What is the moral of the human trafficking story, and how can the narrative be shaped and evolved? Stories of human trafficking are prolific in the public domain, proving immensely powerful in guiding our understandings of trafficking, and offering something tangible on which to base policy and action. Yet these stories also misrepresent the problem, establishing a dominant narrative that stifles other stories and fails to capture the complexity of human trafficking.
This book deconstructs the human trafficking narrative in public discourse, examining the victims, villains, and heroes of trafficking stories. Sex slaves, exploited workers, mobsters, pimps and johns, consumers, governments, and anti-trafficking activists are all characters in the story, serving to illustrate who is to blame for the problem of trafficking, and how that problem might be solved. Erin O’Brien argues that a constrained narrative of ideal victims, foreign villains, and western heroes dominates the discourse, underpinned by cultural assumptions about gender and ethnicity, and wider narratives of border security, consumerism, and western exceptionalism.
Drawing on depictions of trafficking in entertainment and news media, awareness campaigns, and government reports in Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States of America, this book will be of interest to criminologists, political scientists, sociologists, and those engaged with human rights activism and the politics of international justice.