Contemporary Slavery: Popular Rhetoric and Political Practice

Contemporary Slavery: Popular Rhetoric and Political Practice

"Law and Society" series

  • academic
  • history-politics-current-affairs
  • legal

Contemporary slavery has recently and unexpectedly emerged as a source of both popular fascination and a spur to political mobilization.

This volume brings together a cast of leading experts to carefully explore how the history and iconography of slavery has been invoked to support a series of government interventions, activist projects, legal instruments, and rhetorical performances. However well-intentioned these interventions might be, they nonetheless remain subject to a host of limitations and complications. Recent efforts to combat contemporary slavery are too often sensationalist, self-serving, and superficial. The widely held notion that anti-slavery is one of those rare issues that “transcends” politics or ideology is only sustainable because the underlying issues at stake have been constructed and demarcated in a way that minimizes direct challenges to dominant political and economic interests. This must change.

By providing an original approach to the underlying issues at stake, this book will help readers understand the political practices that have been concealed beneath the popular rhetoric and establishes new conversations between scholars of slavery and trafficking and scholars of human rights and social movements.


Joel Quirk, editor

Joel Quirk is a professor of political studies at the University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa. Joel is the author or editor of seven books, including The Anti-Slavery Project (2011) and Mobility Makes States (2015). He is a current member of the International Scientific Committee of the UNESCO Slave Route Project, where he serves as Rapporteur, and is also an editor for openDemocracy’s “Beyond Trafficking and Slavery.”

Annie Bunting, editor

Annie Bunting is an associate professor in the law and society program at York University in Toronto, teaching in the areas of legal pluralism and human rights. She has published articles in journals including Social and Legal Studies, Journal of Law and Society, Canadian Journal of Human Rights and chapters in various book collections. She is currently directing an international research collaboration on forced marriage in conflict situations with historians of slavery and women’s human rights scholars. She is the coeditor (with B. Lawrance and R. Roberts) of Marriage by Force? Contestation over Consent and Coercion in Africa (2016).


  • This volume significantly enlarges our understanding of slavery in the contemporary world. The authors, collectively and individually, put their mastery of the interrelated literatures to excellent use, resulting in a collection that is insightful, innovative, and methodologically diverse. - Mark Goodale, professor of cultural and social anthropology, University of Lausanne, Switzerland
  • This is an important, fascinating, and comprehensive collection that addresses the nature of contemporary slavery in its wide range of manifestations. The authors make a compelling argument that when social movements fail to distinguish slavery from the related and often overlapping concepts of trafficking, forced labour, and forced marriage, they do a disservice both to our collective understanding of these issues and to the development of effective interventions. - Sally Engle Merry, Silver Professor of Anthropology and associate chair, New York University

Rights Holder

Rights Holder: UBC Press



rights available: World, excl. English (North America)

Additional Information

number of pages: 396

publication date: 07/01/2017

Original language of pub: English

Materials Available: finished book