Playing the victim? Human trafficking, African youth, and geographies of structural inequality
journal contributionposted on 07.01.2020, 09:20 authored by James EssonJames Esson
This article explores the role of agency in determining who is and is not considered to be a legitimate victim of human trafficking. It draws on critical human trafficking scholarship and research on the life chances of West African youth. This is complemented by qualitative data from youth embroiled in football-related human trafficking. The insights from these analyses are brought into conversation with theoretical work on the geographies of commodities. This results in the concept of ‘unveiling the football trafficking fetish’, which is used to theorise how and why the agency of mobile youthful African male bodies undermines their claims of being trafficked human beings. The findings that emerge are significant in two ways. First, they generate theoretical insights on the coexistence of agency and exploitation in young lives, and how young people’s aspirations and agency can be (mis)read and work against them. Second, they provide a unique illustration of how human trafficking is a product of capitalism yet can be presented as a form of behaviour that lies outside of capitalist social relations. To centre these social relations and foster new forms of critical dialogue within and beyond population geography, the article concludes by recommending we consider the implications of conceptualising people as susceptible to rather than vulnerable to human trafficking.
Economic and Social Research Council. Grant Number: ES/H011234/1
- Social Sciences and Humanities
- Geography and Environment