Human Trafficking Workshop

Thursday, April 30, 2020 - 8:30am to Friday, May 1, 2020 - 9:30am

The Global Studies Center at the University of Pittsburgh and Liberty Shared will convene an interdisciplinary workshop on Human Trafficking on April 30 - May1, 2020 on the University of Pittsburgh’s Oakland campus. The purpose of this workshop is to address the failure of existing approaches to curbing human trafficking and related forms of forced labor, debt bondage, and related forms of human exploitation. Human trafficking continues to thrive and grow despite the considerable resources and energy that have been dedicated to its eradication.

"While contemporary trafficking exhibits important continuities with older patterns of human exploitation – with the Plantation “synthesis of factory and field” (Mintz 1986) being perhaps the foundational modernist template – it has adapted to and flourished in the context of the opaque and complex global supply chains that characterize a huge proportion of the world economy.  These supply chains are predicated on the hyper-mobility of global capital and the simultaneous devaluation and disempowerment of labor, achieved in part through the coercive (im)mobilization of human bodies via state-based policing and carceral strategies that are themselves often animated by racist and xenophobic discourses promulgated or amplified by the state.  Government and governance arrangements at all levels, from local to global, are not only deeply implicated in the failure to stop trafficking but also highly complicit in its continuation, often taking active steps to make laborers – especially unauthorized ones – more precarious and thus more vulnerable to coercive practices, for instance, by punishing victims or lowlevel traffickers while ignoring or shielding the wider economic arrangements that enable and encourage trafficking. "


Goodhart Ph.D
Global Studies Center
We have several broad aims for this workshop:
1. To understand the interconnected logics of exploitation, extraction, and extinction at work in or beneath trafficking, coerced labor, and debt bondage;
2. To locate trafficking historically and conceptually both within these logics and within the development of a liberal world order with imperialist origins;
3. To bring together an eclectic group of concerned scholars, activists, and others to ponder these questions by boldly discarding orthodoxy of all kinds;
4. To sketch a practical research agenda, perhaps consisting of several distinct but overlapping and connected packets of work, through which we might jointly (though not always collectively) undertake the work needed to better understand and combat trafficking.