Alumna’s documentary sheds light on potential for DNA to help trafficking victims

Alexa-400On Monday, October 5, the Science, Ethics, Identity and Human Rights (SEIHR) Kenan Creative Collaboratory hosted a screening of The Living Disappeared: Using DNA to prevent the trafficking of children on the border. The documentary was created by Duke and KIE alumna Alexa Barrett as part of her thesis project in International and Comparative Studies last year. The film includes interviews with adults who crossed the border as children, scientists hoping to expand the use of DNA testing, and those working on the front lines to reunite trafficked children with family members.

The Duke screening occurred in advance of Barrett showing the film at the American Association for the Advancement of Science, where she will be joined on a panel by Sara Katsanis (co-director of SEIHR and instructor at The Duke Initiative for Science & Society), Oscar Martinez (a Salvadoran journalist), and Thomas Parsons (director of forensic sciences at the International Commission on Missing Persons).

Title-400SEIHR is one of three new Kenan Creative Collaboratory projects fostered by the Kenan Institute for Ethics and supported by the William R. Kenan, Jr. Funds. The project teams unite expertise and participants from among the four universities that house Kenan institutes, including Duke University, the University of North Carolina at Chapel HillNorth Carolina State University, and the University of North Carolina School of the Arts.

The project teams address challenges that exist in North Carolina, the nation, and the world, sharing resulting findings and policy recommendations as well as problem-solving models for how the projects could be replicated or adapted in other places or spheres.

Katsanis, her co-director at NCSU Seth Faith, and their team aim to connect pioneering research in forensic sciences to social science research in ethics for human identification, using this bridge as a backbone for opening dialogues on policy approaches to employing science for human rights.