Human trafficking in Mindanao : personal narratives and local perspectives : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Social Anthropology at Massey University, Albany, New Zealand

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Massey University
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Academic as well as popular attention to human trafficking has increased dramatically in recent years, while the demands for immediate action have meant that counter-measures, from political legislation to direct intervention, have often preceded research-based insights. Researchers have demonstrated the value of close research in understanding this phenomenon. However, such in-depth local research is still an emerging area, and little work has been done on the Philippines specifically. In Mindanao, known issues include various forms of labour trafficking, sex trafficking, underage soldiers, and trafficking of migrants. Human trafficking in Mindanao is a complex problem, both in terms of the multiple forms of trafficking that occur and the Philippines’ unique social setting. The purpose of this research has been to explore how human trafficking in Mindanao relates to wider social processes. I lived in Eastern Mindanao for five months of fieldwork, from December 2015 to May 2016. During this time, I talked with and interviewed people who had experienced exploitative labour, human trafficking, or trafficking-like practices, whose life stories are at the centre of this research. I also spoke with government and NGO workers from anti-trafficking and related agencies who provided insights into trafficking and local conditions, as well as relevant community members such as former migrants and sexual labourers. In this thesis, my original contribution to knowledge is an exploration and analysis of the social context which influences human trafficking in Mindanao, based on first-person accounts which are contextualised in the wider society and theoretically analysed through a framework of structural, symbolic, and compounding violence. Drawing on anthropological approaches to violence, I have considered human trafficking as a form of violence in the context of multiple violences. Within this framework I also present the idea of compounding violence as a lens to explore and conceptualise the ways that violence often leads to further violence. My findings suggest that human trafficking in Mindanao is an outcome and extension of local social conditions, not separate to normal social processes and realities, and one manifestation of wider compounding structural violence. At the same time, I argue that the narratives from those who have experienced trafficking also reveal deep and complex cultural, social, and personal expressions of meaning, resilience, and hope within constrained, unequal, and even violent circumstances.
Listed in 2018 Dean's List of Exceptional Theses
Human trafficking, Philippines, Mindanao Island, Child soldiers, Interviews, Sex workers, Migrant labor, Exploitation, Violence, Philosophy, Dean's List of Exceptional Theses