Cover of Trading Life by Seán Columb
Trading Life
Organ Trafficking, Illicit Networks, and Exploitation
Seán Columb


224 pages.
from $28.00

Hardcover ISBN: 9781503608078
Paperback ISBN: 9781503612556
Ebook ISBN: 9781503612563

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Excerpts and More

Winner of the 2021 Hart–SLSA Prize for Early Career Academics, sponsored by the Socio-Legal Studies Association (SLSA).

Winner of the 2022 ESC Book Award, sponsored by the European Society of Criminology.

Winner of the 2021 Best Book on Organized Crime Award, sponsored by The International Association for the Study of Organized Crime (IASOC).

This groundbreaking book investigates the emergence and evolution of the organ trade across North Africa and Europe. Seán Columb illuminates the voices and perspectives of organ sellers and brokers to demonstrate how crime and immigration controls produce circumstances where the business of selling organs has become a feature of economic survival.

Drawing on the experiences of African migrants, Trading Life brings together five years of fieldwork charting the development of the organ trade from an informal economic activity into a structured criminal network operating within and between Egypt, Libya, Sudan, Eritrea, and Europe. Ground-level analysis provides new insight into the operation of organ trading networks and the impact of current legal and policy measures in response to the organ trade. Columb reveals how investing financial and administrative resources into law enforcement and border securitization at the expense of social services has led to the convergence of illicit smuggling and organ trading networks and the development of organized crime.

Trading Life delivers a powerful and grounded analysis of how economic pressures and the demands of survival force people into exploitative arrangements, like selling a kidney, that they would otherwise avoid. This fascinating and accessible book is a must-read for anyone interested in migration, organized crime, and exploitation.

About the author

Seán Columb is Lecturer in Law at the School of Law and Social Justice, University of Liverpool. His writing and commentary has been featured in Le Monde, The Times, The Guardian, and BBC World.

"Trading Life vividly and persuasively shows that anti-trafficking law and policy directed at suppressing the organ trade in Cairo has precisely the opposite effect, predictably resulting in greater brutality and exploitation of the most vulnerable. A compelling and powerful look at how law generates violence."

—Audrey Macklin, University of Toronto

"Trading Life is a real exploration that finally gives victims a voice and allows an understanding of the mechanisms and conditions leading them to sell their organs. One of the most concrete books on organ trafficking."

—Agnès Noël, Le Monde

"This is a timely, scholarly study, based on rich and at times risky fieldwork. It will be of great interest to the general public, as well as scholars in criminology, law and society, and public policy."

—Federico Varese, Oxford University

"Columb has succeeded in writing a book that is accessible and understandable for a broad audience, including law -and policy makers, scholars, teachers and students with an interest in migration issues, exploitation, trafficking, smuggling and illicit networks. It is also insightful for those aiming to understand what happens to a market once it becomes illegal. Scientifically, Columb has provided essential building blocks that help to advance knowledge of the organ trade, both empirically and theoretically. His insights have opened up new methods of approach, demonstrating the need to incorporate corporate crime perspectives, crimmigation, and legal/state-induced forms of exploitation to the study of the organ trade. Columb's book should be a core resource for anyone studying this crime."

—Frederike Ambagtsheer, Criminal Law and Criminal Justice Books