Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

The Tangle of Institutional Care and Control at a Shelter for Commercially Sexually Exploited Youth
by Mayer, Liat Tzvia, M.A., Portland State University, 2019, 134; 22589395
Abstract (Summary)

My cultural anthropology master’s thesis focuses on the workings of Inanna House, an emergency shelter/residential program for commercially sexually exploited (CSEC) youth in Portland, Oregon. In the summer of 2017, I did participant observation and interviewed youth and direct care staff members at the CSEC shelter I had been working at for 2 years. I begin by situating ideas about domestic minor sex trafficking (DMST) within larger historical, legal, economic, and political contexts. I consider concepts of childhood, race, class, gender, and sexuality on the story of DMST in the United States.

Next, I explore the ways humans and institutions move around, and sometimes through, a shared human vulnerability. By considering the functions of trauma and CSE youths’ experiences of resilience and relationship, I make a case for care based on interconnectedness. Using the lens of commensurability and social commensurability, I highlight how care oscillated between a disciplinary gaze and a deep relatability (Povinelli 2001; Garcia 2010). Further, I discuss how rules meant to consider trauma’s impact on the mind and body of youth often faltered with inconsistency, forming traumatropisms instead of trauma-informed care (Feldman 2015). I draw out the evidence for the tangle of care and control in the shelter.

In addition, I examine youth and staff experiences of living and working at Inanna House. I focus on how Inanna House used techniques of quasi-total institutions and disciplinary power along with tools of trauma-informed care to structure its program, and how all three often fell apart (Goffman 1969; Foucault 1976). In the cracks of the crumbling foundational structures though, I bring into view instances of what I call ‘becoming’ (Deleuze 1997). Becoming refers to the ways both youth and staff disrupted roles based on discipline and control or being trauma-informed, and were more malleable, more desiring, and more unknown than the structures around them accounted for (Biehl and Locke 2017).

Finally, I discuss the role of grief, often missing in the organization of care in institutions like Inanna House, as well as in the anthropology of violence working on identities and relations in the aftermath. I try through this thesis to express the complexities and connections, the messiness and tenderness, running through the relationships and institution of a shelter for commercially sexually exploited youth.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Gamburd, Michele
Commitee: Klein, Charles, Tankha, Mrinalini
School: Portland State University
Department: Anthropology
School Location: United States -- Oregon
Source: MAI 81/5(E), Masters Abstracts International
Subjects: Cultural anthropology
Keywords: Anthropology of violence, Becoming, Commensurability, CSEC/DMST, Total institutions, Trauma-informed care
Publication Number: 22589395
ISBN: 9781392854334
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