‘Combating the Scourge’: Constructing the Masculine ‘Other’ Through U.S. Government Anti-trafficking Campaigns

Sarah Steele

Abstract


The author argues that nativism, racism, and anti-immigrant sentiment presented by representatives of the U.S. government in the context of human trafficking leaves both victims and traffickers portrayed as one-dimensional criminals. Current anti-trafficking regimes embody and restate xenophobic reactions directed against illegal migrant men, while often disguising the role domestic actors have in trafficking.  Additionally, the images presented imply that traffickers are lacking in “proper” masculinity, particularly of the sort embraced by Americans.  This article not only explores how government anti-trafficking statements made between 1998 and 2010 create and reinforce divides in masculinities based on regimes of racial domination, but also notes particularly how anti-trafficking furthers the domination of white American masculinity.  The author describes the ineffectiveness of such an approach and suggests that we must move beyond racial stereotyping and the immigration frame if we hope to broaden our definitions and understandings in a way that will deepen our thinking and allow us to see those involved in this trade as multi-faceted and textured human beings, thereby allowing us to pursue social change more effectively.

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