Julietta Hua, author of “Trafficking Women’s Rights,” gave a speech about human trafficking and the 2011 Foxconn suicides this past Tuesday in Neumiller Lecture Hall.
Fae Chubin, assistant professor of sociology, contacted the author after noticing campus interest in Hua’s book and asked her to speak at Bradley.
According to Chubin, the purpose of this event was to educate the Bradley community about human trafficking and what people can do to counter the industry.
“The lecture … helps us redefine what we consider human trafficking,” Chubin said. “Talking about those forms of exploitation of people that happens in legitimate sides.”
Chubin said that if we become aware of the exploitation and slave labor that occurs in the production of everyday products, then people might be able to do something about it.
“If we can actually make this connection between our personal consumption and all the people who are being exploited to provide that for us, then perhaps we will change our consumption,” Chubin said. “Maybe we change our understanding of how in this globalized world we are connected to one another and then what we can do to bring more justice.”
Freshman sports communication major Jordan McCue said that people should recognize that this is a major issue.
“I thought the event was important because human trafficking isn’t considered an issue in the United States,” McCue said. “But it happens everywhere all the time and people need to be aware of what’s going on in order to combat this pressing issue.”
Hua’s lecture started with her showing 2011 media campaigns picturing human trafficking in only one way instead of the many forms it can occur.
“It’s not just bringing awareness, but then bringing awareness and care is a process that draws on the things that we are already familiar with,” Hua said.
She said that there are certain tropes that make people see human trafficking a certain way based on things that they already know.
“We expect victimization to look a certain way,” Hua said. “We expect victims to look a certain way and therefore, when we look for it, we look to find what we already expect to find.”
According to Hua, articles started circulating in 2011 about a series of suicides that took place around China at the factories of the Foxconn Technology Group, a company based in Taiwan that produces electronic components.
“At the same time as there was all this media attention around human trafficking and sex trafficking, there was a little bit of coverage on the suicides and then the story disappeared,” Hua said.
The two dozen workers that jumped off the buildings were within the age range of 17 and 24.
“The Foxconn suicides were never explicitly described as matters of human trafficking,” Hua said.
This was because they were all legal workers that chose to be there. Student workers were at the factories with an internship facilitated through their schools. The internship program did not break any labor laws.
Hua talked about the global economization of life. She related this to the term human vitality and how capitalism can extract it.
“It’s not just that we’re owning people,” Hua said. “It’s not just that people give up their labor or their labor time. It’s not even just that they sell parts of themselves. It’s that some life only has value insofar as it enables other lives to thrive.”
Hua said that working conditions in the factories mirror human trafficking in many ways.
“The workers don’t have freedom of movement, they can’t leave their positions and the work conditions are so dire that some commit suicide as a means of protest,” Hua said.
There was a lot of information to process during the lecture and Chubin hoped that the attendees left with something to think about.
“I hope that students learn about all that is wrong in this world that we are living in,” Chubin said. “Be more aware of the inequalities, injustices exist and hopefully feel angry and enraged at this and wanting to do something about it.”