Theses Doctoral

Trafficking in Restoration: Building God's Kingdom in the Evangelical Anti-Trafficking Movement

Dolfi, Elizabeth F.L.

Over the last three decades, social justice-oriented evangelical Christians of various political stripes have become increasingly concerned about the problem of human trafficking. This issue has brought together Christians concerned about pornography and sex addiction, the social effects of immigration policy, and the exploitation of the poor in a globalized world. Widespread evangelical interest in the problem of human trafficking – particularly sex trafficking – has created an entire industry of non-profit service providers, foundations, advocacy organizations, missions, and parachurch ministries devoted to “ending modern slavery.” Their advocacy has spread beyond overtly religious spaces, and the movement to end human trafficking has become one of the most significant religious and humanitarian movements of the twenty-first century.

Why has “ending modern slavery” become a special calling for American evangelical Christians, and what does this tell us about evangelical humanitarianism? How do everyday Christians – from non-profit CEOs and legal advocates to lay volunteers and social workers – conceptualize human trafficking as a distinct category of human exploitation, come to feel a particular calling toward anti-trafficking work, and imagine possible solutions to this humanitarian and moral crisis?

My project centers on an ethnographic study of a faith-based, anti-trafficking non-profit organization in New York City, Restore NYC, and intervenes in broader political and academic conversations about the nature of American evangelicalism; the neoliberalism of faith-based humanitarianism; and gender, affect, and genre in the “rescue industry.” I use ethnography, archival research, and popular media analysis to explicate the motivations, tactics, ideology, and theology of the contemporary anti-trafficking movement, while positioning it within the longer history of evangelical humanitarianism.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Thesis Advisors
Bender, Courtney
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
July 13, 2022