Paper $30.00 ISBN: 9780226573779 Published January 2019
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Brokered Subjects

Sex, Trafficking, and the Politics of Freedom

Elizabeth Bernstein

Brokered Subjects
Read the first chapter.

Elizabeth Bernstein

304 pages | 31 halftones | 6 x 9 | © 2018 
Paper $30.00 ISBN: 9780226573779 Published January 2019
Cloth $90.00 ISBN: 9780226573632 Published January 2019
E-book $10.00 to $30.00 About E-books ISBN: 9780226573809 Published January 2019
Brokered Subjects digs deep into the accepted narratives of sex trafficking to reveal the troubling assumptions that have shaped both right- and left-wing agendas around sexual violence. Drawing on years of in-depth fieldwork, Elizabeth Bernstein sheds light not only on trafficking but also on the broader structures that meld the ostensible pursuit of liberation with contemporary techniques of power. Rather than any meaningful commitment to the safety of sex workers, Bernstein argues, what lies behind our current vision of trafficking victims is a transnational mix of putatively humanitarian militaristic interventions, feel-good capitalism, and what she terms carceral feminism: a feminism compatible with police batons.

1 Tracing the “Traffic in Women”
2 The Sexual Politics of Carceral Feminism
3 Seek Justice™
4 The Travels of Trafficking (with Elena Shih)
5 Redemptive Capitalism and Sexual Investability
6 Imagining Freedom

Review Quotes
“Highly recommended. . . Thoroughly researched. . . An incisive critique of the “intervention industry” and a wholesale questioning of the pervasiveness of this phenomenon, which has captured worldwide attention in the new millennium. A most worthwhile read for women, gender, and sexuality scholars and activists, as well as social movement researchers.”
Lisa Duggan, New York University
“A whip-smart, razor-sharp analysis of the neoliberal con game behind the global anti–sex trafficking juggernaut. The nuanced ethnography and sophisticated theorizations extend Bernstein’s brilliant groundbreaking critiques of the discourse of sex trafficking and the emergence of carceral feminism. A game-changing must-read for feminists, scholars, and activists alike.”
Inderpal Grewal, Yale University
Brokered Subjects reveals how central questions of sexuality and gender are to new forms of neoliberal governance and racial power in national and transnational politics. Bernstein reveals why discourses of anti-trafficking campaigns have become ubiquitous across left- and right-wing politics. She shows with powerful ethnographic research and evidence how anti-trafficking brings together a range of political actors who have the power to define sexuality, morality, and what women—especially poor ones—need to do with their bodies. This is important reading for activists, policy makers, NGOs, and researchers.”
Ratna Kapur, Queen Mary University of London
“My enthusiasm for this thoughtful and masterful ethnographic analysis of trafficking discourse is unqualified. Bernstein offers a provocative challenge in tracing the work that decades of anti-trafficking interventions have been doing—from facilitating a billion-dollar industry of good intentions reinforced by a white savior industrial complex, to reinforcing sexual, cultural, and racial stereotypes, as well as emboldening a new sexual politics that has securitized rather than enabled the freedom of disenfranchised constituencies. Brokered Subjects is a bold and timely book that is bound to compel a rethinking of contemporary understandings of gender progress and freedom.”
Eric Fassin, University of Paris VIII
“Bernstein’s important book on the so-called new abolitionism not only debunks the myth of human trafficking. Its profound originality is that it also moves beyond the apparent irrationality of a “sex panic.” Indeed, carceral feminism, militarized humanitarianism, and redemptive capitalism make strange bedfellows, but this wonderfully rich volume reveals the neoliberal rationality underlying their convergence.”

Society for the Study of Social Problems: SSSP Global Division Book Award
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