Alicia W. Peters, Ph.D.
Associate Professor, Anthropology
Affiliated Faculty, Women's and Gender Studies
Alicia Peters is associate professor of anthropology and affiliated faculty in the Women's and Gender Studies Program. Her teaching interests include cultural anthropology, medical anthropology, ethnographic methods, human trafficking, and critical perspectives on gender and sexuality. Professor Peters' research examines how cultural understandings of gender and sexuality influence conceptions of human trafficking and the implementation of U.S. anti-trafficking law and policy. She is the author of the book, Responding to Human Trafficking: Sex, Gender, and Culture in the Law, published in 2015 by the University of Pennsylvania Press as part of its Pennsylvania Studies in Human Rights series. Peters is currently conducting an ethnographic study of the human trafficking response in northern New England.
Professor Peters' research examines how cultural understandings of gender and sexuality influence conceptions of human trafficking and the implementation of U.S. anti-trafficking law and policy. She recently published Responding to Human Trafficking: Sex, Gender, and Culture in the Law. The book, released by the University of Pennsylvania Press as part of its Pennsylvania Studies in Human Rights series, is the first to examine the implementation of U.S. anti-trafficking law and policy and to explore the complexity of issues arising around the issue from an ethnographic perspective.
Signed into law in 2000, the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) defined the crime of human trafficking and brought attention to an issue previously unknown to most Americans. But while human trafficking is widely considered a serious and despicable crime, there has been far less consensus as to how to approach the problem—owing in part to a pervasive emphasis on forced prostitution that overshadows repugnant practices in other labor sectors affecting vulnerable populations. Responding to Human Trafficking examines the ways in which cultural perceptions of sexual exploitation and victimhood inform the drafting, interpretation, and implementation of U.S. antitrafficking law, as well as the law's effects on trafficking victims.
Drawing from interviews with social workers and case managers, attorneys, investigators, and government administrators as well as trafficked persons, Peters explores how cultural and symbolic frameworks regarding sex, gender, and victimization were incorporated into the drafting of the TVPA and have been replicated through the interpretation and implementation of the law. Tracing the path of the TVPA over the course of nearly a decade, Responding to Human Trafficking reveals the profound gaps in understanding that pervade implementation as service providers and criminal justice authorities strive to collaborate and perform their duties. Ultimately, this sensitive ethnography sheds light on the complex and wide-ranging effects of the TVPA on the victims it was designed to protect.
Responding to Human Trafficking: Sex, Gender, and Culture in the Law. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2015; 2018.
“Challenging the Sex/Labor Trafficking Dichotomy with Victim Experience,” In Parreñas, Rhacel Salazer and Kimberly Kay Hoang (Eds.) Human Trafficking Reconsidered: Rethinking the Problem, Envisioning New Solutions. New York: International Debate Education Association, 2014.
“’Things that involve sex are just different’: U.S. Anti-trafficking Law and Policy on the Books, in their Minds, and in Action,” Anthropological Quarterly, 86(1), 2013.
“Broadening the Lens on Human Trafficking,” Huffington Post, American Anthropological Association Blog, August 2., 2012. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/american-anthropological-association/broadening-the-lens-on-hu_b_1728820.html.