Anti-Slavery and Human Trafficking Initiative

The Anti-Slavery and Human Trafficking Initiative (ASHTI) is working to find solutions to trafficking and exploitation transnationally. ASHTI, which means peace in several languages, is a working group of faculty and students at the University of Kansas. We are developing individual and collaborative research projects to understand the components of human trafficking in the US and in our international field sites. We are interested in the patterns of both contemporary and historical slavery and how they can inform each other.

The ASHTI working group is a collaboration among KU faculty and regional partners in government and civil society. Housed at the Institute for Policy & Social Research, ASHTI draws on KU’s existing faculty strengths and research centers designed to address contemporary issues of migration, immigration, international studies, inequality, gender studies, public health, and public policy.

ASHTI Publications

Find a repository of select ASHTI publications on KU ScholarWorks.


There has been a growing awareness and activism among elected officials and the general public on the issue of human trafficking. Surprisingly, there has been very little empirical research on trafficking. Much of the information we use to create policies and programs is based on a few key examples, anecdotal data, or incomplete knowledge. The rigorous studies that do exist largely examine trafficking after people are exploited. These studies focus on prosecution strategies and the protection and support of survivors. However, in order to fully understand and prevent trafficking, we need to know what happens before people enter the system; that is, we need to explore the factors that can lead to trafficking.

Kansas Conference on Slavery and Human Trafficking

This conference was held in 2013. 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 to develop new research, advocacy, and teaching initiatives. 

Beyond Discourse: Critical and Empirical Approaches to Human Trafficking

Held in 2019, Beyond Discourse was an interdisciplinary conference examining critical research methods on human trafficking and related social problems. This conference offered scholars the opportunity to discuss the challenges and rewards of conducting empirical work on human trafficking, including the ways we work with affected communities, collaborate with intervention organizations, and represent our conclusions to the public.