Melanie Leon

Grant Type

Dissertation Fieldwork Grant

Institutional Affiliation

Stanford U.

Grant number

Gr. 9236

Approve Date

April 8, 2016

Project Title

Leon, Melanie, Stanford U., Stanford, CA - To aid research on ''Pretty and They Know It': Security, Sex Trafficking, and Humanitarianism in the Mexico-Guatemala Borderlands,' supervised by Dr. Liisa Malkki

Preliminary abstract: My research brings together two subjects of increasing global concern: national security and sex trafficking. Through an ethnographic study of sex trafficking of undocumented Central American migrants in the border cities of Tapachula, Mexico and Tecun Uman, Guatemala, I investigate the connections between migrant exploitation and security practices in the region. I explore the mechanisms by which Mexico and Guatemala’s security regimes target and produce migrants as ‘threats’ to the nation in order to understand how migrant vulnerability to violence and exploitation is produced at the state level. I also analyze the role of gender in shaping migrant experiences of (in)security, and how the intersection of gender with security discourses renders certain migrants more vulnerable to different forms of exploitation, such as sex trafficking. Lastly, I study the impact of security policies and discourses on local anti-trafficking advocacy. This illuminates the ways in which security policies and discourses not only produce insecurity in the lives of migrants, but also impact their ability to make claims to victimhood and access humanitarian resources.