Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs
Brazil Initiative

Human Trafficking in Brazilian and Jamaican Contexts

Thursday, October 24, 2019

2:30pm – 4:00pm

Nicholson House, Conde Seminar Room

The Jaula and Racialization of the Amazon: Reflections on Racism and Geopolitics in the Struggle Against Human Trafficking in Brazil José Miguel Nieto Olivar Flávia Melo da Cunha.

The present chapter deals with the capillary forms of Brazilian anti-trafficking policies in the Amazon and their possible relationships to the practices and dynamics of racism. In the text below, race and racism refer to "white" management of structurally unequal relations with "indigenous", "local" and certain "foreign" (because the area under study is an international border) peoples within the framework of a historical process constitute of multiple forms and layers of colonialism, frontierization (Grimson 2003; Albuquerque 2015), and some particularly version of “human rights” management that have had indigenous populations and Amazonian territory itself as their primary targets. Our argument is that these policies actively participate in the performative updating of a legacy of colonial governance technology, which has its center (but not as its exclusive focus) at the restriction and regulation of indigenous mobility, bodies, relationships, and economies, as well as the racialized management of Amazonian territory.

Whore’s Passport: International Movements of Brazilian Women Under a Law-Enforcement Paradigm

Ana Paula da Silva and Thaddeus Blanchette

Moral panic surrounding trafficking in persons has led to tightened border controls worldwide in the name of combating so-called modern slavery. Under the rubric of repressing a supposedly hidden crime (which is simultaneously understood to be omnipresent), surveillance technologies have been reinforced, especially at key human mobility nexuses such as airports, bus depots, and train stations. A major component of these technologies has been the global propagation of socio-economic profiles of “typical” trafficking victims, in which gender, race, class, and national stereotypes are combined to designate those migrants who need to be closely watched. Within this general scenario, Brazilian migrant women have become a particularly over-determined target for anti-trafficking surveillance. However, Brazil’s own history of class-potentialized white supremacy and its fascination with (and internationalization of) the sexy mulata national stereotype has created a dilemma in which “white” Brazilian women are often “misread” during trajectories of migration.

The present study combines ethnographic data with an analysis of recent anti-trafficking campaigns and programs to show how the international movements of Brazilian women are being impacted by the shift from a human rights to a law enforcement paradigm centered on the poorly-defined crime of “trafficking of persons”. Within this shift, the borders of American and European nations have expanded into surveillance zones, where a series of public and private agents (duly “capacitated” to recognize “typical trafficking victims”) employ racial and national profiling to impede the mobility of women deemed, a priori, to be suspect. In this scenario, the rhetoric of human rights is increasingly employed by the Brazilian State to direct practices of social and ethnic exclusion towards populations that are internally deemed to be “vulnerable” and away from “white” and “middle-class” Brazilians.