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About Joel Quirk

Joel Quirk is Professor in Political Studies at the University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa. His research focuses upon slavery and abolition, human mobility and human rights, repairing historical wrongs, and the history and politics of sub-Saharan Africa. Joel is currently a member of the International Scientific Committee of the UNESCO Slave Route Project, where he serves as Rapporteur. Your can follow him on twitter at @joelquirk.

Articles by Joel Quirk

This week’s front page editor


Sunny Hundal is openDemocracy’s social media editor.

Constitutional conventions: best practice

Retórica y realidad del «fin de la esclavitud moderna»

El «abolicionismo moderno» enmarca sus actividades como parte de una lucha global compartida, pero no existe un movimiento único contra la esclavitud o contra la trata. English

La política de los números: el Índice Global de esclavitud y el mercado del activismo

El Índice global de esclavitud presenta graves errores de tipo metodológico, sin embargo, sigue siendo citado de manera amplia y frecuente sin cuestionamiento crítico. ¿Qué hay tras la producción y el uso de datos estadísticos altamente sospechosos? English

Introduction: do the hidden costs outweigh the practical benefits of human trafficking awareness campaigns?

Raising awareness campaigns may be motivated by good intentions, but how much do they actually accomplish? What are the costs and benefits of campaigns? What works and doesn’t work? How can we know?

Introducing the terms of debate: regulation and responsibility in global supply chains

What is the best strategy for combating labour abuses in global supply chains? Should we continue with ‘corporate social responsibility’, or should we favour an alternative of international legal liability and accountability?

Follow the evidence: our series on 'research and representation'

BTS editors introduce the research methods stream of our ‘possible futures’ project, arguing that a stronger and more accurate knowledge base is necessary to advance advocacy efforts.

Uncomfortable silences: anti-slavery, colonialism and imperialism

The history of anti-slavery is replete with lessons, but those commonly cited by the new abolitionists are not the right ones.

Doing more harm than good: the politics of child trafficking prevention in South Africa

Recently introduced anti-trafficking regulations in South Africa are doing more harm than good. This is because they have been driven by panic and international pressure, not evidence.

Human trafficking and Africa’s ‘pornography of pain’: the pitfalls of CSR

LexisNexis South Africa has mined its newspaper archives to produce a deeply flawed ‘human trafficking awareness index’. This draws upon sensationalised research to create yet more false information on trafficking.

Race, ethnicity and belonging

Race is, ironically, an often-overlooked aspect of the modern slavery debate. BTS editors look critically at the field and introduce their next issue.

Reparations are too confronting: let’s talk about 'modern-day slavery' instead

Governments and activists in Europe and America invoke the immediacy of “modern-day slavery” to sidestep challenging questions regarding the case for reparations. Instead of repairing harm, they promise rescue.

The use and abuse of history: slavery and its contemporary legacies

Beyond Trafficking and Slavery editors introduce their issue 'On History', which challenges the superficial narratives of anti-slavery used by 'modern-day abolitionists' and considers the lessons found in alternative historical approaches.

The politics of numbers: the Global Slavery Index and the marketplace of activism

The Global Slavery Index is profoundly flawed methodologically, yet it remains widely and often uncritically cited. What underlies the production and use of highly suspect statistics? Español

The rhetoric and reality of ‘ending slavery in our lifetime’

‘Modern-day abolitionists’ frame their activities as part of a shared global struggle, but there is no single anti-slavery or anti-trafficking movement. Español

Introduction to this week's theme: beyond popular representations of trafficking and slavery

Beyond Trafficking and Slavery editors introduce their first themed issue, which explores how slavery and trafficking have been represented—by public officials, activists, and numerous others—and their effect.

Introduction: moving beyond popular representations of trafficking and slavery

Beyond Trafficking and Slavery editors introduce their first themed issue, which explores how slavery and trafficking have been represented—by public officials, activists, and numerous others—together with the frequently troubling consequences that these popular representations have had upon policy and practice.

The politics of exception: the bipartisan appeal of human trafficking

Contemporary abolitionism garners strong bipartisan support because it does not challenge major economic and political interests. But slavery, trafficking and forced labour are rooted in global patterns of injustice. For the movement to be effective it must sacrifice some of its support in order to speak truth to power.

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