Nicolas Lainez

Chercheur.e associé.e

Associé / Anthropologie / Vietnam, Singapore, Cambodia, Laos, EuropeInstitution de rattachement principal : Centre Asie du Sud-Est

Research Areas 

Migration, human trafficking, gender, sexuality, family, debt, credit, financialization


  • 2015 - Ph.D., Ethnology and Social Anthropology School for Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences (EHESS), France Institute for Interdisciplinary Research on Social Issues (IRIS)
  • Thesis title: Beyond the Trafficking of Vietnamese Women in Southeast Asia: Economic Anthropology of the Careers of Intimacy (
  • 2007 - MA, Ethnology and Social Anthropology School for Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences (EHESS), France
  • 2006 - MA, International Cooperation, Humanitarian Action and Development Policies, University Paris I-Sorbonne, France
  • 2005 - First year MA, Anthropology, University Paris X-Nanterre, France
  • 1999 - BA, Perfomance Arts - Film Studies, University Montpellier III, France (exchange programme at the University of Montreal)
  • 1994 - Baccalaureate, Spanish and French, French School of Barcelona, Spain

 Professional Experience

  • 2020-2021- Visiting Research Fellow, Yusof Ishak-Institute of Southeast Asian Studies (Singapore)
  • 2020 - Adjunct Assistant Professor, National University of Singapore (Singapore)
  • 2019 - Contractual Researcher, Alliance Anti-Trafic (Vietnam)
  • 2017 - Contractual Researcher, Institut de Recherche sur le Dévelopement
  • 2007-2015 - Lead Researcher, Alliance Anti-Trafic (Vietnam)
  • 2010 - Research Consultant, International Organization for Migration (Cambodia)
  • 1999-2004 - Freelance photojournalist, OnAsia Photos (Thailand)



  • Beyond the Trafficking of Vietnamese Sex Workers in Southeast Asia: Economic Anthropology of the Careers of Intimacy (manuscript under preparation)

Refereed Articles

  • "Debt-Financed Migration Research: The Economic and Social Mechanics of Upfront Payments and Salary Deductions” (under review)
  • 2020 - “Relational Work and Careers of Intimacy: Rethinking the Cultural Interpretation of the Sex Trade in Vietnam.” The Sociological Review.
  • 2020 - “Debt, Trafficking and Safe Migration: The Brokered Mobility of Vietnamese Sex Workers to Singapore.” Geoforum.
  • 2019 - “Second Wives in the Vietnamese Migrant Community in Savannakhet, Laos: Reshaping Gender and Sexual Norms.” Culture, Health & Sexuality 22(3): 261-274
  • 2018 - “Treading Water: Street Sex Workers Negotiating Frantic Presents and Speculative Futures in the Mekong Delta, Vietnam.” Time & Society 28(2): 804-827-
  • 2018 - “The Contested Legacies of the Anthropology of Debt Bondage in Southeast Asia: Indebtedness in the Vietnamese Sex Sector.” American Anthropologist 120(4): 671-683
  • 2017 -  “Social Structure, Relationships and Reproduction in Quasi-Family Networks: Brokering Circular Migration of Vietnamese Sex Workers to Singapore.” Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies 45(9): 1631-1649
  • 2014 -  “L’exploitation de la sexualité des femmes par leur famille au Vietnam : Financer les chocs exogènes et le crédit informel” [The Exploitation of Women’s Sexuality by their Families in Vietnam: Financing Shocks and Informal Credit]. Autrepart 66: 133-152
  • 2012 - “Commodified Sexuality and Mother-Daughter Power Dynamics in the Mekong Delta.” Journal of Vietnamese Studies 7(1): 149-180
  • 2009 - “La victime mise en scène: Représenter le traffic à des fins d’exploitation sexuelle.” Migrations et Société 21(126): 127-141 (2009. “Representar la explotación sexual? La victima puesta en escena.” Revista de Antropología Social 18: 297-316; 2010. “Representing Sex Trafficking in Southeast Asia? The Victim Staged.” In T. Zheng (ed.). Anti-Trafficking, Human Rights, and Social Justice. New York: Routledge, pp: 134-149

Edited Volumes

  • 2009 - Bétail humain: La traite des femmes et des enfants en Indochine et en Chine du Sud (rapt, vente, infanticide) (1860-1940) [Human Cattle: Trafficking of Women and Children in Indochina and Southern China (kidnapping, Sale, Infanticide) (1860-1940)] (co-editor Pierre Le Roux). Paris: Connaissances et Savoirs

Book Chapters

  • 2012 - “Human Trade in Colonial Vietnam.” In D.W. Haines; K. Yamanaka; S. Yamashita (eds.). Wind over Water. Migration in an East-Asian Setting. New York: Berghan Books

Non-Refereed Journals

Working Papers

  •  2010 - Mobilité Prostitutionnelle et Représentations. Le Cas des Prostituées Vietnamiennes d’An Giang vers le Cambodge [Prostitution, Mobility and Representations: The Case of Vietnamese Prostitutes going to Cambodia] Bangkok: Research Institute on Contemporary Southeast Asia

Commissioned Work

  • 2020 -  ‘Easy to Borrow, Hard to repay’ Credit and Debt in Ho Chi Minh City’s Sex Industry. Ho Chi Minh City: Alliance Anti-Trafic Vietnam (with Nguyen Vu Thuy Quynh, Le Bui Thay Uyen, Georges Blanchard)
  • 2011 -  A Foot in and a Foot Out: Sex Migration of Vietnamese Women to Singapore. Ho Chi Minh City: Alliance Anti-Trafic Vietnam
  • 2011 - Transacted Children and Virginity: Ethnography of Ethnic Vietnamese in Phnom Penh. Ho Chi Minh City: Alliance Anti-Trafic Vietnam

 Book Reviews

  • 2016 - Microfinance, Debt and over-Indebtedness: Juggling with Money (Isabelle Guérin; Solène Morvant-Roux; Magdalena Villarreal (eds.). 2014. New York: Routledge 2014). Journal of Economic Issues 50(3): 900-903; Revue Française de Socio-Économie 17 (forthcoming)
  • 2016 - Dealing in Desire. Asian Ascendency, Western Decline and the Hidden Currencies of Global Sex Work (Kimberly Kay Hoang. 2015. Oakland: University of California Press). Journal of Vietnamese Studies 11(2): 137-140; Genre, Sexualité & Société 15 (forthcoming)
  • 2014 - Sex, Love and Money in Cambodia: Professional Girlfriends and Transactional Relationships (Heidi Hoefinger. 2013. New York: Routledge). Asian Journal of Social Science 41(7): 180-183; La vie des idées(
  • 2014 - The Perfect Business? Anti-Trafficking and the Sex Trade along the Mekong (Sverre Molland. 2012. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press). SOJOURN - Journal of Social Issues in Southeast Asia 29(1): 195-200; Autrepart 64: 139-142
  • 2011 - Chinese Human Smuggling Organizations: Families, Social Networks, and Cultural Imperatives (Sheldon X. Zhang. 2008. Stanford: Stanford University Press). Asian Politics and Policy 3(4): 651-654
  • 2010 - Modernity and Re-Enchantment. Religion in Post-Revolutionary Vietnam(Philip Taylor (ed.). 2007. Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies). Péninsule 60: 288-297 (with Jérémy Jammes)

Newspapers and Popular Journals

  • 2019 - “The Debts of Undocumented Vietnamese Migrants in Europe”, Open Democracy, Beyond Trafficking and Slavery(
  • 2017 - « Modern Vietnamese Slaves in the UK: Are Raid and Rescue Operations Appropriate? », Open Democracy, Beyond Trafficking and Slavery, 29 novembre (
  • 2012 - “Le crédit informel au Viêt Nam” [Informal Credit in Vietnam]. Carnets du Vietnam 38: 16-8
  • 2012 - “Thu Thiêm, la représentation d’un espace urbain en transition, ou comment révéler l’invisible à Hô Chi Minh-Ville” [Thu Thiêm: Representing Urban Space in Transition, or how to Uncover the Invisible in Ho Chi Minh City]. Carnets du Vietnam 32: 9-15
  • 2011 -  “Le placement des mineurs Vietnamiens à titre d’aide ou domestique en contexte cambodgien: entre adoption et emploi” [The Placement of Vietnamese Minors as Domestic Workers in Cambodia: Between Adoption and Employment]. Carnets du Vietnam 30: 13-17
  • 2011 -  “La vente de la virginité chez les Vietnamiens du Cambodge: une stratégie familiale d’avancement économique” [The Sale of Virginity by Vietnamese in Cambodia: A Family Strategy for Economic Advancement]. Carnets du Vietnam29: 14-18
  • 2011 - “Should Commercial Surrogacy be Legalized?” Bangkok Post (6 May): 8
  • 2011 - “Thai Rescue has Unintended Victims.” Taipei Times (30 April): 8
  • 2011 - “Trafficked Viet Women: There is More to the Tale.” Straits Times (18 April): A22

Academic Meetings

Workshop Organized

 Conferences Attended (selected items)

  • 2019 - Beyond the Clock: An Interdisciplinary Symposium on Time, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore, 15-16 March 2019
  • 2019 - Debt, Freedom, and Development: Insights from Asia, Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore, Singapore, 19-20 December 2019
  • 2018 - Prostitution et Migration, entre Gouvernement des Frontières et Régulation des Sexualités, Paris Sciences-Po, Paris, France, 20-21 December 2018
  • 2018 - Old Bonds, New Ties: Understanding Family Transitions in Re-partnerships, Remarriages and Stepfamilies in Asia, Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore, Singapore, 19-20 November 2018
  • 2016 - Les Échanges Sexuels et leurs ‘Clients’, Université Paris-Ouest, Paris, France, 14-16 June
  • 2016 - Vietnam Forum: Thirty Years of Doi Moi and Beyond, Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, Singapore, 7-8 April
  • 2014 - Slaveries Old and New: The Meaning of Freedom, The British Academy, London, United Kingdom, 27-28 March
  • 2011 - Laberintos de libertad. Entre la esclavitud del pasado y las nuevas formas de esclavitud del presente, Museo de América, Museo Nacional de Antropología, Universidad Complutense de Madrid, Universidad de Alcalá de Henares, Madrid, Spain, 24-28 October
  • 2011 - Southeast Asia Regional Child Protection (Keynote session), International Child Protection Network, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, 3-4 March
  • 2010 - Human Trafficking in Southeast Asia. From Prevention to Reintegration of Victims, Mekong Anti-Trafic Observatory, Research Institute on Contemporary Southeast Asia, Bangkok, Thailand, 31 March-2 April
  • 2010 - Globalization, Human Rights and Mobility: Exploring the Gender Trope, Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, Singapore, 22-23 November
  • 2010 - Forcing Issues: Re-thinking and Re-scaling Human Trafficking in the Asia-Pacific Region, Asia Research Institute-National University of Singapore, Singapore, 4-5 October
  • 2010 - Doctoriales - Mobility, Informality, Irregularity and Atypical Forms of Labour, Institut de Recherche sur le Développement, Agence Universitaire de la Francophonie, Vietnamese Academy of Social Sciences, Hanoi, Vietnam, 5 May
  • 2009 - Annual Meeting, International Union of Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences, Kunming, People’s Republic of China, 27-31 July
  • 2009 - East by Southeast: Multiple Perspectives on Asia, Society for East Asian Anthropology, Academia Sinica, American Anthropological Association, Taipei, Taiwan, 2-5 July
  • 2009 - Annual meeting, Association of Asian Studies, Chicago, United States, 26-29 March
  • 2008 - The Asia Pacific and the Emerging World System, Ritsumeikan Asia-Pacific University, Beppu, Japan, 13-14 December
  • 2008 - Annual meeting, Swiss Union of Anthropologists, Geneva, Switzerland, 21-22 November

Photography (1999-2004)

Freelance photojournalist

  •  Production of photo essays about migration, human trafficking, prostitution and HIV/AIDS in Asia for aid organizations and international media with worldwide distribution by the Bangkok-based photo agency Light Rocket (formerly OnAsia Photography)


  • 1999 - Magnum photos (6 months), Agence Vu (1 month), Rapho Images (1 month), Agence France-Presse (1 week), La Gazette de Montpellier Newspaper (1 month)



  • 2005 - Prostitution à Phnom Penh. Vals-Le-Chastel: Ed. Doublevebe recup
  • 2000-2004 - Publications for media: Libération, L’Express, Asian Week, L’Équipe Magazine, etc.
  • 2000-2004 - Publications for aid organizations: UN (Thailand), UNDP (Burma), UNICEF (Cambodia), UNESCO (Andorra), International Organization for Migration (Thailand), Médecins du Monde (France), Pharmaciens Sans Frontières (France), Prevent Human Trafficking (USA), Aidetous (Cambodia), Cosecam (Cambodia), Afesip (Cambodia), Ecpat (France), Fondations Scelles (France), Association Contre la Prostitution Infantile (France), Secours Catholique/Caritas International (France), Anesvad (Spain), Terre des Hommes (Spain), East-West Centre (United States), etc.

Photographic Exhibitions (selected items)

  • 2008 - Second European Day Against Human Trafficking, Secours Catholique/Caritas International, Paris, France
  • 2007 - Brandeis University, with Prevent Human Trafficking, Chicago, United States
  • 2007 - Northwestern University, with Prevent Human Trafficking, Chicago, United States
  • 2007 - National Press Club, with Prevent Human Trafficking, Washington-DC, United States
  • 2004 - French Cultural Center & Foreign Correspondents’ Club, Phnom Penh, Cambodia
  • 2004 - Poipet. A Bridge Between Two Worlds, Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand, Bangkok, Thailand
  • 2002-2005 Phnom Penh Red Light District, Itinerant exhibition in Spanish airports with Anesvad Foundation, Barcelona, Valladolid, Bilbao, Santiago, Avila, Vigo, Spain
  • 2003 - Phnom Penh Red Light District, Itinerant exhibition at FNAC photo galleries with Pharmaciens Sans Frontieres, Barcelona, Bordeaux, Spain and France


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