This essay examines transnational migration, in particular a popularized case referred to as the “ghost case” or the “blessing scam.” The blessing scam is an internationally known case where Chinese migrants were “swindled” out of their money and jewelry. However, as a normative narrative of criminality circulated in popular media, another story coalesced surrounding a story of vulnerability and victimhood. Through an interdisciplinary and transnational feminist method, the author navigates a wide range of texts from legal documents to news media and Department of Justice archives, to examine how the ghost case was a human trafficking that never was. Through a theory of “unsettled witnessing,” the author moves through the multiple contexts of migration, violence, labor, and informal economy to further unravel the dichotomies that are normalized in human right’s rhetoric and practice: victim/criminal, illegal/legal, and citizen/non-citizen. An unsettled witnessing is a commitment to witnessing without being settled as to what one is seeing. This requires raising questions about the normative aspects of events by examining the politics of representation around victimhood/criminality, citizenship, and legality, as infused with discourses of nationhood, race, gender, and colonial modernities.


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pp. 146-165
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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