This article is interested in why and how Thailand functions as a pivotal destination for US human-trafficking rescue projects, and it situates transnational antitrafficking endeavors within Thai political and economic history. Based on ethnographic participant observation of the global antitrafficking movement in Thailand, China, and the United States between 2008 and 2014, this article juxtaposes two distinct tourist encounters: a human-trafficking reality tour hosted by a US nonprofit organization and a separate study-abroad gathering of US university students hosted at the office of a Thai sex worker rights organization. These disparate cases illustrate the hierarchical dimensions through which sex-trafficking interventions operate while entertaining US antitrafficking curiosities in Thailand. The author argues that these US antitrafficking projects illustrate how global markets in mass tourism and commerce compel the global concern against sex trafficking in Thailand, while also serving as vital facilitators of antitrafficking humanitarian engagements in the country. Seeking market-based solutions to human trafficking, they often eclipse instances of long-standing community organizing and local activism, as well as long-term strategies for migrant rights or migrant integration.
Elena Shih; Freedom Markets: Consumption and Commerce across Human-Trafficking Rescue in Thailand. positions 1 November 2017; 25 (4): 769–794. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/10679847-4188410
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