This paper investigates interactions between issues of labor, gender, sexuality, migration, and statehood through the lens of Dubai’s unskilled foreign migrant workers. Using ethnographic research methods, including participant observation and in-depth interviews, this paper explores the conflation of discourses on trafficking, migration, and sex work through migrants’ narratives. The study is organized around three central questions: 1) What are the social, economic, and political circumstances and structures that make Dubai a major migration and trafficking destination? 2) How do policies about global migration and trafficking, written and brought to fruition in Washington, DC, contrast with lived experiences of migration and forced labor in different countries with different social and political topographies? 3) How do cultural norms about gender, sexuality, morality, and migration influence the implementation of anti-trafficking policy and legal enforcement in Dubai? This study aims to question and deepen our understandings of labor, migration, and socioeconomic development in a rapidly changing, urbanizing environment while contributing to differing discourses on migration, trafficking, and prostitution in the Gulf countries.

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