The Anti-Slavery Project

The Anti-Slavery Project: From the Slave Trade to Human Trafficking

Joel Quirk
Copyright Date: 2011
Pages: 344
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  • Book Info
    The Anti-Slavery Project
    Book Description:

    It is commonly assumed that slavery came to an end in the nineteenth century. While slavery in the Americas officially ended in 1888, millions of slaves remained in bondage across Africa, Asia, and the Middle East well into the first half of the twentieth century. Wherever laws against slavery were introduced, governments found ways of continuing similar forms of coercion and exploitation, such as forced, bonded, and indentured labor. Every country in the world has now abolished slavery, yet millions of people continue to find themselves subject to contemporary forms of slavery, such as human trafficking, wartime enslavement, and the worst forms of child labor. The Anti-Slavery Project: From the Slave Trade to Human Trafficking offers an innovative study in the attempt to understand and eradicate these ongoing human rights abuses. In The Anti-Slavery Project, historian and human rights expert Joel Quirk examines the evolution of political opposition to slavery from the mid-eighteenth century to the present day. Beginning with the abolitionist movement in the British Empire, Quirk analyzes the philosophical, economic, and cultural shifts that eventually resulted in the legal abolition of slavery. By viewing the legal abolition of slavery as a cautious first step-rather than the end of the story-he demonstrates that modern anti-slavery activism can be best understood as the latest phase in an evolving response to the historical shortcomings of earlier forms of political activism. By exposing the historical and cultural roots of contemporary slavery, The Anti-Slavery Project presents an original diagnosis of the underlying causes driving one of the most pressing human rights problems in the world today. It offers valuable insights for historians, political scientists, policy makers, and activists seeking to combat slavery in all its forms.

    eISBN: 978-0-8122-0564-0
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Introduction: The Anti-Slavery Project
    (pp. 1-20)

    In January 2004, the New York Times once again found itself embroiled in a controversy concerning one of its reporters. The journalist in question was not named Jayson Blair, or Judith Miller, but was instead Peter Landesman, who had just published a New York Times Magazine cover story entitled “The Girls Next Door” exploring the increasingly topical issue of human trafficking. In his article, Landesman made the dramatic claim that the United States had “become a major importer of sex slaves.”¹ To support this conclusion, he drew on a variety of figures, including an estimate from Kevin Bales, president of...

    • Chapter 1 A Short History of British Anti-Slavery
      (pp. 23-53)

      Slavery and enslavement have existed in a number of different guises throughout recorded history. This pedigree raises a number of difficult and contentious issues. If slavery represents a self-evident wrong, as current legal and moral opinion maintains, why did all of the world’s major religions and civilizations sanction slavery and slave trading for thousands of years? If enslavement represents a clear-cut “crime against humanity,” why was it repeatedly endorsed by leading philosophers, theologians, and jurists from every corner of the globe? These types of questions are understandable, but misleading. If we start with the contemporary assumption that slavery is an...

    • Chapter 2 British Anti-Slavery and European International Society
      (pp. 54-81)

      The British Parliament’s 1807 decision to outlaw slave carrying by British subjects had profound international consequences. Having supported transatlantic slave trading for centuries as a central pillar of colonial projects in the Americas, British governments in the nineteenth century pursued a range of policies designed not only to end slavery in British territories, but also to restrict the slave systems of other political communities. This global campaign proved to be difficult, expensive, and divisive. In places untouched by organized anti-slavery, both slavery and enslavement continued to be regarded as politically legitimate and economically valuable, much as they had been in...

    • Chapter 3 British Anti-Slavery and European Colonialism
      (pp. 82-110)

      On the one hand, we have the legal abolition of slavery, which has been repeatedly acclaimed as a great moral victory. On the other, we have European colonialism, which has been repeatedly denounced as a vast criminal enterprise. What should we make of the close historical connection between subjects that provoke such diametrically opposed reactions? In the last chapter, I argued that this otherwise perplexing relationship can be primarily explained in terms of the construction of slavery as a bounded, “exceptional” category, which was distinguished from other “normal” practices, such as colonial conquest, and the pervasive influence of an evolving...

    • Chapter 4 The Limits of Legal Abolition
      (pp. 113-138)

      The legal abolition of slavery has often been presented as a historical endpoint, fostering a misleading impression that the passage of anti-slavery legislation marked a decisive break with the past. This sharp periodization is reflected in a widespread tendency to organize popular histories of anti-slavery around a series of transformative dates—such as 1833 in Britain or 1888 in Brazil—which are celebrated as key moments when slavery ostensibly ceased to be an ongoing concern in specific jurisdictions. These complacent narratives have helped to conceal a variety of complex and enduring issues. Instead of signaling a conclusive end to the...

    • Chapter 5 Defining Slavery in All Its Forms
      (pp. 139-164)

      Slavery is traditionally defined using a combination of individual ownership, property rights, and extreme exploitation. These familiar themes not only have been reflected in various legal instruments, such as the 1926 Slavery Convention, they also have dominated popular impressions of slavery for centuries, serving as a series of cognitive benchmarks against which many different examples of servitude have tended to be conceptualized and evaluated. In the aftermath of the legal abolition of slavery, various government agents and human rights activists have consistently turned to these core themes of ownership and exploitation as part of evolving efforts to define and demarcate...

    • Chapter 6 “Classical” Slavery and Descent-Based Discrimination
      (pp. 167-192)

      The recent history of the Anti-Slavery Project has been defined by a more expansive understanding of the breadth and depth of anti-slavery obligations. This has resulted in a landscape in which slavery is now widely held to come in a variety of different forms, which require a variety of overlapping solutions. “Classical” slavery occupies an anomalous position within this new political and legal landscape. In some settings, classical slavery appears as one of many forms of slavery. In others, it appears as a separate and exceptional category. While other forms of human bondage now enjoy much higher profiles, not everyone...

    • Chapter 7 Slaves to Debt
      (pp. 193-215)

      Bonded labor, or debt bondage, has long been identified as a form of servitude that shares many features in common with “classical” slavery. In its most basic form, bonded labor involves a “worker who renders service under conditions of bondage arising from economic considerations, notably indebtedness though a loan or advance.” This usually involves an extended period of service, where “the worker (or dependents or heirs) is tied to a particular creditor for a specified or unspecified period until the loan is repaid.”¹ Throughout history, debt and slavery have often been closely related.² In many historical slave systems, a failure...

    • Chapter 8 Trafficked into Slavery
      (pp. 216-240)

      In the aftermath of the Cold War, the Anti-Slavery Project has been dominated by the issue of human trafficking. The main topic of conversation in this ongoing phase in the evolution of organized anti-slavery has been “sexual slavery,” or forced prostitution. This is a topic that inevitably impinges on broader preoccupations with sex, gender, and the status of prostitution more generally. In this respect, human trafficking is not so much a singular issue as a powerful lodestone for a range of interests, orientations, and agendas. This dynamic not limited to sexual exploitation, but extends to immigration, people smuggling, organized crime,...

  7. Conclusion: Contemporary Slavery in the Shadow of History
    (pp. 241-252)

    The past two and a half centuries have witnessed a remarkable transformation in attitudes toward slavery. What was once a natural feature of human existence has instead come to be regarded as an unconscionable crime against humanity. This book has sought to understand the primary causes and consequences of this far-reaching global transformation. My overall argument can be divided into two main strands. The first strand focuses on the underlying causes that eventually led to the legal abolition of slavery throughout the globe. On this front, I have demonstrated that the remarkable achievements of the Anti-Slavery Project can be best...

  8. Notes
    (pp. 253-324)
  9. Index
    (pp. 325-330)
  10. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 331-332)