Ep. 41 - Human Trafficking & the Black Body ft. Sophie Elizabeth James
Play • 1 hr 44 min

Sophie James is a Master of Arts candidate in the department of Sociology at the University of South Florida. In her academic research, she examines trends in human trafficking and critically analyzes how systems create and combat sexual exploitation, specifically the onus that is placed on survivors to navigate aid and resources. Her other research interests include gendered violence, immigration, human rights discourse, and critical race theory.

She is a research assistant on several evaluative projects based in south Florida that monitor how well commercially sexually exploited youth’s needs are met by anti-trafficking service providers and the child welfare system. Her classical training in academia and lived experiences as a trauma survivor guides her commitment to advocate for equity so there are no barriers in a survivor’s journey to healing.


With her research and life experience, Sophie chops it up with BrownTown on the state of human trafficking (HT) in the real world, in academia, and in popular culture. Sophie quickly shares how she came to formally study HT and the journey that got her to the "raging Black feminist" point she is now. With that, we take to academia and the issues within both the unrepresentative, non-contextual, and just plain old statistics around HT (see Polaris Project) as well as the privileged players who are conducting much of the research. As BrownTown learns more about the world of HT in all its complexities, nuances, and problems (from that fact that exists to the institutions that are supposed to abolish it), the gang contextualizes how all the -isms compound the trauma for those already marginalized and how the Black body is, once again, disregarded (see Cheryl Nelson-Butler's "The Racial Roots of Human Trafficking" and 1910 "White Slavery Act"). From problematic language in HT discourse to high-profile cases to even labor trafficking and US visa policy, we see a disproportionate relationship between victims that are more visible and the bodies most affected.

Sophie and BrownTown eventually followed the money and discuss the connections between the non-profit industrial complex, funding anti-human trafficking work, and the dominant narrative, frequently co-opting #MeToo for the gain of carceral feminists. Sophie makes it clear that authenticity, true allyship, and leaning into the discomfort that we all experience is necessary for us to change these systems we so often antagonize. The team take on a  serious topic in stride while enjoying each others' company for the first time ending on the very important conclusions that Netflix is cheaper than therapy (for now) and David's grandma is the realest.

Follow Sophie on Instagram, and Twitter!


CREDITS: Intro/outro music by Fiendsh. Audio engineered by Genta Tamashiro featuring Justin G Zullo. Episode art and Bourbon 'n BrownTown logo by Desirae Gladden.


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