“I am helping them”: “Traffickers”, “anti-traffickers” and economies of bad faith

Molland, S., 2011. “I am helping them”: “Traffickers”, “anti-traffickers” and economies of bad faith. The Australian Journal of Anthropology, 22, pp.236-254.


For several years, aid programs in the Mekong region have taken an increasing interest in cross-border mobility and human trafficking and its relationship with development. More recently, there has been an increasing interest in the identification of trafficked victims and the investigation, arrest and prosecution of traffickers. Whereas anti-trafficking programs ubiquitously define themselves as being in a battle with traffickers, this article argues that although they are not homologous social actors, both engage in acts of bad faith. The article elaborates this argument by drawing attention to the recruitment process within the Lao sex industry as well as to the way in which aid programs attempt to identify trafficked victims. It concludes that imaginary aspects of development underpin a simultaneous disjuncture yet enable the social reproduction of the life worlds of ‘traffickers’ and ‘anti-traffickers’ alike.

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