‘Humanitarianized’ Development? Anti-trafficking Reconfigured

Sverre Molland*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    6 Citations (Scopus)


    Over the past three decades humanitarianism has broadened considerably in scope. Humanitarian aid agencies have increasingly moved beyond a traditionally narrow concern with immediate relief aid to engage the wider implications of their work. Humanitarian arguments have also become central to policy legitimation in a range of contexts outside the humanitarian aid sector. By contrast, this article, based on research into anti-trafficking programmes in the Mekong region of Southeast Asia, considers a case where a particular humanitarian discourse has in fact narrowed. Anti-trafficking, once informed by development discourses of poverty reduction and long-term well-being of populations, has become increasingly shaped by a humanitarian emergency logic of exceptionalism. Long-term development modalities have contracted into a zeal for the immediateness of ‘rescues’ and saving lives. By drawing attention to how development and humanitarian discourses intersect in anti-trafficking interventions, this article explores how such shifts in legitimization and mobilization have taken place, in turn transforming actors and practices. The article will suggest that it is the different temporal registers of the two discourses — development and humanitarianism — that help account for this shift from the former to the latter.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)763-785
    Number of pages23
    JournalDevelopment and Change
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - May 2019


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