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Muckraking and stories untold: Ethnography meets journalism on trafficked women and the U.S. military

Abstract

Investigative journalism using visual media has become a dominant mode of knowledge production both in popular understanding of human trafficking and in policymaking. A 2002 Fox I-team report exposed the U.S. military in Korea as being actively involved in a transnational network of trafficking women into sexual slavery. The report circulated in policymaking arenas as evidence of the need to combat trafficking and prostitution via global U.S. initiatives. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork from exactly the same U.S. military camp towns in South Korea, this article raises questions about investigative journalism and its truth power. The author also seeks to illuminate how news reports may decontextualize and make ahistorical generalizations about sex work and women’s migration, especially in the larger context of the revival of a global panic about human trafficking. The fundamental question the author raises is, What stories are untold in this genre of media representations preoccupied with sex trafficking?

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Correspondence to Sealing Cheng.

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Cheng, S. Muckraking and stories untold: Ethnography meets journalism on trafficked women and the U.S. military. Sex Res Soc Policy 5, 6 (2008). https://doi.org/10.1525/srsp.2008.5.4.6

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Key words

  • trafficking
  • prostitution
  • representation
  • truth
  • sexuality