The Lessons of History - Anti-Trafficking Review call for papers

The Anti-Trafficking Review calls for papers for a themed issue entitled 'The Lessons of History'.
Anxieties about 'human trafficking' have helped to spark a revival of anti-slavery activism over the past two decades, but the precise relationship between what is termed 'trafficking' and what is termed 'modern slavery' is unclear. The UN Trafficking Protocol (2000) states that 'slavery' is just one of several possible outcomes of 'trafficking', while anti-slavery campaigners state that 'trafficking' is just one of a number of different forms of 'modern slavery'. Meanwhile, in political and NGO rhetoric, 'trafficking' is frequently described as a 'modern-day slave trade' and the term 'trafficked persons' often used interchangeably with 'modern slaves'. Anti-trafficking campaign materials also make heavy use of visual tropes alluding to slavery and the transatlantic slave trade. But are such historical references really warranted?
Sociologist W. E. B. Du Bois insisted that we attend to history when attempting to make sense of contemporary experience, observing that ' the past is the present; that without what was, nothing is'. However, different stories can be told about history, and the histories we choose to tell (and to hear) can produce very different understandings of the present. This special issue will consider the lessons that history might hold for those engaged in anti-trafficking work today. It will critically examine the ways in which the history of transatlantic slavery is increasingly invoked in dominant discourses on trafficking, ask about the pasts that created a present in which people are transported by means of coercion or deception for purposes of exploitation, and consider what history might usefully teach us about anti-trafficking policy and activism. Contributors are invited to engage with, but need not limit themselves to, the following questions:
  • Does transatlantic slavery really provide a useful historical comparator for the phenomena grouped today under the heading of 'human trafficking', and if not, why is this comparison so frequently made?
  • Can historical research on the means used to recruit and supply labour to factories in newly industrialising regions of Europe in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries shed any light on what is today described as 'labour trafficking'?
  • What lessons might the history of the 'Coolie' system hold for contemporary debates on trafficking? How might public and policy debate change if victims of trafficking were represented as 'modern coolies' instead of 'modern slaves'?
  • Could historical studies of fugitive and maroon slaves in the Atlantic world, and/or of the methods by which slave states sought to prevent slave escape and constrict the mobility of the enslaved, teach us about phenomena described as 'trafficking' in the contemporary world?
  • Race and racism are living legacies of transatlantic slavery. Why does this aspect of slavery's 'afterlife' receive so little attention in contemporary debates on trafficking?
  • Is the history of early twentieth century responses to 'white slavery' and 'trafficking in women' of continuing relevance for contemporary discourse and policy on 'human trafficking'?
  • Do the politics and history of the anti-slavery movement hold any lessons for today's anti-trafficking campaigners? Similarly, do more recent histories of the anti-trafficking movement hold lessons for today's campaigners?
  • Why do anti-trafficking campaigners use the term 'slavery', and what different connotations does it take, based on national histories? How does the use of the term in Brazil, for instance, differ from its use in India, the US or the UK? What other terms and framings with their own historical trajectories are pushed aside and how has this changed today's policy and practice responses?
  • What do those affected, including those categorised as 'trafficked' or 'at-risk', think of the 'slavery' terminology and its historical allusions?
The Debate Section of this issue will invite authors to defend or reject the following proposition: 'It is inaccurate and unhelpful to describe trafficking as the modern equivalent of the slave trade.'
The Review promotes a human rights based approach to anti-trafficking, exploring anti-trafficking in a broader context, including gender analyses and intersections with labour and migrant rights. Academics, practitioners, trafficked persons and advocates are invited to submit articles. Contributions from those living and working in developing countries are particularly welcome. The journal is a freely available, open access publication with a readership in over 100 countries. The Anti-Trafficking Review is abstracted/indexed/tracked in: ProQuest, Ebsco Host, Ulrich's, Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association, Directory of Open Access Journals, WorldCat, Google Scholar and CrossRef.
Deadline for submission: 8 January 2017
Word count for Full Article submissions: 4,000 - 6,000 words, including footnotes, author bio and abstract
Word count for Debate submissions: 800 - 1,000 words, including footnotes and author bio
Special Issue to be published in September 2017 We advise those interested in submitting to follow the Review 's style guide and submission procedures, available at Manuscripts should be submitted in line with the issue's theme. Email the editorial team at with any queries.
Thematic Issue Guest Editor:
Julia O 'Connell Davidson
Editor: Borislav Gerasimov