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Bearing Witness
  • Coming soon
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Expected online publication date: October 2022
  • Print publication year: 2022
  • Online ISBN: 9781009039741
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Book description

Since the 1990s, modern slavery has been recognized as a global problem, with campaigners around the world providing assessments of its nature and extent, its drivers, and possible solutions for ending it. However, largely absent from the global antislavery movement's discourse and policy prescriptions are the voices of survivors of slavery themselves. Survivors' authentic voices are underemployed vital tools in the fight against modern slavery in all its forms. Through close readings of over 200 contemporary slave narratives, Andrea Nicholson repositions the history of the genre and exposes the conditions and consequences of slavery, and the challenges survivors face in liberation. Far from the trope of 'capture, enslavement, escape,' she argues that narratives are rich and vitally important sources that enable the antislavery community to be gain important insights and build more effective interventions.


'Bearing Witness reflects the complex and beautiful humanity of survivors of slavery. Andrea Nicholson writes without pity or paternalism, demonstrating that survivors are not mere subjects of research but experts in understanding slavery and freedom. This work takes the study of contemporary anti-slavery narratives to a deeper level and confronts the reader with our own humanity.'

Minh Dang - Executive Director, Survivor Alliance and Research Fellow at University of Nottingham Rights Lab

'Andrea Nicholson has done something extraordinary. Her analysis of some 200 contemporary slave narratives helps shed much-needed light on the stories, complexities, dignity, and humanity of today’s survivors, illuminating critical linkages between past and present. Notably, Nicholson’s work also situates the wisdom of survivors as central to the success of the contemporary anti-slavery movement. The insights in this book may very well help us chart a clearer path toward ending contemporary slavery.'

Monti Datta - University of Richmond

'Nicholson’s analysis of over 200 contemporary slave narratives provides an invaluable contribution to our understanding of the varieties of severe exploitation grouped under the category of enslavement and is an impassioned plea to patiently listen to the voices of survivors. Especially important are her discussions of the myriad ways that survivors exercise agency and attempt to reclaim their identities, as well as the very complex meanings of freedom among those currently enslaved and those notionally freed from enslavement.'

William Paul Simmons - author of Joyful Human Rights and Human Rights Law and the Marginalized Other


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