Modern-Day Slavery and Narrative Theory


Human Trafficking, Slavery, Body pricing/bidding, Body as labor, Sex as work,Narrative Theory

The Auction Block.
It was my 7th grade history class where we read stories about platforms and dollars bid for “Negros” based on their bodily worth, as workers.

Slaves were brought early so that buyers who desired to inspect them might enjoy that privilege. For the preliminary days before the bidding speculators constantly visited the slave’s shed. The "Negros" were examined with little consideration as if they were merely food; the buyers pulling their mouths open to see their teeth, pinching their limbs to find how muscular they were, walking them up and down to detect any signs of lameness, making them stoop and bend in different ways that they might be certain there was no concealed rupture or wound; and in addition to all the management, asking them scores of questions relative to their qualifications and accomplishments.external image slave%20auction.jpg
The buyers clustered around the platform; while the “Negros”, who were not likely to be immediately wanted, gathered into sad groups in the background to watch the progress of the selling in which they were so sorrowfully interested. The buyers lit fresh cigars; got ready their paper and pencils, and the first lot of human chattels are led upon the stand.
The expression on the faces of all who stepped on the block was always the same, and told of more anguish than it is in the power of words to express. Damaged homes, crushed hopes and broken hearts were the sad stories to be read in all the anxious faces. Some of them regarded the sale with perfect indifference, never making a motion save to turn from one side to the other at the word auctioneer, that all the crowd might have a fair view of their proportions, and then, when the sale was accomplished, stepping down from the block without caring to cast even a look at the buyer, who now held all of their happiness in his hands.
Slave lameness, or anything that decreases his or her market value, is a thing to be rejoiced over. A man in the prime of life, worth $1,600 (equivalent to approximately $35,200 today) can have little hope of ever being able, by any little savings of his own, to purchase his liberty. But, let him have a rupture, or lose a limb, or sustain any other injury that renders him of much less service to his owner, and reduces his value to $300 or $400, and he may hope to accumulate that sum, and eventually purchase his liberty. Freedom without health is infinitely sweeter than health without freedom.
The auction block is a trafficker’s cubicle. The only difference is, the “sold” are blind in modern-day slavery. Slaves today rarely know when they are on an auction block. Some believe they are becoming nannies others believe it is freedom. For only moments later will their world become exclusively enslaved. In this essay I discuss the reality of Human Trafficking with their stories. I argue that narrative and narrative theory produce meaning, rawness, and awareness to this social movement.

Narrative Theory.
Narrative is defined by our facility to create stories. Stories are sequencing events that bring life to words. Stories are powerful and are the most tangible tools in which one can create testimony. Stories are inherently tied to humanity and consistently present throughout lifespan. Stories do not just configure the past in light of the present and future, they also create experiences for and request certain responses from their audience. They are fundamentally transactional, and this, in addition to their organizing operations,accounts for their discursive power. In science, they call it “Narrative Medicine”. For the growth in publication of patients and physicians' stories is joined by other signs of the increasing importance accorded to narrative dimensions of sickness and medicine. Residing in what is called narrative knowledge, the human capacity to understand the meaning and significance of stories is being recognized as critical for effective medical practice. Physicians are reaching to practice what I have come to call narrative medicine—that is, medicine practiced with the narrative competence to recognize, interpret, and be moved to action by the predicaments of others. Sickness and healing are, in part, narrative acts. Patients write about their illnesses with increasing frequency, which suggests that finding the words to contain the chaos of illness enables the sufferer to endure it better.
As humans, we are interpreting beings. We all have daily experiences of events that we seek to make meaningful. The stories we have about our lives are created through linking certain events together in a particular sequence across a time period, and finding a way of explaining or making sense of them. This meaning forms the plot of the story. We give meanings to our experiences constantly as we live our lives. A narrative is like a thread that weaves the events together, forming a story. We all have many stories about our lives and relationships, occurring simultaneously. The way we have developed these stories is determined by how we have linked certain events together in a sequence and by the meaning we have attributed to them.
Narrative theory lies in the text and the context of what the words are telling us. In Mieke Bal’s book Narratology: introduction to the theory of narrative, he talks about how, “Narratology is the theory of narratives, narrative texts, images, spectacles, events; cultural artifacts that ‘tell a story’” (Bal 3). Our stories, he argues, make meaning to what has been and already exists. Joseph Davis studies how stories are socially produced and function to mediate action and constitute identities. He found that exploring the conditions and strategies of narration within social movements; stories are shown to be a powerful vehicle for producing, articulating, regulating, and diffusing shared meaning. At the same, authors demonstrate how narrative study can illustrate social movement emergence, recruitment, internal dynamics, resource mobilization, and public persuasion. All movements spawn such stories. Or do all stories spawn movements? They may be of only passing significance to the teller’s deeper self-narrative or may be emplotted within that self-narrative and even become the basis for a comprehensive biographical rewriting (e.g., a conversion). For many movement participants, movement-mediated transformations in identity are one of the key legacies of activism. (McAdam 1988).

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Excerpt from “Caged Birds” by Marielena Zuniga.
He wears a clean white shirt, is 40-something and paces outside the massage parlor in a seedier part of Toronto, Canada. He could be any man. A neighbor. A brother. A co-worker.
"Hello, sweetie," the Thai girl greets him from the doorway, as she's been taught. She has a quota to meet. If she doesn't, she'll be beaten or scorched with an iron by the madam running this brothel.
The "John," as these men are called, has no way of knowing—nor does he care—that this girl was trafficked into Canada by one of the Vietnamese and Chinese mafias that bring anywhere from 8,000 to 15,000 women and children into the country each year. He also doesn't know or care that this girl is guarded by a man with a gun at all times, is not allowed to speak to others, and is drawn, malnourished and exhausted. The John peeks inside. Dim lights. Plenty of girls. What he can't see are the squalid living conditions upstairs, the fetid room with mattresses on the floor, the medication to induce abortions, the drugs to numb the emotional and physical pain of sexual trauma.
"C'mon in," she invites him, wondering if this John has a daughter would he want her far away from home, tricked into prostitution by promise of a good job. The girl forces a smile, takes him by the hand and ushers him inside. She is only 15 years old.

Modern-day Slavery.
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Canada. The United States. Japan. The Netherlands. Germany. Name any country in the world and somewhere a John is purchasing a sex act. He is one of the major players driving the demand for women and girls trafficked into prostitution and sexual exploitation. And while governments, NGOs and religious/faith groups have focused on providing services and help to the victims and survivors of the global sex trade, only recently have advocates begun to address the demand side.
The words of convicted Ludwig Fainberg speak clearly to this demand. "You can buy a woman for $10,000 and you can make your money back in a week if she is pretty and young. Then everything else is profit," the trafficker told author Victor Malarek in his book The Natashas.
Human trafficking is a global phenomenon fueled by poverty and gender discrimination. Many impoverished and vulnerable women and girls are trapped into trafficking when they apply for advertised jobs as waitresses, dancers, nannies, babysitters and other types of work, and find themselves forced to meet the high demand for commercial sex and cheap labor.
"Usually the traffickers lead the person to believe that he or she is applying for a legitimate job, when in fact, they cross the border, only to become involved with illegal activities," Lederer says. Often working with corrupt government officials, traffickers will process travel documents and seize victims' passports upon arrival. But the international and U.S. definitions of human trafficking do not require transportation across any international borders. Victims can be either nationals or foreign nationals. Many victims are trafficked and enslaved entirely within their own countries.
Because of its underground nature, data is hard to gauge, but around the world, the UN estimates that 2.5 million people at any given time are recruited, entrapped, transported and exploited. The UN also reports that the total market value of illicit human trafficking at $32 billion.
The issue of human trafficking is complex, with international groups drawing distinctions between victims of human trafficking—those brought in for forced labor and those brought in for sexual exploitation. But data collected by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) shows that about 80 percent of the victims of human trafficking are women and young girls forced into prostitution. The bottom line, experts say, it's all modern-day slavery.

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A Voice for the Voiceless.
Here are three voices of girls that have pasts stripped of their humanity.
Was held as a sex slave for eight years. When she recently talked to the UN Humans Rights council in Geneva, she said she came as an agent for those exploited and left voiceless by human trafficking. Charlotte called on the international community to help the victims. "No one is there for them," she said. "And, nothing is being done, even if they escape back home."She was 14 years old when the Ugandan rebel Lord's Resistance Army abducted her from her boarding school in 1996. "We were taken away from the school campus heading nowhere, walking the whole time," she said. She claimed she was taken to southern Sudan, where victims were raped and beaten and forced to work in the gardens and carry luggage. She said those caught trying to escape were killed. Charlotte was 22 years old and had two children by the time she managed to escape.
Was forced into a life of prostitution after her boyfriend persuaded her to leave Venezuela and go to New York in 1992. "I went to the United States thinking that I was going to be working as a nanny, and I ended up being a prostitute, not by choice," she said. She said she was beaten and raped and spent three years working in the sex trade to pay off her boyfriend's debts. A customer helped her escape but then forced her to become his personal slave. She lived with him for 10 years and had two daughters. "I could never leave him because every time that I tried to leave, he said that he would use my criminal conviction and he would have me deported from the United States and I would never visit my daughters anymore," she said. With the help of an organization called Sanctuary for Families, Kikka managed to free herself from the pimps and madams who had controlled her life. She sought a court order of protection after her escape, but her daughters were taken away from her and she was accused of being a criminal.
Irina was a 16-year-old high school student from the southern Russian Federation when she accepted a family friend's proposal to take a quick trip to the Middle East. The offer of $500 for her help in bringing back merchandise to sell in the Russian Federation seemed lucrative. Irina was introduced to Renat, and within days, she received a passport, a tourist visa and a plane ticket.
In the meantime, Irina's new friends had "improved" her travel agenda. She was now to work as a waitress in a local café for $1,000 a month. Irina's mother was suspicious but was quickly assured that her daughter was in good hands. Renat also warned Irina's mother that the travel arrangements had cost him a lot of money, and if her daughter canceled the trip, she would owe him $1,000. Upon arrival at her destination, Irina found out that she would not be a waitress, she would be a prostitute. Her passport was taken away, and she was threatened if she refused to obey or tried to run away. Irina's life became a series of hotel rooms, boarding houses, "madams" and clients until she finally tried to escape. She stole her documents and some cash and hailed a taxi. As soon as Irina entered the airport, she was stopped by the police. The "madam" was with them and claimed that Irina had stolen her money. Without asking questions, the police ordered Irina to return with the "madam". She was resold to another hotel owner and saddled with a new debt of $10,000 to compensate for her misbehavior.

The United Nations declared August 23 an international day of remembrance for the abolition of slavery. But the trade in human beings is an ongoing problem around the world. Compared to the drugs and arms trades, however, it is more difficult to track down perpetrators in the multibillion-dollar trafficking business. Victims of forced labor and sexual exploitation are not always identified as such and can even face unjust criminal prosecution themselves. The International Organization for Migration estimates that between 700,000 to 4 million people are trafficked across national borders every year.
Programs are real. Stories are real. Lisa Thompson, liaison for the Abolition of Sexual Trafficking of the Salvation Army USA, gave testimony before the U.S. House of Representatives Financial Services Committee. She told members about a plaque on the wall where she works. The first line by founder General William Booth reads: "While women weep as they do now, I'll fight." "I agree with Booth," she told the committee. "While women and children are captive to the sexual gulag, I'll fight. Will you?"
Despite the amount of storytelling in social movements, little attention has been paid to narrative as a form of movement discourse or as a mode of social interaction. No matter which story --stories of having been harmed or wronged, stories of conflict with unjust authorities, stories of liberation and empowerment, and stories of strategic success and failure --by showing how these stories are a powerful vehicle for producing, regulating, and diffusing shared meaning, the contributors explore movement stories, their functions, and the conditions under which they are created and performed. They show how narrative study can illuminate social movement emergence, recruitment, internal dynamics, and identity building. Attending stories is one way -but not the only way -to bring theses crucial features of movements into the foreground and explore their context and explanatory significance.
Stories function as vessels. Vessels into our bloodstreams. Charlotte, Kikka, and Irina, are three voices of past that can change more than hundreds of girl’s future. Often when hearing theses stories we stop moving. We do not know what to do next. These stories give pieces of their humanity back. They get to be known.

Modern-Day Slavery Organizations
"For a World Without Slavery"
1 girl will make over $300,000 for her captors
Call + Response
Traffickers make $32 billion dollars a year –trafficking some 27 million people –to 160 destinations around the globe

Pre-New Deal world of unrestrained capitalism...
Pre-New Deal world of unrestrained capitalism...

Human Trafficking Connects People to Their Jobs. Permanently.

To bring attention to European Anti-trafficking Day back in October, McCann-Erikson Belgium created a campaign that illustrates just how connected those in the human trafficking trade are to their jobs.

Annotated Bibliography:

Bessell, Sharon. “The trafficking of children through a human rights lens.” Issue Date: 10-Mar-2005

Van Impe, Kristof. “People for Sale: The Need for a Multidisciplinary Approach towards Human Trafficking.” International Migration: Volume 38, Issue 3, pages 113–191, Special Issue 1 2000

Farley, Melissa. “Human Trafficking and Prostitution." Psychologists for Social Responsibility. 29 January 2011.

Tameshnie, Deane. “Cross-Border Trafficking in Nepal and India-Violating Women's Rights. Human Rights Review, Dec 01, 2010; Vol. 11, No. 4, p. 491-513

Kler, Daisy. “Not Work, Not Crime.Canadian Dimension, Nov 01, 2010; Vol. 44, No. 6, p. 29-30

Bandyopadhyay, Ranjan Nascimento. “Where fantasy becomes reality': how tourism forces made Brazil a sexual playground.Karina Journal of Sustainable Tourism, Nov 01, 2010; Vol. 18, No. 8, p. 933-949

Cawley, John. “Body Weight and Women's Labor Market Outcomes.” Cornell University - Department of Policy Analysis & Management: National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER). . August 2000

Holson, Laura M. “Charity Fixer To the Stars.New York Times, Dec 05, 2010 p. 1

Day, Sophie. “The re-emergence of 'trafficking': sex work between slavery and freedom S D T.” Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, Dec 01, 2010; Vol. 16, No. 4, p. 816-834

Walker, Jesse Reason.Forced to Be Free.Nov 01, 2010; Vol. 42, No. 6, p. 66-69

Millward, Jessica. "The Relics of Slavery.” Frontiers: A Journal of Women Studies, Sep 01, 2010; Vol. 31, No. 3, p. 22-30

Yea, Sallie Geodate. “Human Trafficking - A Geographical Perspective.” Jul 01, 2010; Vol. 23, No. 3, p. 2-6

Sidahmed, Abdel Salam Labour / Le Travail. “To Plead Our Own Cause: Personal Stories of Today's Slaves.” May 01, 2010; Vol. 65, p. 253-255

Schaeffer-Grabiel, Felicity Sexualities. “Sex Trafficking as the 'New Slave Trade'?” Apr 01, 2010; Vol. 13, No. 2, p. 153-160

Kaplan, Robert M. Australasian Psychiatry. “Syphilis, sex and psychiatry, 1789–1925: Part 2.” Jan 01, 2010; Vol. 18, No. 1, p. 22-27

Olivera, Roxana. “Somaly Mam.New Internationalist, Mar 01, 2010 No. 430, p. 32-32

“Her Body, Her Choice.” American Theatre, Feb 01, 2011; Vol. 28, No. 2, p. 21