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Unit information: Modern Slavery: Issues and Debates in 2018/19

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Unit name Modern Slavery: Issues and Debates
Unit code SOCI30097
Credit points 20
Level of study H/6
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Professor. O'Connell Davidson
Open unit status Not open




School/department School of Sociology, Politics and International Studies
Faculty Faculty of Social Sciences and Law

Description including Unit Aims

This module considers two different sets of arguments about slavery in the contemporary world: first, the case made by anti-slavery campaigners who claim that there are 35 million ‘slaves’ in the world today; and second, the argument that transatlantic slavery lives on as a system of racial domination, in particular, through the American prison industrial complex. These arguments are examined against longer-standing philosophical, sociological and anthropological debates about the defining features of slavery. The module aims to:
• Introduce students to definitional and philosophical debates on slavery, and to the literatures on ‘modern slavery’ and on the afterlife of transatlantic slavery
• Encourage students to think critically about the concept of ‘modern slavery’
• Develop students’ understanding of what the study of transatlantic slavery can teach us about contemporary restraints on freedom structured along lines of race, gender, class and nationality

Intended Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of the unit, students will be able to:

  • demonstrate familiarity with two different sets of arguments about slavery in the contemporary world (‘modern slavery’; ‘afterlife of slavery’);
  • analyse, assess, and communicate empirical sociological information on at least one phenomena deemed to be either ‘modern slavery’ or constitutive of transatlantic slavery’s ‘afterlife’;
  • Critically evaluate some of the definitional, theoretical and political problems posed by the concept of slavery;
  • demonstrate understanding of how these definitional, theoretical and political problems are manifest in arguments about slavery in the contemporary world

Teaching Information

Two hour lecture and one hour seminar per week

Assessment Information

  • Poster Presentation (25%)
  • 3000 word essay (75%)

Both assessments assess all learning outcomes

Reading and References

  • Bales, K. (2005) Understanding Global Slavery. Berkeley: University of California Press.
  • Childs, D. (2015) Slaves of the State: Black Incarceration from the Chain Gang to the Penitentiary. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
  • Davis, A. (2003) Are Prisons Obsolete? New York, NY: Seven Stories Press.
  • Hartman, S. (2007) Lose Your Mother: A Journey Along the Atlantic Slave Route. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
  • Losurdo, D. (2011) Liberalism: A Counter-History. London: Verso.
  • Loyd, J., Mitchelson, M., and Burridge, A. (2012) (eds.) Beyond Cages and Walls: Prisons, Borders, and Global Crisis. London: University of Georgia Press.
  • O’Connell Davidson, J. (2015) Modern Slavery: The Margins of Freedom. London: Palgrave Macmillan.