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Gender, borders and state: the construction of human trafficking in investigative practices and police inquiries

Grant number: 12/11629-4
Support type:Scholarships in Brazil - Post-Doctorate
Effective date (Start): October 01, 2012
Effective date (End): September 30, 2015
Field of knowledge:Humanities - Anthropology - Urban Anthropology
Principal researcher:Adriana Gracia Piscitelli
Grantee:Laura Lowenkron
Home Institution: Núcleo de Estudos de Gênero (PAGU). Universidade Estadual de Campinas (UNICAMP). Campinas , SP, Brazil


The aim of this project is to analyze how the phenomenon of "human trafficking" is constituted and administrated through investigative practices and police inquiries. My argument is that these practices and procedures are based not only on criminal laws that define "human trafficking" in legal terms, but also on the police officers' sensibilities, choices and interpretations, while managing and selecting the "cases" that can be classified as such. This research will be based on a "multi-sited" ethnography carried out in different units of the Brazilian Federal Police Department, located in different states. The idea that "human trafficking" is constructed through the official efforts to control this crime is based on the epistemological premise that suggests that "social problems" and the characters associated with them can be understood as effects of regulatory activities aiming to control and repress them. The analytical approach to this field will also be based on the observation of national political debates around the issue. The research exists in dialogue with other academic studies that present a critical understanding of the construction of this "social problem" from different perspectives, but will confer particular attention to the silent, capillary and bureaucratic dimension of the construction and institutionalization of "human trafficking" as a "state problem". The central hypothesis is that one of the main effects of state administrative practices that delimit the displacements that can be labeled as "human trafficking" is the construction (and prescription) of certain gender models, as well as the delimitation of borders for female mobility and sexuality. (AU)

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