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Accepted Paper:

Human Body as a Scene of Oppression: Understanding Global Security through Human Trafficking in Central Asia  


Viktoria Akchurina (OSCE Academy in Bishkek)

Paper long abstract:

Human trafficking has been one of the taboo issues in today’s Central Asia. National numbers on trafficking in humans have been nearing zero over the past few years, while international and non-governmental organizations have accounted for ten-folded numbers of victims. Prosecution of convicts often dissolves informally at the lower layers of the state ladder. Yet, policy and financial resources that aim to improve the situation disappear within the net of spectacular bureaucratic networks. Why—regarding vast policy architecture and financial inflows—the issue of human trafficking falls between the cracks of the system on the intersection of international and national security?

This paper argues that the human body as a scene of the crime has become a point of contestation among three layers of oppression: culture, institutional exclusion, and social trauma. Specifically, it shows how the joint (national and international) policy of trafficking in persons, terrorism, and migration has created conditions for the neglect of human life. The goals have been undermined by their own means through reinforcing the cultures of shame and oppression, subsequently leading to more illegible, unseen, and liminal spaces in the state and society relations.

The argument unfolds in three steps. Firstly, the paper lays out the stories the numbers tell by juxtaposing national, international, and NGO statistics on human trafficking. Secondly, it contrasts these numbers with the stories of human beings, who have experienced trafficking. Finally, the paper analyses the international anti-human trafficking infrastructure—built on migration, terrorism, and trafficking nexus—through the lens of the human stories.

In general, the paper contributes to the debate on how international schemes to improve the human condition have failed by focusing on the anthropology of a threat to international security and by showing how a human has been made faceless, voiceless, and invisible.

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