Stacey Vanderhurst

Women, Gender & Sexuality Studies
Assistant Professor & Director of Undergraduate Studies
Primary office:
323 Blake Hall
University of Kansas
1541 Lilac Lane
Lawrence, Kansas 66045


Stacey Vanderhurst is an assistant professor of Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at the University of Kansas, with courtesy appointments in the Departments of Anthropology, African and African American Studies, and Global and International Studies. She earned a PhD in cultural anthropology from Brown University in 2014 and then served as the Jerome Hall Postdoctoral Fellow with the Center for Law, Culture, and Society in the Michael Maurer School of Law at Indiana University. Her research explores the fraught intersections between public outrage and public policy in Nigeria, where she has conducted fieldwork since 2008. Her first book — an ethnography of a shelter for human trafficking victims in Nigeria — is under contract with the Police/Worlds series at Cornell University Press. Her next project will investigate feminist social media activism against state violence from #BringBackOurGirls to #EndSARS. A Fulbright fellowship to pursue this project was declined due to the global pandemic. Her previous research was funded by the National Science Foundation, the Social Science Research Council, the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research, the American Council of Learned Societies, and the West Africa Research Association.


Ph.D., Anthropology, Brown University

M.A., Anthropology, Brown University

B.A., Anthropology and International Peace Studies, University of Notre Dame


Dr. Vanderhurst specializes in teaching qualitative research methods for the WGSS Department. She has developed and maintained the first undergraduate research requirement for WGSS majors and minors, helping students harness their own interests and goals into meaningful independent research and senior capstone projects. She also regularly teaches the graduate version of this course for WGSS doctoral and certificate students, with an emphasis on feminist epistemology and its applications in feminist research ethics and methods. Other previously taught courses address topics in international migration, global feminisms, and introduction to WGSS.


Dr. Vanderhurst's first book, Unmaking Migrants, examines the contradictions of anti-trafficking campaigns that rescue women by force and work to rehabilitate them into a life they no longer want for themselves. How do migrants understand the dangers of traveling and how do they reconcile those risks with their desires for a better life? Who do these programs target and should they see themselves as victims? How do those in charge of these programs understand their responsibilities to migrants and to the nation? What happens when migrants resist the security protections ostensibly designed to help them, and how do these confrontations fit within other globalized schemes for border policing?

Unmaking Migrants engages these questions through an ethnographic study of a shelter for human trafficking victims — where few of the women identify as victims at all. The shelter is located in Nigeria, where over the past 15 years, thousands of willing migrant women have been stopped from traveling against their will. These women made arrangements to migrate from Nigeria to Europe, only to be stopped by Nigerian border agents, declared to be victims of human trafficking, and referred to Nigeria’s federal counter-trafficking agency for investigation, protection, and rehabilitation. Government officials proudly defend this form of intervention as preemptive, having successfully captured the women before any abuses have taken place. Yet most of the so-called victims in these cases do not see their experiences as trafficking and adamantly protest their detention, insisting they were not being trafficked and demanding to be released. This book documents the day-to-day confrontations between women detained in one shelter and the state agents trying to help them.

More recent and ongoing research explores how other state projects also police mobilty and sexuality in Nigeria, including police harrassment of women accused of being sex workers and feminist organizing against the police tactical unit that led to the worldwide #EndSARS protests.  



Dr. Vanderhurst has served as the Director of Undergraduate Studies for the WGSS Department since 2017. In that role, she has worked to expand the role of undergraduate research in WGSS programs, restructuring curricular requirements, integrating skills across classes, and revising the senior capstone format, all while making the major and minor programs more flexible and accessible. Dr. Vanderhurst also serves on KU's Fulbright Campus Committee, the executive board of the Kansas African Studies Center, and the Advisory Board for the Sexual Assault Prevention and Education Center's Men's Action Project.

Selected Publications

Vanderhurst, S. (2017). Governing with God: Religion, Resistance, and the State in Nigeria’s Counter-Trafficking Programs. Political and Legal Anthropology Review, 194-209. DOI:10.1111/plar.12215

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