This dissertation is an ethnography of a government-run residential center for migrant women identified as human trafficking victims, based on 16 months of qualitative fieldwork in and around Lagos, Nigeria, from 2008 to 2010. Over the past 10 years, thousands of women have been intercepted as human trafficking victims as they attempted to leave Nigeria. Most of them had initiated their own travel but were stopped before ever reaching their final destination. They were then transported to a federal rehabilitation center to be held as their cases were investigated. Nigerian officials have proudly described this form of intervention as preemptive, having successfully captured the women before any abuses had taken place. Yet most of the so-called victims in these cases do not see their experiences in these terms and adamantly protest their detention—insisting they were not being trafficked and demanding to be released. This project explores what is at stake in one such shelter, for the women detained there and the state agents trying to help them. It describes a model of rehabilitation that glossed the desire to migrate and willingness to take on debt to do so as vulnerabilities that needed to be fixed. By documenting the ensuing arguments over the reasons these women were traveling, the purpose of their detention at the shelter, and their plans for life after being released, it presents an account of emigration politics and policies not usually associated with migrant-sending states. In addition, it uses those debates as a lens onto citizen-state encounters in Nigeria, arguing that they reveal the ad hoc relationships of governance that are forged in the absence of faith in a legitimate state. Ultimately, this research traces how transnational feminist movements, North-South geopolitics, and ambitious postcolonial governmental projects take shape in the day to day encounters between young migrant women and state actors ostensibly intervening on their behalf, thereby challenging facile reductions of African governments like Nigeria as failed and corrupt states.
Vanderhurst, Stacey Leigh,
"Sheltered Lives: God, Sex, and Mobility in Nigeria's Counter-Trafficking Programs"
Anthropology Theses and Dissertations.
Brown Digital Repository. Brown University Library.