Essay: Human Trafficking: An Ethnographic Study

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[. . .] Subquestions include why men vs. women are trafficked in some situations vs. others; and why some cultures are more prone to being source cultures, and others more prone to being destination cultures. Finally, is poverty the primary sociological factor that gives rise to human trafficking? What social norms are at play that make it possible for human trafficking to take place? Finally, the research question ultimately seeks a solution to the problem.

Theoretical or Conceptual Framework

The theoretical and conceptual frameworks for this research are sociological in nature. Rational choice and demand theory are two of the most important and applicable theories in this ethnography of human trafficking. In addition to rational choice and demand theory, conflict theory will also be integrated into the research. Rational choice theory is a criminological theory that suggests that crimes take place in atmospheres in which opportunity presents itself, with an absence or minimal risk of being caught. In other words, rational choice theory is a cost-benefits analysis of committing an unethical or criminal behavior. A human trafficking cartel does, it is postulated, operate within a rational framework. The money gained from human trafficking is believed to outweigh the potential risks involved. Moreover, the perpetrators will often rationalize their choice to participate in trafficking by claiming that the victims trusted them, and it is the responsibility of the adult victims to be in control of their own lives. Likewise, the perpetrators might truly believe that they are doing the victim(s) a favor by extricating them from a poor village, abusive marriage, or other situation. Rational choice theory can also apply to the victims, and a victimology approach is helpful to seeing which individuals are more prone to being victimized and why. An ethnography is an ideal method because of the way it examines cultural values, roles, norms, and other sociological variables.

Demand theory is an economic theory, which can be easily applied to the phenomenon of adult human trafficking. This theory suggests that human trafficking occurs because there is demand on the market for adult slaves. Whether the demand is for cheap labor, free labor, or sex labor remains to be seen, and will be covered during the ethnography of this research. Using demand theory, the researchers will be able to treat human trafficking as any other business enterprise. The perpetrators are providing a service because there is a demand. In this case, the researcher will need to evaluate the purchasing or end-user culture with as much scrutiny as the source culture. Rather than only blaming the source cultures for the problem of human trafficking, it is important also to point fingers at the end user.

Finally, conflict theory is a classic sociological theory that addresses social injustice and inequities. Conflict theory is based on unequal distribution of wealth in any given society. It is related to strain theory in that when there is unequal distribution of wealth, the poor members of the society feel acute strain, making them prone to breaking the law in order to earn money. Conflict theory suggests that the poor members of the society will remain in conflict with the owners of the means of production in that society and that crime will continue to take place unless a more equitable economic policy can be instated.

Nature of the Study

The design of this study, as an ethnography, will combine various methods as the researcher fulfills the role of observer and interviewer. It is not truly possible to be a participant-observer for this ethnography. Instead, observation and interviewing will be the primary means by which to gather evidence.

Observations will take place in two distinct settings: in the source culture and also in the receiving or end-user culture. On-site observation will ideally include living in a community with a high rate of adult human trafficking for both genders. Then, I will be able to observe the phenomenon in one culture, which would eliminate potential validity problems. If it proves impossible to find one culture or community with both male and female human trafficking victims, then I will observe two different cultures to compare the male and female victim experiences, as well as the cultural and normative precursors to human trafficking.

The receiving culture will present the same methodological conundrum. If there is a receiving culture with a black or gray market purchasing both male and female slaves, then I can observer only this culture and reduce the potential for internal validity issues. If not, then the researcher will need to attend to two different marketplaces to determine differences between male and female adult slaves.

The observation will be complex, and take place over the course of several months. The researcher will live incognito in the community, and will tell the residents of the community that the research is related to something else entirely, such as water quality. This way, there will be less suspicion that the researcher is observing an illegal practice. This might encourage perpetrators to open up in the interview portion of the methodology, and will certainly make it easier to interview the potential targets of human trafficking.

The interview section of the methodology will involve selecting at least one male and at least one female member from each source community to discuss the relevant issues related to human trafficking. Questions will be related to everything from have they known someone who was taken from them; do they know the extent of the problem; why do they think human trafficking takes place; how they feel about it; whether they believe it impacts men and women; and what they feel can and should be done about the problem.

There are many limitations to this research design, which could present weaknesses in the data. For one, I am including many different variables such as gender and ethnicity, as well as nationality. I am also working with several different theoretical frameworks including an economic theory and a criminological theory. The qualitative design has inherent flaws in that biases and researcher intervention can be problematic. I need to refrain from asking leading Questions in my interviews, and projecting my own cultural biases on my observations.

However, I believe that these are necessary complexities in the research. It is impossible to study a topic as complicated as human trafficking of adults using simple methods. The more complex the theoretical framework and the more ambitious the research design, the more potentially useful and rich the data set will be in the future. In fact, I intend to combine this qualitative research with the quantitative method mentioned earlier.

Ethical Concerns

Obtaining data within human trafficking produces serious ethical concerns. For one, I will be observing objectively and yet lying to the communities about my role. Second, I may also be unduly enabling human trafficking by not stepping into a situation to prevent it and instead gathering evidence. These are ethical dilemmas, but in order to gather research, it is important to remain silent about the research hypothesis. Otherwise, the results will be biased.

All names of the victims should be kept private and anonymity guaranteed unless given written permission by the victim to speak in the future about their experiences, perhaps in a documentary. Consent will need to be obtained from the NHTRC in order to use their cases within this data (17). When and if I am able to interview perpetrators, their anonymity will also be guaranteed, which presents a major ethical dilemma. By protecting their anonymity, I will be enabling their crimes and impeding the ability of law enforcement to find the individuals. This is the price to be paid for the value of this research in the long run.

Significance of the Study

The purpose of this study is to determine the human trafficking rates among male and female adults. This study will help validate the past studies produced by multiple organizations (2; 5; 10; 17). This study will also help countries appropriate funds to combat human trafficking appropriately. Human trafficking is a worldwide epidemic and produces approximately $32 billion globally (1). It is the third largest criminal enterprise in the world (3). This enterprise will continue to grow unless there is something to prevent its' expansion. This study can help bring light to the stereotypical notion that human trafficking is just young girls from foreign countries (9,-page 1). Due to the vast size of human trafficking changing the perception globally can help make significant changes to the business and could possibly undermine the root of the cause. This research involves an ethnography of human trafficking taking into account theories of demand. Essentially, human trafficking is a business. Traffickers work because they make money. This is why Rational choice theory and demand theory apply well to the phenomenon.

It is hoped and believed that this research will help bolster the existing literature by providing a more robust understanding of the extent of the… [END OF PREVIEW]

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Human Trafficking: An Ethnographic Study.  (2014, May 19).  Retrieved May 21, 2019, from https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/human-trafficking-ethnographic-study/9476209

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