The panel will discuss the humanitarian governance of migration, sexuality and gender, as well as mainstream policies and responses to the challenges posed by the transnational power dynamics of contemporary sex industries, borders, and the trafficking paradigm.
The contemporary increase and diversification of migration flows on a global scale coincides with the onset of humanitarian forms of governance. The parallel global rise of neo-abolitionist policies attempting to eradicate sex work, framed as sexual exploitation, by ending the demand for sexual services translates in harmful policies exacerbating the exploitability and deportability of marginalised migrant groups. Within the humanitarian governance of migration, sexuality and gender became strategic dimensions through which groups of migrants are identified as specifically ‘vulnerable’ to abuse and exploitation, a socio-cultural dynamic that Nick Mai defines as ‘sexual humanitarianism'. As a consequence, they are targeted by harmful anti sex work and anti migrant policies and interventions according to visibility and policymaking regimes emerging at the intersection between race, ethnicity gender and sexuality.
In this occasion, Nick Mai will discuss the preliminary findings of the ERC-funded project SEXHUM (Sexual Humanitarianism: migration, sex work and trafficking) studying the impact of policies and interventions targeting migrant sex workers in 4 national settings (Australia, France, New Zealand, and the United States) characterised by strategically different legal frameworks (criminalisation, regulation, decriminalisation) addressing sex work. It will focus on the experiences of two main migrant groups that are targeted by sexual humanitarian concerns and interventions across the four national settings of the research projects: Asian cis women and Latin@s trans women.
Jackie Sanchez Taylor will critically address the moral panic about trafficking, which is especially powerful around children. When people talk about child mobility and sex this is often only constructed as the worst form of trafficking. Jackie Sanchez Taylor conducted research with Julia O’Connell Davidson and Katie Cruz at Bristol University funded by the British Academy with adults who had been involved in sexual economic exchanges as a child under the age of 18. This paper reflects on the complexity and variability of their experience. Focusing on interviews conducted with heterosexual, gay Jamaican men and trans women Jackie will look at the factors that prompted them to run away to understand some of the complexities and problematise some of the binaries in order to argue that neither sex or mobility needs to be the real focus of panic and policy.
Dr Jaqueline Sanchez Taylor is a Lecturer in Sociology at University of Leicester. Her primary research interests are in the sociology of gender and sexuality with a special focus on cosmetic surgery, female sex tourism, prostitution, the sale and consumption of embodied process of self production and medical tourism. Within these areas she is also interested to explore the intersections between gender, race, sexuality and empowerment.
Professor Nick Mai is a sociologist, an ethnographer and a filmmaker working as Professor of Sociology and Migration Studies at Kingston University. His academic writing and films focus on the experiences and representations of migrants working in the global sex industry. Through experimental documentaries and original research findings, he challenges prevailing humanitarian representations of the relationship between migration and sex work in terms of trafficking, while analysing sex workers' complex experiences and understandings of exploitation and agency.
Dr Leticia Sabsay is an Associate Professor in Gender and Contemporary Culture at LSE Department of Gender Studies. Her work interrogates the entanglement between sexuality, subjectivity and political ideals of freedom and justice as processes of cultural translation, both across disciplines and transnational contexts. Throughout her career, Leticia also developed an enduring interest in theories of performativity and discourse, which led her to publish extensively on Judith’s Butler work.