The annual Edwards lecture is delivered in honour of the Centre of Criminology's founder, Prof. John LL. J. Edwards. The lecture is presented by The Centre of Criminology, the Faculty of Law, and Woodsworth College, University of Toronto.

The 2019 John LL. J. Edwards Memorial Lecture

 Professor Prabha Kotiswaran
King’s College London

"The Sexual Politics of Anti-Trafficking Discourse"

Thursday, 28 November 2019

5:00 pm to 6:30 pm
Reception to follow

Canadiana Gallery
14 Queen's Park Cres
Attendance is free of charge but registration is required.
Register here

Almost twenty years since the negotiation of the Palermo Protocol on Trafficking, anti-trafficking law and discourse continue to be in a state of flux and dynamic evolution. The anti-trafficking field has gone from an early almost exclusive, preoccupation with sex work to addressing exploitation in varied labour sectors, reflected in the mainstreaming of the term ‘modern slavery’. Correspondingly, scholars and activists are going beyond the criminal law to propose alternate forms of regulation as manifest in human rights, labour and development approaches to trafficking. These trends would suggest a reduced focus on the nature of the work performed and a greater focus on the conditions under which it is performed. We could therefore expect that all forms of extreme labour exploitation whether in sex work or fishing or cotton cultivation would attract the equal application of anti-trafficking law. This is sadly not the case as cultures of ‘sex work exceptionalism’ persist and are gaining strength around the world.

In my lecture, I ask why. I interrogate the sexual politics of anti-trafficking discourse by revisiting its contentious history. I examine what the expanded understanding of trafficking has meant for feminist theorising and mobilising on sex work and trafficking and how sex workers’ groups have responded. I explore the terrains on which feminists, sex workers, conservatives and left-progressive movements engage with each other and with the state and which alliances have been brokered successfully and which ones have failed to materialise. Importantly, I question what this has meant for long-term struggles for a politics of redistribution within the sex sector. I conclude by reflecting on how anti-trafficking campaigns play out in postcolonial contexts and what this means for retheorising the sexual politics of anti-trafficking discourse.

See the Event Poster (PDF)

Past Lectures

  • Senator Murray Sinclair, "The Accidental Jurist: Thoughts on a life in the law" (November 19th, 2018)
  • Professor Jonathan Simon, Adrian A. Kragen Professor of Law and the Faculty Director of the Center of the Study of Law & Society at UC Berkeley, "THE ARCS OF MASS INCARCERATION: Four Turning Points in the History of US Penality and their Legacy for the Contemporary Penal State" (Oct. 26, 2017)
  • Professor Marie Gottschalk (Political Science Department,  University of Pennsylvania), "Are we there yet? The future of penal reform and the carceral state in the US." (April 8th, 2016)
  • The Honourable Professor Irwin Cotler, Former Minister of Justice & Attorney General of Canada, "“The Omnibus Criminal [In] Justice Agenda: Whither Parliament, the Courts and the Charter” (March 26, 2015)
  • Anthony Doob, Emeritus Professor, Centre for Criminology and Sociolegal Studies, University of Toronto, “Losing Our Balance: Old and New Directions in Canadian Criminal Justice Policy” (February 6, 2014)
  • The Hon. Ian Binnie, with an ntroduction by the Hon. Roy McMurtry (November 20, 2012)
  • Professor Federico Varese, Oxford University: "Current Challenges in the Study of Organized Crime" (January 17, 2011)
  • Natalie Zemon Davis, Professor emerita of History at Princeton University, Adjunct Professor of History and Professor of Medieval Studies, University of Toronto, "Judges, Masters, Diviners: Slaves’ Experience of Criminal Justice in Colonial Suriname" (January 25, 2010)
  • Professor Loïc Wacquant, University of California at Berkeley and the Centre de Sociologie Européenne, Paris, "Reconstructing the Penal State"
  • Professor Susan Silbey, Massachusetts Institute of Technology: "Governing Green Laboratories: Trust and Surveillance in the Cultures of Science". 
  • Prof. Richard V. Ericson, Centre of Criminology, University of Toronto: "Criminalization and the Politics of Uncertainty." 
  • Professor Martin Friedland, University Professor Emeritus of Law and Criminology, University of Toronto: "Criminal Justice in Canada Revisited"
  • Professor David Garland, New York University: "The Culture of Control: Crime and Social Order in Contemporary Society"
  • Professor James Fyfe, Crime and Justice Research Institute, Temple University: "Police Officers Involved in Career-Ending Misconduct"
  • Professor John Beattie, University of Toronto: "The Problem of Urban Crime: London 1660-1750."
  • Professor Kent Roach, University of Saskatchewan: "The Attorney-General and the Charter"