A scene from the film Crash (dir Paul Haggis, 2004) helps to highlight the ambiguities we face in situating human trafficking. Crash itself is a careful interweaving of fragmentary stories set in Los Angeles, a city that provides the varied multi-ethnic setting for the miscommunications and racial stereotypes of the film. In the relevant scene, Anthony (played by the rap artist Ludacris) has stolen a white van and taken it to the repair garage of an acquaintance who receives stolen cars. It turns out that the beat-up van contains a cargo of Asians. They have been chained to the van and there is no knowing how long they have been in that condition and where they came from. Anthony had originally hoped to get a little bit of cash for ...

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