trafficking as aberration
the making of globalization’s victims
At the end of the Cold War, the prob lem of human trafficking received new-
found attention as a violation of human rights. With par ticular emphasis on
the influx of sex trafficking victims from the former Soviet Union and East-
ern Bloc, human trafficking became a subject of growing regional and global
concern— even as a last aberration and obstacle to the forward march of de-
mocracy. Indeed, in the 1990s, the image of the duped and violated “Natasha”
victim of sex trafficking seemed to replace the threat of communism as the
global specter of abjection.1 But what has the increase in concern for and ex-
pansion of laws on trafficking brought to current approaches to human rights,
to practices of governance, to understandings of globalization? Framed as a
violation of bodily integrity and prob lem of criminal be havior, human traf-
ficking gained recognition as an aberration of cap i talist systems. While im por-
tant as framing devices, neither bodily harm nor criminal be havior exposes
how trafficking is intertwined in the constitutive operations of economic sys-
tems. Despite the im mense amount of attention the prob lem now receives, the
politicization of human trafficking has obscured the economies of vio lence
that sustain it.2
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