Governed by Exclusion: Discursivity of Human Trafficking in Spanish and Italian Public Spaces

Monastyrova, Yelyzaveta (2023). Governed by Exclusion: Discursivity of Human Trafficking in Spanish and Italian Public Spaces. In: Bulla, David W.; Bravo, Karen E.; Onwubiko, Judith N. and Dimitrova, Kremena eds. Legacies of Slavery and Contemporary Resistance. Newcastle upon Tyne, UK: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, pp. 246–268.



The concept of human trafficking, fixed in international criminal law and transposed into regional and national legislations, reflects global preoccupations with sexual and labor exploitation of, mostly, immigrant workers. This chapter focuses on the nature of these concerns and the effects of the global antitrafficking agenda on the practices and persons it concerns—on the international as well as local levels. Building on the conceptualization of human trafficking as a discourse—a particular ordering of policy, institutional, rhetorical practices—it answers two main questions: what explains the human trafficking discourse worldwide, and how is it reproduced locally? In answer to these questions, the chapter presents the results of a critical discourse analysis of the local dimension of the human trafficking discourse in the public space of Spain and Italy, conducted through examining human trafficking representations in national newspapers. The discourse of human trafficking is constructed around the notion of victimhood resulting from socially condemned exploitation, which is applied discriminately in conformity with concrete political goals. The discourse satisfies two primary rationales: control (symbolic and physical) of irregular migration and a washing-away explanation of discriminatory labor market practices in developed market economies. These are replicated, but also transformed, in the national policy and media landscapes—ultimately reinforcing exclusive social identities, absolving the host society from the guilt of exploitation.

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