Call for Papers: Migration, Sexuality, and Gender Identity


Guest Editor: Svati P. Shah


Anti-Trafficking Review calls for papers for a Special Issue themed ‘Migration, Sexuality, and Gender Identity’.

This special issue will bridge the fields of queer, migration, and critical trafficking studies in order to address the intersections and imbrications of transactional sex, LGBTQI+ identities and politics, and discourses of migration and human trafficking. Along with recuperating LGBTQI+ subjects as actors within the context of migration, it will also aim to examine the ways in which diverse sexuality and gender identities influence people’s experiences of legal legibility and recognition in their migratory journeys.

Collectively, the issue will aim to address the implications of heightened juridical recognition of sexual orientation and gender identity for debates on migration, sex work and human trafficking. The issue proceeds from the insight that, as the legibility of queer and trans* (i.e., lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, and all non-binary and non-heteronormative forms of sexuality and gender identity - ‘LGBTQI+’) citizenship rights moves forward, it appears to de-emphasise the explicit connections that sexuality- and gender-based social movements have historically drawn between identity, governance, and material survival. Some of these connections were made by queer feminists in the 1970s and 1980s, who argued that ‘sexual outlaws’ were radical because they treated ‘non-heteronormativity’ as sites of political and discursive critique, where sex work was not understood as wholly distinct from non-heteronormative and non-cisgender modes of being. In other words, this position was informed by an understanding of queer and transgender subjectivities, behaviours and aesthetics as naturally allied with and produced in relation to the phenomenology of transactional sex. Sexuality and gender identity were understood to be categories of economic survival and of individual freedom of expression at the same time. This Call for Papers invokes this earlier discursive moment as a way to proceed from the understanding that economic questions are not exclusive to questions of sex and gender, and that sex work is a capacious category for understanding the intersections and mutual imbrications of sexuality, gender, material survival, power, and agency, particularly in the context of migration.

The need for this kind of critique is urgent because forms of legal recognition for LGBTQI+ subjects have expanded significantly over the past two decades. In the Global North, this legibility has taken the form of legal recognition via expanded rights to adopt children and to marry, for example, for cisgender queer subjects, as well as greater social legibility for some forms of non-cisgender identity and comportment. In the Global South, juridical LGBTQI+ legibility has taken form via powerful domestic movements calling for the decriminalisation of homosexuality (see India, Trinidad, and Uganda, for example) and via international human rights law, which now includes recognition of sexuality- and gender-based identity categories in granting asylum and refugee status. These kinds of developments require analytic attention because the discourse of ‘trafficking’ has also expanded significantly, now virtually serving as a unifying frame for making sense of the intersections of sexuality, gender and migration. This Special Issue will draw from the growing body of scholarship on the complex ways that sexual orientation and gender identity indelibly impact people’s experiences of migration, informal labour, sex work, and trafficking. Specifically, it will discuss questions of transactional sex, domestic and cross-border migration, human trafficking, informal labour, and discourses on refugees and asylees, with a focus on queer and non-cisgender subjects.

We welcome research and conceptual papers that analyse the experiences of LGBTQI+ people with internal and cross-border migration, including in the context of trafficking, asylum, and informal sector labour, as well as their forms of resistance and community-building away from home. We also welcome work that questions the project to recuperate or produce LGBTQI+ subjects as actors within the context of (irregular) migration, especially work that does so via questions of affect, contingency, space, and historiography. Contributors are invited to engage with, but need not limit themselves to, the following questions:

  • How are LGBTQI+ people apprehended within the discourse on human trafficking? As victims, agents, or something else altogether? How, if at all, do the heteronormative, gender-essentialist notions of women as victims and men as traffickers play out in relation to queer subjects?
  • How do questions of affect and ontology help us to understand the experiences of LGBTQI+ migrants who use transactional sex as a means of survival?
  • What does it mean to be apprehended as a queer or transgender asylee or refugee?
  • How have COVID-related restrictions on day wage laborers and other migrant workers affected queer and transgender workers?
  • Does the experience of unfree movement, including movement that is brokered or that involves trafficking or debt bondage, change when we consider LGBTQI+ subjects?
  • How do LGBTQI+ individuals inhabit spaces of migration as brokers themselves?
  • How do media, policy, and juridical discourses deal with LGBTQI+ subjects, particularly with respect to questions of transactional sex?
  • In academic and policy critiques of human trafficking and migration, sexual orientation and gender identity are often understood as vulnerability factors that can lead to trafficking or other abuses - is this borne out empirically with respect to data on trafficked/exploited LGBTQI+ migrants?
  • What are the limits and possibilities of ‘homonationalism’ in clarifying our understanding of LGBTQI+ (irregular) migrants? What, if any, is the relationship between the discourses and policies on LGBTQI+ rights and migrants’ rights?
  • How do queer migrants build community and form ‘chosen families’ in destination locations? How do these chosen families and communities deal with narratives of exploitation and powerlessness regarding sex work, transactional sex and migration?
  • What, if any, are the opportunities for inter-movement solidarity between queer people, migrants, sex workers, and others?


Deadline for submissions: 15 November 2021


In addition to full-length conceptual, research-based, or case study thematic papers, we invite short, blog-style articles related to the issue’s theme. We particularly encourage contributions from queer migrants (including refugees, victims of trafficking, sex workers and others) and community advocates.  

Word count for full article submissions: 5,000 - 7,000 words, including footnotes, author bio, and abstract.

Word count for short article submissions: 1,200 - 1,500 words, including footnotes and author bio.

We advise those interested in submitting to check out the journal’s style guide and submission guidelines and/or email the editorial team at with any queries. 


Special Issue to be published in September 2022.

Thematic Issue Guest Editor: Svati P. Shah

Editor: Borislav Gerasimov