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Professor Denise Brennan’s Life Interrupted: Trafficking into Forced Labor in the United States

September 2nd, 2014

Americans lack information and perspective on the issue of human trafficking. Given the usefulness of sensationalized snippets for media ratings and NGO fundraising campaigns, the real lives of actual trafficked persons become obscured. How might our opinions and public policy change if we paid close attention to what these people could tell us of their experiences before, during, and after trafficking and forced labor?

In Life Interrupted, Georgetown Professor and anthropologist Denise Brennan seeks out the viewpoint of formerly trafficked persons and shares “their concerns, their struggles, and their successes–their everyday lifework (34).” Professor Brennan’s work also explores how anti-trafficking legislation over-emphasized its investigation of exploitation in the “sex sector” while “exploited workers in other labor sectors went unassisted (12).” Those unable to secure government assistance and a visa remain vulnerable to future exploitation; those who escape forced labor to enter low-wage positions are often just one step ahead of poverty. Professor Brennan introduces the reader to the hopes and struggles of individuals at different stages of this process through their own words.

With empathy and insight, Life Interrupted provides a forum for some of the most marginalized and hidden-away members of America’s workforce. It is also a strong example of how academic research can be closely connected to action with policy suggestions throughout the text and an appendix containing “ideas and resources” for those who want to make a difference.

Professor Denise Brennan’s Life Interrupted: Trafficking into Forced Labor in the United States is available from Duke University Press.

Joshua Canzona


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