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Widely recognized as one of the most pressing human rights issues, human trafficking has captured worldwide attention as a crucial moral and political issue, perhaps nowhere more than in the United States. Since they were signed into law in 2000, U.S. federal laws and policies on human trafficking have been understood as concrete expressions of the civic values of personal and political freedom. Yet these policies have also been characterized by a marked preoccupation with regulation, especially sexual regulation. Yvonne C. Zimmerman offers a groundbreaking exploration of the relationship between freedom and sexual regulation in American approaches to human trafficking. She argues that the religious values of American Protestantism have indelibly shaped the federal government's approach to engaging human trafficking, and that the trajectory of the U.S.'s anti-trafficking efforts cannot be fully grasped without an understanding of the unique ways in which sex, morality and freedom are connected in Protestant Christian configurations of the moral world. Zimmerman shows that the anti-trafficking project expressed a vision of freedom whose structure and logic were thoroughly Protestant, particularly under the George W. Bush administration. Zimmerman's analysis challenges the assumption that combating human trafficking necessarily entails sexual regulation, and reveals the extent to which the preoccupation with sexual regulation has functioned to discourage alternative understandings and practices of freedom, particularly for women. Other Dreams of Freedom demonstrates that if opposition to human trafficking takes the promotion of freedom as the point of departure, then freedom must not be identified strictly with religiously and culturally Protestant understandings, but in ways that permit other understandings of how freedom is constituted, practiced, and maintained.
Yvonne C. Zimmerman holds a B.A. from Goshen College, a Master of Theological Studies from Candler School of Theology, Emory University, and a Ph.D. in Religious and Theological Studies from the University of Denver and the Iliff School of Theology. She is Assistant Professor of Christian Ethics at Methodist Theological School in Ohio.