Directed by Manning Assistant Professor of American Studies and Ethnic Studies, Dr. Elena Shih, the Human Trafficking Research Cluster (HTRC) was established at the Ruth J. Simmons Center for the Study of Slavery and Justice in 2015. HTRC aims to foster collaborative critical inquiry into the study of human trafficking, as well as to cultivate an intersectional framework that acknowledges the ways in which race, class, gender, nation, and sexual forms of power and inequality govern contemporary anti-trafficking efforts. Since its inception the HTRC has supported undergraduate and graduate research while simultaneously maintaining community partnerships with Providence-based and global migrant and sex worker rights organizations. These relationships have produced research and policy documents, and have elevated public discussions on the ethics of human trafficking studies, the role of local and international governmental policy, and have explored innovative solutions to reporting and stopping labor abuse. Dr. Shih is the recipient of the 2020 Howard R. Swearer Engaged Faculty Award for Research.
Since 2015, the HTRC has prioritized engaged scholarship with COYOTE (Call Off Your Old Tired Ethics) RI, the state’s only sex worker rights organization. Together, they co-led a community based research team that has investigated sex workers rights amidst a changing climate of sexual labor politics. In 2019, COYOTE RI and HTRC were successful in introducing a historic Rhode Island House Bill to study the impact of the 2009 decriminalization of indoor prostitution in the state.