This article explores dominant discourse on ‘trafficking as modern slavery’ in relation to the many legal and social fetters that have historically been and are today imposed upon individuals who are socially imagined as ‘free’. It argues that discourse on ‘trafficking as modern slavery’ revitalizes the liberal understandings of freedom and restriction that have historically allowed vigorous moral condemnation of slavery to coexist with the continued imposition of extensive, forcible restrictions on individuals deemed to be ‘free’. In place of efforts to build political alliances between different groups of migrants, as well as between migrants and non-migrants, who share a common interest in transforming existing social and political relations, ‘trafficking as modern slavery’ discourse inspires and legitimates efforts to divide a small number of ‘deserving victims’ from the masses that remain ‘undeserving’ of rights and freedoms.
A paper by Prof. O’Connell Davidson on Tackling the ‘Demand Side’ of Trafficking? is freely available here.