115th Annual Conference - Honolulu, Hawaii
Friday, November 10 - Sunday, November 12, 2017

Visual Rhetoric, Spectacle, and Alternatives for Speaking the Unspeakable in Anti-Trafficking Awareness Campaigns

My presentation will examine three scenes from anti-trafficking campaign videos to address (1) the ways in which these visual images rhetorically construct spectacle while (2) silencing the voices of those most impacted. 

Proposal: 

Anti-trafficking campaigns have increasingly deployed visual imagery – in posters, print announcements, websites, videos, and television advertisements – as part of a broad-based effort to increase public awareness about the issue of human trafficking. The strategic use of specific types of visuals – consistently deployed across platforms – embed story and spectacle in a manner that conveys a particular “way of seeing” the issue. This “way of seeing,” I argue, reflects a dominant narrative that actually, and problematically, exploits individuals in trafficking scenarios. My presentation will examine three scenes from anti-trafficking campaign videos to address (1) the ways in which these visual images rhetorically construct spectacle while (2) silencing the voices of those most impacted. Based on my own ethnographic research with survivors of human trafficking – and using an approach melding feminist, decolonial, and indigenous scholarship – I will offer up several alternative visual rhetorical approaches that might better support the broader goal of anti-trafficking activism, while creating spaces for those most impacted to “speak the unspeakable.”