From Trafficking to Terror: Connecting Two Global Wars

The “war on terror” and the “war on trafficking,” two seemingly separate initiatives, have become interwoven in recent years and conspire to castigate Muslim majority countries as sites of depravity, difference, and danger, fueling Islamophobic rhetoric about the clash of civilizations. Both discourses are raced, classed, and gendered, producing distinct tropes of victims and villains, while the intersection of these two “wars” presents a confluence of moral panics, or public anxieties pertaining to ‘immoral’ behavior, about sexuality, Islam, and immigration. These discourses have also resulted in a series of policies and sometimes militarized responses that are hurting vulnerable populations globally, but particularly in the Middle East. Each “war” seeks to marshal rhetoric about the other to further bolster its cause and justify the creation of harsh policies suffused with overt condescension. Pomona Associate Professor of Anthropology Pardis Mahdavi will critique the discourses on trafficking and terror, particularly focusing on their negative aftereffects in terms of policies pertaining to the Middle East.

Mahdavi focuses her work on gender and sexuality in the Muslim world, including sexual politics, labor migration, and human trafficking.  She is the author of Passionate Uprisings: The Intersection of Sexuality and Politics in Post-Revolutionary IranGridlock: Labor, Migration and Human Trafficking in Dubai, and From Trafficking to Terror, and is currently researching impacts of gendered migrations on family and love across Asia. She has held fellowships with the Social Science Research Council, the Asia Research Institute, the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Policy, and Google Ideas, among others.

This program is co- sponsored by the Scripps Humanities Institute and the Office of Public Events and Community Programs.