Dialectical Anthropology

, Volume 43, Issue 3, pp 279–293 | Cite as

On trafficking survivors: biolegitimacy and multiplications of life

  • Sverre MollandEmail author


Human trafficking has become a key site for intervention in global politics. Although anti-trafficking claims to mobilize resources for the combat against structural inequality within labour relations, anti-trafficking is intertwined with a fixation with the “trafficking survivor” resulting in notable individuated policy responses. Based on long-term ethnographic research of anti-trafficking interventions in the Mekong region, this essay suggest biolegitimacy is a fruitful heuristic device as it elucidates how anti-trafficking constructs “life” along multiple modalities and expressions. This in turn helps explain why anti-trafficking constitutes a mixed assemblage comprising actors with different ideological, moral and political positions. As such, anti-trafficking constitutes an important case study of how life legitimates and is legitimated within transitional networks of governance.


Human trafficking Migration Biolegitimacy Labour 



This paper is based on an earlier conference paper presented at Melbourne University, December 2016. I would like to thank the anonymous reviewers as well as Dr Casimir MacGregor and Dr Luke Bearup for excellent feedback on earlier drafts.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Australian National UniversityCanberraAustralia

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