In 2014, Indian activist Kailash Satyarthi won the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize for his organization’s extensive work rescuing child labor. In recent years, his and other Indian anti-trafficking NGOs have taken up the cause of impoverished underage rural girls doing domestic work for New Delhi’s urban middle-class. This talk will explore how NGOs frame their concerns both through the contemporary global anti-trafficking discourse around “modern-day slavery,” and progressive Indian labor laws, to justify the need to rescue children from exploitation. However, rescues require NGOs to work with the local police, who view labor issues quite differently. Through ethnographic observations of rescues and subsequent legal procedures, the talk will illuminate how rescues take place amidst constantly negotiated – and often divergent – articulations of slavery, trafficking, child labor, exploitation, and indeed, childhood itself. The talk will highlight the tensions marking encounters between U.S.-funded anti-trafficking NGOs, Indian judicial mechanisms, local police, young migrant domestic workers, and their families. Through these tensions, it will explore ambiguities around questions like what constitutes exploitation, who is a “child,” and the purpose and politics of rescue. 

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