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  • Cited by 6
Cambridge University Press
Online publication date:
June 2021
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Book description

Over the last two decades, fighting modern slavery and human trafficking has become a cause célèbre. Yet large numbers of researchers, non-governmental organizations, trade unions, workers, and others who would seem like natural allies in the fight against modern slavery and trafficking are hugely skeptical of these movements. They object to how the problems are framed, and are skeptical of the “new abolitionist” movement. Why? This book tackles key controversies surrounding the anti-slavery and anti-trafficking movements head on. Champions and skeptics explore the fissures and fault lines that surround efforts to fight modern slavery and human trafficking today. These include: whether efforts to fight modern slavery displace or crowd out support for labor and migrant rights; whether and to what extent efforts to fight modern slavery mask, naturalize, and distract from racial, gendered, and economic inequality; and whether contemporary anti-slavery and anti-trafficking crusaders' use of history are accurate and appropriate.


‘In bringing diverse historical and social science perspectives to the fraught conversation over ‘modern slavery’ and human trafficking, LeBaron, Pliley, and Blight demonstrate that research matters: whether in defining terms, estimating numbers, finding a usable past, or offering solutions to varieties of forced labor. Questioning the efficacy of neo-abolitionism and corporate social responsibility, key essays highlight the necessity for worker voices, worker-led enforcement, and confronting global inequalities.’

Eileen Boris - author of Making the Woman Worker: Precarious Labor and the Fight for Global Standards, 1919–2019

‘What inspiration can we take from the past, and what does require innovative thinking in the fight against modern slavery? By problematizing concepts such as neo-abolitionism, and analyzing existing controversies, this book is critical to understanding what should be never taken for granted in the struggle against slavery and human trafficking.’

Maria Grazia Giammarinaro - Former UN Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children

‘This is a book for anyone daring to understand the complex story of slavery, historically and contemporarily. Whether we call the present condition modern slavery or human exploitation, the authors remind us that it is in our power to make slavery disappear. Read this book, but do not ignore it. Too much is at stake.’

Earl Lewis - Thomas C. Holt Distinguished University Professor of History, University of Michigan

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