Human Trafficking in Global Perspective

Event DateEvent Date

Event LocationLocation

Off Campus

Community Room
West Hollywood Public Library
625 N. San Vicente Blvd., West Hollywood

WHAP! Lecture Series

A decade and a half into two of America’s most problematic and elusive wars presents a time for reflection about the global ramifications of the furthering of U.S. Empire. In this presentation Pardis Mahdavi will examine the suturing of the two wars. The “war on terror” and the “war on trafficking”, two seemingly separate initiatives, have become interwoven in recent years and conspire to castigate Muslim majority countries as sites of depravity, difference and danger, fueling Islamophobic rhetoric about the “clash of civilizations” (Huntington 1993). Both discourses are raced, classed and gendered, producing distinct tropes of victims and villains, while the intersection of these two “wars” presents a confluence of moral panics, or public anxieties pertaining to ‘immoral’ behavior, about sexuality, Islam and immigration (Cohen 1972). The discourses about trafficking and terror are becoming hegemonic and inescapable. More disconcertingly, these discourses are resulting in a series of policies and sometimes militarized responses that are hurting vulnerable populations globally, but particularly in the Middle East. Each “war” seeks to marshal rhetoric about the other to further bolster its cause and justify the creation of harsh policies suffused with overt condescension.
Rhetoric about race, class and sexuality feeds into the construction of a ‘traffickingandterror’ paradigm. Similar to ways in which the trafficking discourse has wedded women and children to the point where the turn of phrase has entered the lexicon as ‘womenandchildren’, so too do we see a similar suturing of trafficking and terror to the extent where the two are seen as one, with discursive slippages between the two becoming de rigeur. This presentation will critique the discourses on trafficking and terror, particularly focusing on their negative aftereffects in terms of policies pertaining to the Middle East. Anthropologists have been instrumental in highlighting the shortcomings of the war on terror paradigm, and I seek to add to their important work by examining trafficking and terror together. The analysis is foregrounded in a combination of ethnography, discourse analysis and policy review.

[1] I place these terms in quotes to indicate their contested nature and social construction within current paradigms of U.S. Empire.

Pardis Mahdavi, PhD is currently Chief Academic Officer and Acting Dean of the Josef Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver. Before coming to Denver, she was at Pomona College from 2006-2017 where she most recently served as professor and chair of anthropology and director of the Pacific Basin Institute at Pomona College as well as Dean of Women. Her research interests include academic freedom, diversity and inclusion in higher education, gendered labor, human trafficking, migration, sexuality, human rights, youth culture, transnational feminism and public health in the context of changing global and political structures. She has published four single authored books and one edited volume in addition to numerous journal and news articles. She has been a fellow at the Social Sciences Research Council, the American Council on Learned Societies, Google Ideas, and the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.