RGS-IBG Annual International Conference 2016


189 Geographies of human trafficking: navigating the traffic of migration, mobility and justice studies
Affiliation Geographies of Justice Research Group
Population Geography Research Group
Social and Cultural Geography Research Group
Convenor(s) Matej Blazek (Loughborough University, UK)
James Esson (Loughborough University, UK)
Darren Smith (Loughborough University, UK)
Chair(s) Darren Smith (Loughborough University, UK)
Timetable Thursday 01 September 2016, Session 2 (11:10 - 12:50)
Session abstract Human trafficking and smuggling are ubiquitous features of contemporary society, and concerns over these forms of irregular migration are now deeply embedded within the daily discourses of global news media and international politics. These concerns are reflected in academic debates over how migration and mobilities are understood, conceptualised, and theorised. Accounts from population and development studies have shed light on, and complicated the narratives typically associated with, human trafficking (Anderson and Ruhs, 2010; Koser, 2010; Delgado Wise et al. 2013). Social and cultural geographers have explored conceptions of social justice in relation to irregular migration by examining themes such as advocacy and activism (Laurie et al. 2015), and geographical imaginations and politics of representation (Yea, 2015). Studies on agency, embodied experiences and individual mobilities are positioned at the intersection of these two discussions (Goldeberg et al. 2014), while important methodological developments around issues such as access, ethics and empowerment also speak to wider fields (Tyldum and Brunovskis 2015). These vibrant and diverse debates have undoubtedly advanced academic knowledge about irregular migration, yet there is scope to extend our understanding further by bridging these silo disciplinary contexts. This session brings together different viewpoints on the geographies of human trafficking. Through so doing, we aim to explore the breadth of intersections between social, cultural, economic and political impacts of human trafficking. We invite contributions seeking to advance geographical perspectives on irregular migration; identify new conceptual areas within and across disciplinary fields; and critically examine research methodologies.
Contact the conference organisers to request a change to session or paper details: AC2016@rgs.org
Human trafficking: the population geography perspective
Darren Smith (Loughborough University, UK)
Population geographers are increasingly embracing the pressing and important need to advance knowledge of the processes and outcomes of human trafficking, amplified by intense political and international media coverage. Through fertile connections with other sub-disciplines of geography and the wider social sciences, this paper presents findings from a systematic review of population geography scholarship since 2010. It is argued that, to date, the majority of empirical studies have tended to focus on distinct stages of the typical human trafficking process: recruitment, transportation, transference, harbouring, and receiving. The paper calls for a more holistic treatment of human trafficking by population geographers and the wider social sciences.
Kicking the habit: challenging the sedentary bias in responses to football trafficking
James Esson (Loughborough University, UK)
Reports of human trafficking within the football industry have generated much academic, political, and media concern. The migration of would-be footballers from West Africa to Europe, and more recently to Asia, dominates these accounts. This paper examines a key often taken for granted narrative found within work on this topic and the proposed solutions to address it, namely, that the 'victims' would be better off in their respective country of origin. I demonstrate how this and other narratives on this topic mimic stereotypical portrayals of human trafficking, and then bring this insight into conversation with ethnographic fieldwork with would-be footballers in Accra (Ghana) and irregular football migrants in Paris (France). Through doing so, the paper contributes to broader debates within the social sciences that seek to question not only what trafficking is a functional term for, but also the consequences of labelling people as 'victims' of trafficking. I argue that current understandings of human trafficking in the football industry are problematic for several reasons, but two are emphasized here. First, they perpetuate a perception that the mobility of certain population groups entails a deviant form of agency in need of fixing, while simultaneously disentangling the desire to migrate from the broader social structures that actually need to be rectified. Second, and relatedly, they result in solutions that are inadvertently reductive because they contain a sedentary bias.
Relational geographies of East-West human trafficking in Europe: sites, scales and mobilities
Matej Blazek (Loughborough University, UK)
James Esson (Loughborough University, UK)
Darren Smith (Loughborough University, UK)
Migration from Eastern Europe to the United Kingdom after the enlargements of the European Union and 2004 and 2007 received a plethora of attention, but these migration flows have been largely conceptualized as labour migration. Consequently, little attention has been given to irregular aspects of migration between Eastern Europe and the UK and to themes of in/security, exploitation and abuse. Yet East European citizens have been identified as the main group of people subjected to human trafficking in the UK. This paper seeks to address this gap by exploring the geographies of human trafficking between Eastern Europe and the UK. It builds on an ongoing work with a range of stakeholders and on a pilot fieldwork with Slovakians who returned to their country of origin after experiencing human trafficking in the UK. It critiques a linear conceptualization of the trajectories of human trafficking and suggests that grasping the contingent, multidimensional spatial dynamics of the trafficking process is crucial for developing counter-trafficking responses. Exploring the sites, scales and mobilities of the trafficking dynamics, the paper is especially focused on the ontological links between individual experiences and institutional operations.
Human trafficking and online networks: policy, analysis, and ignorance
Jonathan Mendel (University of Dundee, UK)
Kiril Sharapov (University of Bedfordshire, UK)
Dominant anti-trafficking policy discourses represent trafficking as an issue of crime, "illegal" migration, victimhood and humanitarianism. Such a narrow focus is not an adequate response to the interplay between technology, trafficking and anti-trafficking. This article explores different levels of analysis and the interplay between human trafficking and technology. We argue for a shift from policy discourses with a very limited focus on crime and victimisation to more systemic understandings of trafficking and more robust micro-analyses of trafficking and everyday life. The article calls for an agnotological understanding of policy responses to trafficking and technology: these depend upon the production of ignorance. We critique limitations in policy understandings of trafficking-related aspects of online spaces, and argue for better engagement with online networks. We conclude that there is a need to move beyond a focus on "new" technology and exceptionalist claims about "modern slavery" towards greater attention to everyday exploitation within neoliberalism.
Post trafficking, wellbeing and geographies of stigma
Nina Laurie (University of St Andrews, UK)
Diane Richardson (Newcastle University, UK)
Meena Poudel (Newcastle University, UK)
Janet Townsend (Durham University, UK)
In this paper we develop a framework for understanding how geographies of stigma influence post-trafficking, with implications for how return migration, border crossing and 're-integration' are understood more widely. Drawing on research on post-trafficking, sexuality and livelihoods in Nepal, we argue that increased migration from Nepal is blurring the categories of trafficked and migrant women in complex ways, which affects how women can access services, build solidarities and make new lives. We illustrate how geographical hierarchies of stigma, influenced by the destinations women return from and to, shape their well-being as they try to move on from diverse trafficking situations. Mental health issues and the stigma associated with assumed status as HIV positive women are interwoven with a lack of citizenship and livelihood options for many returning women. Drawing on material from both rural and urban settings, we explore how the boundary between trafficked and migrant identities is performed and negotiated upon return. We explore how 'post-trafficking' is given meaning and expressed through spatial form and relations. This approach focuses on understandings how specific geographical imaginaries underpin everyday experience of stigma and wellbeing. This includes an analysis of the contexts in which trafficked women (wish to and are able to) 'pass' as migrant workers and, in some cases, scenarios where migrant women chose to claim a trafficked identity in order to access resources. We explore the implications of these forms of identity making for women's solidarities as well as for wider anti-trafficking and return migration debates.
Andy Desmond (Anti Trafficking Consultants)