At the beginning of the 21st century, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime oversaw a complex network of international conventions that aimed to combat narcotics smuggling and the illicit trade in arms, and human trafficking for purposes of exploitation. Today, law enforcement organizations argue that these three fields are fundamentally linked together by transnational organized crime to support their demands for global police cooperation. At the beginning of the century however, when activists and diplomats first created prohibition regimes aimed at addressing these issues, they understood them as distinctly separate problems, each requiring radically different solutions. In the early 20th century, international drug control initially stemmed from lobbying by missionaries concerned about widespread addiction in China due to legal traffic in opium. Controls on small arms were sparked by imperial fears that unrestricted trade could destabilize colonial rule. ‘White slavery’ was seen as a radically new problem, distinct from other forms of forced labour, in which individual pimps lured European girls and women abroad to exploiting their sexual labor for profit.
This conference aims to answer the question: How did the trafficking in humans, arms and narcotics become entangled over the long 20th century – in terms of actual illicit flows of people, guns and drugs, but also in terms of public perceptions and prohibition regimes?
The conference is looking for papers that will address themes including:
- When and how were networks of trafficking between these fields actually interconnected?
- How did global events such as the World Wars, Decolonization, or the collapse of State Socialism act as catalysts for the entangled proliferation of trafficking or prohibition across these fields? What were the local effects of these macro-events?
- How did regional and global legal systems linking these fields interact with local norms and practices of law enforcement and prohibition?
- Under what circumstances have these fields been linked together or separated by different actors and institutions including civil society activists and NGOS, the media, academics, bureaucrats, politicians, police, diplomats, clergy, medical authorities and global legal frameworks?
- How have moral panics in one area been used to legitimize prohibition campaigns against other types of cross border movement and traffic?
- How have demands for and opposition against state nationalization/regulation or for liberalization and decriminalization been interconnected between these fields?
- How have ideas about race, class and gender linked these fields together?
- What role has money laundering and other forms of illicit finance acted to link these fields together both by criminalized actors and control regimes?
- How did the interconnection of these illicit flows intersect with broader economic and political trends, including globalization, free trade and neoliberalism?
Proposals are strongly encouraged to explore the links between the fields rather than focus on just one of the fields. The focus of the conference is historical, but interdisciplinary work in encouraged. Contributions from all world regions are welcome; papers that can show interconnections between regions are encouraged. Joint and collaborative proposals with multiple authors will also be accepted.
This conference is the first in a series hosted by the VolkswagenStiftung funded research project “The Other Global Germany: International Crime and Deviant Globalization in the 20th Century,” and it will be held at the University of Erfurt located in central Germany.
Please send your abstract (250-500 words) and a short academic CV until the September 30, 2019. The conference organizers are able to cover accommodation for the conference, and there is a limited budget for travel costs (with priority for grad students, the precariously employed, and those coming from institutions with limited resources).
Ned Richardson-Little, University of Erfurt