The history of human beings bought and sold, forced into lives of abject servitude or sexual slavery, is a story as old as civilization and yet still of global concern today. How this story is told, Julietta Hua argues, says much about our cultural beliefs. Through a critical inquiry into representations of human trafficking, she reveals the political, social, and cultural strains underlying our current preoccupation with this issue and the difficulty of framing human rights in universal terms.
In Trafficking Women’s Human Rights, Hua maps the ways in which government, media, and scholarship have described sex trafficking for U.S. consumption. As her investigation takes us from laws like the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act to political speeches and literary and media images, it uncovers dark assumptions about race, difference, and the United States’ place in the world expressed—and often promoted—by such images. The framing itself, exploiting dichotomies of victim/agent, rescued/rescuer, trafficked/smuggled, illustrates the limits of universalism in addressing human rights.
Uniquely broad in scope, this work considers the laws of human trafficking in conjunction with popular culture. In doing so, it constructively draws attention to the ways in which notions of racialized sexualities form our ideas about national belonging, global citizenship, and, ultimately, human rights.