Sex, slaves and citizens: the politics of anti-trafficking. A focus on the evils of trafficking is a way of depoliticising the debate on migration.

Anderson, Bridget and Andrijasevic, Rutvica (2008). Sex, slaves and citizens: the politics of anti-trafficking. Soundings, 2008(40), pp. 135–145.

Full article available here. Originally published on

Trafficking is in the news. It is on the political agenda, both nationally and internationally. Thousands of individuals, hundreds of groups, dozens of newspapers are determined to stamp it out. This focus
on traffi cking consistently refl ects and reinforces deep public concern about prostitution/sex work, and also about immigration, and the abuse and exploitation it so frequently involves. So to challenge the expression, or some of the actions taken as a response to this concern, is akin to saying that one
endorses slavery or is against motherhood and apple pie. Traffi cking is a theme that is supposed to bring us all together. But we believe it is necessary to tread the line of challenging motherhood and apple pie while not endorsing slavery, because the moral panic over traffi cking is diverting attention from the structural causes of the abuse of migrant workers. Concern becomes focused on the evil wrongdoers rather than more systemic factors. In particular it ignores the state’s approach to migration and employment, which effectively constructs groups of non-citizens who can be treated as unequal with impunity.


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