Event: Trafficking, Smuggling and Illicit Migration in International History (Trafficking Past Goes to Sydney!)


On April 12-13, the Trafficking Past team will be collaborating with Prof. Glenda Sluga and the Laureate Research Programme in International History to convene an international workshop and conference at the University of Sydney, Australia. Entitled ‘Trafficking, Smuggling and Illicit Migration in International History: New Geographic and Scalar Perspectives’, the event will gather specialists in the history of ‘trafficking’ as a problematic framed at the intersection of sex and migration, to discuss the place of this problematic in international history writ large. It will focus in particular on research focused on, or emerging from, the Asia-Pacific region, asking what new geographic and scalar perspectives can offer a historicisation of ‘trafficking’. For more information see the poster and the workshop description below.

This workshop, which brings together scholars working on or based in Oceania and the Asia-Pacific region, will ask how our global and international histories of trafficking and illicit migration change if we bring new geographies into the mix, and in doing so open up the geopolitics of our scholarly discussions about intimate labour and illicit migration. At the same time, it will centre questions of scale in our discussions of trafficking, interrogating the analytic distinctions made between the micro/local and the macro/global levels of analysis in histories of trafficking and illicit migration.  This geographic and scalar broadening will have two foci in particular:

1) exploring trafficking and illicit migration – as social practices, contested categories of domestic regulation and loci of international governmentalities – in the Asia-Pacific region, with a particular focus on the links between trafficking and the narrowing of legal migratory routes that accompanied the imposition of racialized exclusion policies in the twentieth century, and

2) exploring the interaction between multiple racialised migration regimes which themselves have specific geographies as well as differentiated international biopolitics. In particular, we aim to study practices of racial othering and colonial exclusion which were at the heart of the Pacific zone of exclusion alongside what migration historian Adam McKeown has called the other great ‘East-West divide’ of modern migration regimes – the one separating Europe from the Ottoman empire, Russia and Eurasia. How do our histories of trafficking, intimate labour and illicit migration change if we compare, contrast and connect these multiple, overlapping and inter-linked systems of migration control?

In both cases the aim of our workshop will be not so much to supplant older geographic foci in the study of trafficking, illicit migration and forced labour, as to ask what we can learn by combining the study of, for example, the racialised dynamics of trafficking and anti-trafficking in Europe and the Middle East with an examination of similar dynamics in the Asia-Pacific region. Combined with our interrogation of scale as a framing device for our histories of trafficking, the workshop will constitute both an opportunity to examine substantive new material on histories of trafficking and illicit migrationand a methodological conversation about the kinds of geographic assumptions that are folded within our attempts to do global and international history.

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