaying similarity and cross over with migration, smuggling, asylum and refugee accounts - this research unearthed trafficking exploitations and experiences around transnational marriage, which have been traditionally isolated and overlooked by UK trafficking discourse and policy platforms.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Social sciences