40,000 Missing Girls: Moral Panics, Global Sporting Events, and the Spectacle of Sex Trafficking


LAC Burkhardt


Women's, Gender and Sexuality Studies


For residence at the Program in Gender and Sexuality Studies at Princeton University during academic year 2019-2020


Using performance studies approaches and ethnographic data gathered over a six-year period in Rio de Janeiro, as well as supplemental interviews and participant observation in four other World Cup and Summer Olympic host countries, this research project analyzes patterns of violence against sex workers in the periods preceding these mega-events when alliances of police, missionaries, and anti-prostitution groups worked together to take over, develop, and gentrify red light areas and “rescue” sex workers. Studying the formation of this rescue industry reveals how new and spectacle-driven systems of governmentality are emerging that are best understood as “parastatal” rather than neoliberal, and how co-opted discourses of human rights and sexual exploitation collaterally damage vulnerable groups.