Oct 032012

Shadow economies, part 3

By Beth Connors-Manke

In parts 1 and 2 of this series, Beth discussed sex trafficking and labor trafficking. Here, she ends the series by considering how the economy of human trafficking denies individuals a place in the public sphere.

In the course of this series, I’ve gotten to speak with, or listen to, anti-trafficking activists of various stripes: lawyers, academic researchers, social workers, politicians, grassroots activists, and once a survivor of sex trafficking. In my research, I’ve found mostly statistics and anecdotes—articles on the topic generally read: “there are this many victims, and here’s a representative story.” When speakers who have survived trafficking come to town, they are usually women, and it’s usually about sexual slavery.

In other words, in most of the discourse about the issue, the response is numbers and drama. Sometimes the discussion wades into the structural elements, economic and cultural, that contribute to human trafficking, but rarely does it go deeply into those waters.

That’s to be expected. Anti-trafficking activists are attempting interventions that will affect lives right now, whether that be through legislation, law enforcement practices, social services, or consumer awareness. All of this is necessary and timely, and there is much work to be done.

However, in my last piece in this series, I’d like to ask different questions, ones that reflect on the direction of our public sphere.  Continue reading »