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University of Cambridge Centre for Gender Studies


Anna Forringer-Beal 2019Gates Cambridge US Scholarship

From White Slaves to Trafficking Victims: How Historic Perceptions of Migrants Shape Contemporary Anti-Trafficking Policy

Supervisor: Professor Jude Browne (University of Cambridge Centre for Gender Studies)


The White Slavery Panics at the end of the nineteenth century laid the foundation for anti-human trafficking law. However, the connection between these events and contemporary policy has remained elusive. My research examines the legal history behind the UK Modern Slavery Act of 2015 and the US Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 to better understand how early perceptions of immigrants and sex workers impact current policy decisions. Using critical discourse analysis to examine historic anti-trafficking laws and popular white slavery narratives, I investigate the conversation between these two discourses. This reveals a series of legislative decisions influenced by xenophobia that I further explore using critical race and gender theory. These patterns in early human trafficking law carry implications for how we approach anti-trafficking measures today. This work argues to refocus policy using a human rights-based approach that places the needs of trafficking survivors at its centre.

Research Interests:  

My research interests include migration studies, decoloniality, critical race theory, human trafficking policy, and queer theory.  

Academic Background:  

MPhil (Distinction) in Multidisciplinary Gender Studies at Jesus College, University of Cambridge  

Bachelor of Arts (High Honors) in Anthropology and Women’s Studies at the University of Michigan  


J. De León, C. Gokee, and A. Forringer-Beal. “Use Wear, Disruption, and the Materiality of Undocumented Migration in the Southern Arizona Desert”. In Migrations and Disruptions: Unifying Themes in Studies of Ancient and Contemporary Migrations, edited by T. Tsuda and B. Baker, 145-178. University Press of Florida, 2015.