Thakor: Policing sex trafficking in the digital age


August 21, 2015

Policing SexTrafficking

Since 2013, AMBER Alerts — broadcast on television and radio since 1996 — have also been sent automatically to every mobile phone number in the United States. As a doctoral student in MIT’s Program in History, Anthropology, and Science, Technology, and Society (HASTS), Mitali Thakor is in tune with the pulse of technology and how it affects our lives — in particular, how it affects sex work and sex trafficking. Thakor, who majored in feminist studies and anthropology as an undergraduate at Stanford University, was initially interested in how sex workers themselves utilize emerging technologies. But over time, her focus has shifted to the opposite end of the spectrum: how sex work and trafficking are policed using digital tools. Her research has now spanned three countries — the United States, the Netherlands, and Thailand.

Earlier this year, Thakor, who ultimately aims for a career in academia, taught her first anthropology and gender studies class, called “Human Trafficking and Modern-Day Slavery.” For 19 MIT undergraduates, she built a curriculum around some of the very tensions in her research: Rather than only requiring reading from experts in the field, she also asked students to read prose and poetry from non-experts, and to look at art that engaged the topics of sex work, trafficking, and policing in the digital age. To read the full article on Thakor’s innovative research visit MIT News.

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