Six international conventions to combat the so-called “Mädchenhandel”, “white slavery”, “traffic in women” and “human trafficking” were adopted over the course of the 20th century. During the first half of the 20th century the issue received political and public attention to a degree as to make it possible to regulate it through international law. Five of the six international conventions were adopted between 1904 and 1949, while the last one was signed only in 2000. The phenomenon of the “trafficking in women” thus was one of the first fields for the regulation through international law along with more traditional issues, such as war and peace. A joint consideration of “trafficking” and international law thus offers a promising research topic.
Nevertheless, the international law dimension has only played a minor role in historical research on “trafficking”. So far, “trafficking” has been analysed with a view towards the multiple national as well as transnational civil society efforts and initiatives to combat „Mädchenhandel“, „white slavery“ or „traffic in women“. Some analyses have situated these efforts in the context of a “moral panic” and have, in some cases, questioned the existence of the underlying phenomenon. Studies focusing on the politics and implementation of anti-trafficking initiatives in national and local contexts, concentrated on certain regions. Research focusing on practices and implementation have pointed to an intricate connection between the politics of prostitution, migration and, more generally, sexual politics. A number of studies have analysed the raced, gendered and classed dimensions of discourses, representations and politics in this field.
All these studies have pointed to core issues connected to histories of “trafficking”, such as prostitution, sexuality, migration, police, law and order as well as social and political efforts of civil society and media representations. A more general view of the research on the histories on trafficking reveals, however, a rather fragmented field, in particular with regard to the dimensions of international law, which often do not go far beyond teleological success stories of an international struggle against this “evil”.
This edited volume seeks to integrate all these aspects by approaching the field through actors and institutions: A number of actors in the fields of social and security politics, including networks of legal experts, contributed to the development and expansion of institutions to regulate “trafficking”.
Debates on “trafficking” were and still are structured by “mental maps” based on ideas of a poverty and civilizational gap. It stands out that at the turn of the 19th to the 20th century mostly Jewish women from Galicia were perceived of being victims of the traffic. With the process of decolonization after 1945 debates on trafficking and migrant prostitution were structured mostly through the lens of North-South-relations (“first world”-“third world”), which then again were re-structured as a gap between East and West after 1989. Against this backdrop it must be asked what it meant for the territorialization of international law that “trafficking” as a field of regulation was often connoted as “Eastern European”.
Furthermore, it is necessary to consider spatio-temporal shifts in legal definitions and public discourses at a national and international level as well as their implementation and the local practices connected with it, i. e. practices at the border, in the local (legal or illegal) brothel, at the rescue and counselling organisations, in court or in jail.
In order to deliver such a multidimensional perspective, it can be useful to offer an analysis of the legal language, legal discourse and the language used in policing practices. This includes semantic analyses of conceptual changes and shifts from “Mädchenhandel”, “white slavery” or “traite des blanches” to “Frauenhandel”, “traffic in women” and, eventually, “human trafficking”. The semantics of “slavery” deserves particular attention, because of the recurring reference to it in concepts such as “white slavery” or “Sexual Slavery”, but also due to the self-description of activists as “abolitionists”. For a perspective focusing on international law, we expect that an analysis of conceptual shifts embedded in the legal and social context and taking into account their global dimensions of transfers of meanings across borders to be particularly fruitful.
Aiming at unravelling the connection between international law and “trafficking” as part of the multi-layered dimensions of the issue at hand, we aim at discussing the controversial, but unavoidable question of what “trafficking” was and whether, if at all, it is and was captured empirically. The goal is less to find definite answers, but rather to fruitfully engage the legal and international focus to make the conceptual vagueness of “trafficking” as well as the spatio-temporal cycles of public attention devoted to trafficking the object of analysis. In this way, contradictions and discrepancies between and across various parallel discourses and practices become the centre of analysis. Who and whose experience was captured by anti-trafficking discourses and practices, and who was not? What did it mean for those affected to be discursively and/or legally categorized and contained as a “white slave”, “traded thing” or as “victim of trafficking”? What legal entitlements and what legal practices were connected to such categorization and how did these practices and the actors connected to them change in space and time?
Through such a multidimensional perspective, this edited volume aims at productively engaging with questions relating to changes in (international) law, statehood and the transnational sphere and show how “trafficking” was (and possibly still is) made in all these contexts.
We call for proposals for submissions for an edited collection. In particular, we seek proposals from various social sciences and humanities working on the issue outlined in the present call. We seek theoretically, methodologically and (for empirical submissions) empirically grounded submissions offering innovative and provocative analysis of the intersection of international law and the history (and present) of “trafficking”. A regional or temporal focus is not required.
- 500 words (German or English);
- Short outline of the specific object of analysis, research question, sources/data, and method
- Deadline for the abstract April 15th 2017
- Notification of acceptance: April 22nd 2017
Deadline for the submission of the manuscript (German or English; max. 70,000 characters): November 15th 2017
Editors of the collection: Sonja Dolinsek, Kathleen Zeidler in co-operation with Dietlind Hüchtker and Dietmar Müller