The Praxis of Protection: Working with – and Against – Human Trafficking Discourse

Reference work entry


This chapter considers the symbolic violence that is inflicted when trafficking discourse is imposed on social phenomena, vulnerable groups, and the praxis of protection. It is argued that this symbolic violence derives from the reductive construction of trafficking discourse and its foundation in international criminal law and the combative deployment of this discourse by powerful movements, organizations, governments, and rival social fields. Consequently, those who have the power to construct social phenomena as human trafficking tend to do so in accordance with the prevailing aims and understandings within their groups and social fields. Such perspectives can be difficult to reconcile, however, with the alternative aims, understandings, and priorities of those who are closest to the social action, and particularly those who are less powerful and more vulnerable. It is argued, therefore, that the imposition of trafficking discourse, and even the rights ideals associated with victim protection, risks imposing significant social harms. Such risks demonstrate the importance of seeking to understand social problems in the light of local perspectives, social arrangements and cultural norms, and the reflexive challenge of working with – and against – human trafficking discourse.


Human trafficking Victim protection Reintegration Antitrafficking 


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© The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer International Publishing AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of SociologyAustralian National UniversityCanberraAustralia

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