Researchers at the University of Kansas started the Anti-Slavery and Human Trafficking Initiative following the 2013 Kansas Conference on Slavery and Human Trafficking. This conference was hosted by the Institute for Policy & Social Research (IPSR) at the University of Kansas. There were approximately 220 participants at the conference including KU faculty, staff, and students as well as members of the medical, justice, National Guard, and law enforcement services. We also had service providers, social workers, and non-governmental organizations in attendance. Following the conference, a working group of KU faculty and students organized ASHTI, which means peace, to develop new research, advocacy, and teaching initiatives. Members of our working group have individual projects relating to human trafficking, and we have an on-going project in the Midwest to understand the prevention factors and programs that can stop trafficking and exploitation before it starts.
The Beyond Discourse conference reflects the continued work of ASHTI in the midwest region as well as the global research interests of faculty and graduate student affiliates. It intersects with a number of other research groups on the KU campus, including the Gender Seminar at the Hall Center for the Humanities and the Qualitative Methods Working Group at the Institute for Policy & Social Research. Together with academic departments and research units across the University of Kansas, we aim to build more effective critical research on human trafficking in our communities and around the world.