White Slavery Reconfigured: The "Natasha Trade" and Sexualized Nationalism in Canada
Durisin, Elya Maria
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White Slavery Reconfigured: The Natasha Trade and Sexualized Nationalism in Canada examines the role the post-socialist migrant exotic dancer has occupied in debates on human trafficking policies in Canada and seeks to centre race, ethnicity, and nation within discourses on sex trafficking. The international Natasha discourse relays a narrative of impoverished and innocent Central or Eastern European women trafficked into the sex trade by organized criminals. This narrative found expression in policy debates surrounding human trafficking and the temporary work permit for foreign workers during the years 2004 2007. This study finds that the post-socialist female subject appeared as a contemporary reconfiguration of the historical white slave. Fears about victimized white femininity and foreign threats present in government discourse gesture to the importance of white female bodies to the stability of national boundaries. Concern over the violation of white femininity speaks to a desire to protect the whiteness of the nation that is visible in both historical and contemporary discourses. This dissertation engages with two geo-temporal categories, the West and the post-socialist, and illustrates how the post-socialist was invented as a peripheral, tradition-bound geo-temporal space that permitted parliamentarians to position Canada as a progressive leader in the struggle against modern day slavery. Expressions of sexuality and nationalism in government discourse constituted a form of Canadian sexualized nationalism where notions of civilizational superiority became linked to a gender egalitarian enlightened masculinity and where buying sex became coded as un-Canadian in its disregard for women. This project is situated within the transnational feminist paradigm, but intervenes into transnational scholarship by employing Madina Tlostanovas decolonial framework centred on Eurasia as a method to re-consider established frames of thinking within transnational feminist thought. Analyzing how the post-socialist is configured in narratives of human trafficking shows the role the post-socialist continues to play in producing categories of us and them that are entwined with modern, emancipatory rhetoric of victims and saviours. The presence of nationalism and imperialism within discourses on sex trafficking points to linkages between the contemporary anti-trafficking infrastructure and the rise of novel articulations of nationalism and xenophobia in Europe and North America.