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Panics without Borders: How Global Sporting Events Drive Myths about Sex Trafficking

Thu, March 9th, 2023
4:15 pm
- 5:30 pm

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We are living in a time of great panic about “sex trafficking”—an idea whose meaning has been expanded beyond any real usefulness by evangelicals, conspiracy theorists, anti-prostitution feminists, and politicians with their own agendas. This is especially visible during events like the FIFA World Cup and the Olympic Games, when claims circulate that as many as 40,000 women and girls will be sex trafficked. Drawing on extensive fieldwork in Brazil as well as interviews with sex workers, policymakers, missionaries, and activists in Russia, Qatar, Japan, the UK, and South Africa, Gregory Mitchell shows that despite baseless statistical claims to the contrary, sex trafficking never increases as a result of these global mega-events—but police violence against sex workers always does. This trend is dangerous because these events happen in moments of nationalist fervor during which fears of foreigners and migrants are heightened and easily exploited to frightening ends.
Greg Mitchell is the author of Tourist Attractions: Performing Race and Masculinity in Brazil’s Sexual Economy (U Chicago 2016) as well as Panics without Borders: How Global Sporting Events Drive Myths about Sex Trafficking (U California 20222.)  This latter work was funded by the ACLS (American Council of Learned Societies), National Science Foundation, Princeton University, and a “Bellagio Writing Residency Fellowship” in Italy  from the Rockefeller Foundation. His work has appeared in GLQ, American Ethnologist, and South Atlantic Quarterly among other journals as well as in a dozen edited volumes published in Brazil and the United States. He is currently Chair and Associate Professor of Women’s, Gender & Sexuality Studies.
This talk is presented as part of the spring 2023 Faculty Lecture Series. The series was founded in 1911 by Catherine Mariotti Pratt, the spouse of a faculty member who wanted to “relieve the tedium of long New England winters with an opportunity to hear Williams professors talk about issues that really mattered to them.” From these humble and lighthearted beginnings, the Faculty Lecture Series has grown to become an important forum for tenured professors to share their latest research with the larger intellectual community of the college.

The Faculty Lecture Series is organized by the faculty members of the Lecture Committee. The aim of the series is to present big ideas beyond disciplinary boundaries.  All lectures will begin at 4:15 p.m.  They are free and open to the public.

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