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Call for responses to our policy debate on the overall effect of human trafficking awareness campaigns

On 11 January Beyond Slavery and Trafficking launched an online policy debate exploring the practical effects of human trafficking awareness campaigns. This debate is not yet complete, and now waits on your responses.

"Human life is not for sale” – a media campaign against human trafficking in Ukraine. Embassy of Poland in Kiev/Flickr. (CC 2.0 by-nc-nd)

On 11 January, Beyond Slavery and Trafficking launched an online policy debate exploring the practical effects of human trafficking awareness campaigns. This debate was co-sponsored by Brown and Yale, and used the occasion of National Human Trafficking Awareness Day in the United States as a platform for thinking about the strengths and weaknesses of popular strategies for raising awareness of human trafficking.

Our debate is not yet complete. From the outset, we planned on having two distinct rounds of contributions. The first round involved ten leading authorities in the field formulating responses to our central debate question: Campaigns to raise public awareness of human trafficking may have flaws, but their overall impact is positive. YES OR NO?

The second round takes the form of an open call for further submissions which speak to either specific contributions from the first round, or to the more general issues associated with awareness campaigns. In keeping with our desire to engage with competing approaches, we would welcome both ‘yes’ and ‘no’ responses as part of this round. Accordingly, we will be selecting submissions for publication based upon an assessment of overall quality and originality. We are not mandating that they adopt a specific line of argument or conclusion.

It is on this basis that we are circulating this open call for contributions of between 700-1250 words. These submissions should be in an accessible, op-ed-style and provide high-quality analysis of the issues associated with raising awareness campaigns. Our debate conveners, Elena Shih and Joel Quirk, will be primarily responsible for selecting submissions for publication. As per our standard editorial practice, all submissions that are selected for publication will be edited for language, clarity and structure (which authors then sign off on prior to final publication).

This second round will take place from now until the end of February, 2017. During this period, we would welcome submissions on raising awareness from a variety of perspectives, including journalists, activists, officials and academics. In keeping with our debate format, we are especially keen to receive work that develops and defends a clear line of argument, rather than seeking to split the difference between approaches (which is why we have a YES or NO question). Submissions that specifically respond to contributors from the first round should focus on the substance of their arguments, and we will not publish pieces that amount to personal attacks on other participants or the organisations they represent. While we will be accepting submissions until the end of February, we would be keen to receive submissions well before this final deadline as well.

To participate in this second round of our debate, please consult our submission guidelines. Submissions can be sent via email to and For further information regarding the content of this second round of the debate, please contact and

Debate Editors:

Elena Shih is an Assistant Professor of American Studies and Ethnic Studies at Brown University. Her current book project, The Price of Freedom: Moral and Political Economies of Global Human Trafficking Rescue, is based off 40 months of ethnographic participant observation of the transnational movement to combat human trafficking. She is also a Faculty Fellow leading the Human Trafficking Research Cluster through the Center for the Study of Slavery and Justice.

Joel Quirk is Professor of Political Studies and Head of Department, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg. His research focuses on slavery and abolition, human mobility and human rights, social movements and the politics of arguments, and the history and politics of sub-Saharan Africa. Joel is the author or editor of seven books, including The Anti-Slavery Project (2011), Mobility Makes States (2015), and Contemporary Slavery (in press). He is a member of the International Scientific Committee of the UNESCO Slave Route Project.

Collaborating Organizations:

Based at Brown University, the Center for the Study of Slavery and Justice (CSSJ) is a scholarly research center with a public humanities mission. Recognizing that racial and chattel slavery were central to the historical formation of the Americas and the modern world, the CSSJ creates a space for the interdisciplinary study of the historical forms of slavery while also examining how these legacies continue to shape our contemporary world.

Based at Yale University, the Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition strives to make a vital contribution to the understanding of slavery and its role in the development of the modern world. While the Center’s primary focus has been on scholarly research, it also seeks to bridge the divide between scholarship and public knowledge by opening channels of communication between the scholarly community and the wider public. This debate forms part of a new project on global supply chains and labor exploitation.

Beyond Trafficking and Slavery is an editorial partnership with openDemocracy, a UK-based digital commons with an annual readership of over nine million. The goal of this partnership is to better understand and effectively challenge the political, economic, and social root causes of global exploitation, vulnerability and forced labor. Beyond Slavery combines the rigor of academic scholarship with the clarity of journalism and the immediacy of political activism.

Policy debate

Do the hidden costs outweigh the practical benefits?

We asked 10 people who work with human trafficking awareness the following: 'Campaigns to raise public awareness of human trafficking may have flaws, but their overall impact is positive. YES OR NO?'


Elena Shih & Joel Quirk

Elena Shih is an Assistant Professor of American Studies and Ethnic Studies at Brown University.

Joel Quirk is Professor in Political Studies at the University of the Witwatersrand (South Africa).

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


Anne Elizabeth Moore (NO)
Author of Threadbare: Clothes, Sex & Trafficking

Katherine Chon (YES)
Director, Office on Trafficking in Persons, US Dept. of Health and Human Services

Joanna Ewart-James (YES)
Advocacy Director at Walk Free

David Feingold (NO)
Director of the Ophidian Research Institute

Matthew Friedman (YES)
CEO for The Mekong Club

Zoe Trodd (NO)
University of Nottingham

Cris Sardina (NO)
Director of Desiree Alliance

Marilyn Murray (YES)
Creative Director at Love146

Sameera Hafiz (NO)
Advocacy Director at the National Domestic Workers Alliance

Ima Matul (YES)
Survivor of Human Trafficking

About the author

The BTS Editorial Team is comprised of seven researchers from around the world.  Neil Howard is an academic and activist based at the European University Institute in Florence. Genevieve LeBaron is Senior Lecturer in Politics at the University of Sheffield and Human Trafficking and Modern Slavery Fellow at Yale University. Prabha Kotiswaran lectures in Criminal Law at King’s College London. Julia O’Connell Davidson is a professor in social research at the School of Sociology, Politics and International Studies, University of Bristol. Sam Okyere is a lecturer in Sociology at the University of Nottingham. Joel Quirk is Associate Professor in Political Studies at the University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa. Cameron Thibos is the managing editor of Beyond Trafficking and Slavery.

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