Sedentary Optics: Static Anti-Trafficking and Mobile Victims

My latest publication in Current Anthropology

Abstract

Postpanopticism and the “mobility turn” within the social sciences provide important challenges to territorial constructs, such as Foucauldian panopticism and James Scott’s notion of the synoptic. According to these critiques, migration and mobility exemplify social practice that cannot easily be grasped through grid-like technologies of governing. In this paper, I take issue with these arguments by illuminating notable static and territorial ways in which migration governance is enacted. By examining anti-trafficking programs along the Lao-Thai border, I highlight how such programs make trafficking legible through static means. I argue that such grid-making practices are central to the reproduction of these programs. Furthermore, empirical specificity is central in theorizing migration governance, because it shows us how sedentary attempts at making migration legible for policy interventions must be understood in their specific context.

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