Current Institutional Affiliation
Dean of Social Sciences, Director of the School of Social Transformation, Arizona State University

Award Information

Abe Fellowship 2013
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Associate Professor and Chair, Anthropology, Claremont Colleges / Pomona College
The Family Detention Complex: Human Trafficking, Parenting, and Immobilized Migrants in Asia

My project is an ethnographic study of the intersections of human trafficking, parenthood, statelessness, citizenship, and migration in several migrant sending and receiving countries in Asia, including Japan, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, the Philippines, and Indonesia. Juxtaposing fieldwork with migrant workers, survivors of human trafficking, and policy makers in the U.S. and Asia, it investigates the disconnections between policies about labor, migration, citizenship, and the lived experiences of those who endure human trafficking. Many migrants in contemporary Asia are caught in the web of laws and policies on migration and human trafficking. Children of trafficked individuals may live in countries where they do not have citizenship. Migrant women who become pregnant in some host countries can be forcibly detained, deported, and separated from their children. Nonetheless, women and men frequently remain in trafficking situations to support their children back home. Their stories are rarely heard. Although the past decade has witnessed a resurgence of interest in questions of human trafficking, statelessness, and the feminization of migration, few scholars have positioned the family at the center of analysis. I introduce the concept of immobilized migrancy to refer to people whose movements as migrants are halted because of their status as parents or children. I study migrant women and men who become susceptible to trafficking either because of children at home, or (for women) because they become pregnant while in the host country. My methodology is ethnographic and involves interviewing migrants, their families, and stateless children in Japan, Kuwait, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates. I have also interviewed families returning or left behind in the home countries of the Philippines, Indonesia, and Malaysia, as well as policy makers and representatives of NGOs. By conducting research in both sending and receiving countries across Asia to generate triangulated data, I believe that my study generates new perspectives.