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Home arrow Economics arrow Child Trafficking, Youth Labour Mobility and the Politics of Protection


The dominant anti- child trafficking paradigm is, I argue, a reductive expression of (at least) these three structuring ideologies. Together, they not only limit what child trafficking can mean and what can be done about it, but also contour the very world of meaning and practice in which trafficking becomes thinkable and anti-trafficking doable. Although, as Chapter 4 will show us, the anti-trafficking field is riven with internal conflict and contradiction, the broad lines defining what it thinks and does are nevertheless those traced above, and all have been traced on a canvas prepared by the mentality and materiality of these ideologies. It is important to bear this in mind when preparing any challenge to anti-trafficking’s hegemony.

Anti-trafficking discourse tends to construct child and youth work and movement as inherently problematic, extreme, non-consensual and thus attributable to a variety of pathological cause-factors. Anti-trafficking policy follows this pathologisation, tending broadly towards the productive promotion of ‘safe, healthy childhoods’ and the disciplinary, pre-emptive prevention of child work and mobility. The contrast between what has been examined in this chapter and the alternative empirics of youth work and mobility analysed in the following chapter could not be more stark. It is to these that we now turn.

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