Select Page

Emma Post MA

PhD candidate


Area(s) of interest: Digital Humanities, International Relations, Modern & Contemporary History, Transnational History

Cohort/Start PhD: 2023-2024

A league of their own: women diplomats in the League of Nations’ fight against sex trafficking (1921-1945) (Working title)

University of Amsterdam
Supervisors: prof. dr. E.A. Buettner, dr. Katy Hull
Duration: September 2023

Sex trafficking has long been a contentious issue that encompasses concerns about migration, sexuality, and crime. Current terminology and approaches to sex trafficking are not self-evident, but were carefully curated over a hundred years ago, when it was taken up by the League of Nations. This project provides a historical analysis of how discourses on sex trafficking emerged by studying the role of eight key figures, all women, in this process.

The League of Nations provided an entryway for these women into the male-dominated world of diplomacy, where they created a transnational league of their own. Today’s image of sex trafficking, as enshrined in international legislation, depends heavily on their contingent experiences and group dynamics. Taking the perspective of a group biography, an innovative approach in the context of diplomatic history, this project exposes the dynamics of the collective culminating in the stereotypical imagery about sex trafficking that last until today.

The women in this study were held in high esteem both nationally and internationally, and correspondingly left – countless yet long-ignored – traces in personal, national and transnational archives. Analysing these documents brings forth new insights into diplomatic history, the interwar period and the transnational women’s movement. The findings will be made accessible in a digital database that visualises the networks and movements of eight key individuals, who navigated the turbulent interwar years together. Their work will be studied together for the first time, creating the opportunity for academics and policymakers to imagine new terms and conceptions of sex trafficking today.