Is “Child Placement” Trafficking? Questioning the Validity of an Accepted Discourse?

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Within the discursive‐institutional space occupied by organisations working on child protection, child trafficking is often assumed to represent a direct outgrowth of the socio‐cultural custom of ‘child placement’, whereby parents send their children to live (and work) within other households. In Benin, where research for this paper was conducted, the narrative of ‘placement corrupted’ has become so well established that the country's anti‐trafficking law is in fact a law regulating the movement (including placement) of minors, and has in practice resulted in a de facto criminalisation of the intra‐familial mobility that has long formed a normal component of child‐rearing and socialisation within the region. In this paper, I offer a brief overview of this situation, and attempt to question the validity of the discourse on which the anti‐placement law and its attendant policies are based. I will employ the Foucauldian techniques of discursive archaeology and genealogy to unravel the origins of the discourse, and will draw on my own and related empirical research to problematize its conclusions.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3-7
Number of pages5
JournalAnthropology Today
Issue number6
Early online date1 Dec 2011
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2011


  • Child trafficking
  • Child migration
  • Child work
  • Benin


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