The Traffic in Women’s WorkEast European Migration and the Making of Europe

The Traffic in Women’s WorkEast European Migration and the Making of Europe

Anca Parvulescu

Print publication date: 2014

ISBN: 9780226118246

Publisher: University of Chicago Press


“Welcome to the European Family!” is the banner under which East European countries joined the European Union following the collapse of the Iron Curtain in 1989. This book offers an analysis of the imbrication of the ensuing imagined European kinship with its corollary: the traffic in women. The book revisits Claude Lévi-Strauss concept of kinship, as well as its re-articulation by second-wave feminists, Gayle Rubin most prominently, in order to remind the reader that kinship has been traditionally anchored in the traffic in women. This is not the traffic in women invoked by the media to refer to sex trafficking per se, but a broad anthropological concept that describes the circulation of women between kinship groups, traditionally through marriage. Reading recent cinematic texts that critically frame the European traffic in women, the book shows that, in today’s Europe, racialized East European migrant women are “exchanged” so they can engage in labor traditionally performed by wives within the institution of marriage. Following a pattern of what the book calls Americanization, East European migrant women, alongside women from the global South, become responsible for the biopolitical labor of reproduction, whether they work as domestics, nannies, nurses, sex workers, or wives. A feminist intervention in the heated debate on the making and unmaking of Europe, the book argues that the critical project of pluralizing post-1989 Europe needs to account for the Europe brought together through the traffic in East European women.