CFP: Conference on “Rights, dignity and religion: responding to ‘modern slavery’”

St Mary’s Conference Centre, Sheffield, UK, Friday 24 January 2020

The UK Modern Slavery Act 2015, and similar legislation being pushed forward in many countries of the world, has led to a rapid expansion of responses to severe exploitation in recent years. This includes growth of statutory, NGO and faith based organisation services, public communications, and policy development to identify and support people in or at risk of severe exploitation. A vast amount of activities are focused on defining and identifying individuals considered at risk of, or to be perpetrators of, ‘modern slavery’. Less attention has been given to considering the efficacy, quality and direction of support and policy responses, the ramifications of victimising imagery that frequently circulates in campaigns, and how religious responses may (or may not) shape how ‘modern slavery’ is framed and addressed.

Faith-based organisations and faith leaders are prominent in ‘modern slavery’ discourse, policy development and services. New ‘post-secular’ partnerships are being forged between statutory, third sector and faith actors to deliver specialist welfare provision. Examination of faith based organisations’ roles in responding to homelessness, drug and alcohol dependency, food poverty and development variously suggest that faith identity can be significant or insignificant, strategic or hidden, helpful or unhelpful in providing services.

This 1-day conference will bring together academics, researchers, policy makers and service providers to explore how responses to ‘modern slavery’ can best secure the human rights and maintain the dignity of people experiencing severe exploitation. Instead of focusing on efforts to categorise ‘human trafficking’ or ‘modern slavery’, we will examine if the type and framing of responses and the faith identity of who delivers them matter for efforts to ‘end modern slavery’ and to support people exiting exploitation in building secure futures.

Keynote speaker:  Dr Yvonne Zimmerman, Associate Professor, Methodist Theological School in Ohio, Author Other Dreams of Freedom: Religion, Sex and Human Trafficking, Oxford University Press.

We invite papers and other types of contributions (e.g. poetry, film, art) which reflect on these questions:

1) Standards and effectiveness
o   What do we know about the effectiveness of responses to human trafficking and modern slavery?
o   What constitutes best practice in working with people with past experiences of coercion and deception?

2) Representations, outcomes, rights and dignity
o   Do ‘modern slavery’ responses, discourse and visuals as currently framed adequately address the rights and dignity of people exiting severe exploitation?
o   Does a focus on individual rescue from a particular exploitation situation detract resources and attention from securing broader rights for vulnerable migrants and workers?
o   How do the images used to portray ‘modern slavery’ affect public imaginations and policy responses?

3) Religion and welfare provision
o   How might faith actors best articulate their contribution in this field?
o   What can we learn by comparing the roles of religious actors in different countries?
o   Are faith-statutory partnerships ‘postsecular’ if religious principles and identity are intentionally hidden?
o   What can we learn for the anti-trafficking field from faith based action in other areas such as food banks, homelessness and drug and alcohol dependency?

Submit abstracts at:  max 250 words by 31 October 2019

Any queries contact Rebecca Murray (<>).

Register at: before 10 January 2020.