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Anti-slavery as development: a global politics of rescue

McGrath, Siobhan; Watson, Samantha

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Samantha Watson


Trafficking, forced labour and ‘slavery’ (TFLS) have become a central cause for our time, but anti-TFLS efforts have also come under forceful criticism. Amidst these ongoing debates, we observe that TFLS is currently being reframed as a problem of and for development. We consider the implications of this reframing by first reviewing the tangled history of abolitionism, colonialism and development, linking this to critical understandings of development more broadly. We then utilise Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) to study the methodological assumptions and discursive framing of (anti-)TFLS in two paradigmatic texts. In doing so, we trace an important discursive shift – to anti-TFLS as development – in the moment it unfolds. Troubling the narrative of anti-TFLS as development, we conclude that while it promises to amend the criminal justice approach, it nevertheless perpetuates a global politics of rescue.


McGrath, S., & Watson, S. (2018). Anti-slavery as development: a global politics of rescue. Geoforum, 93, 22-31.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Apr 18, 2018
Online Publication Date May 1, 2018
Publication Date Jul 1, 2018
Deposit Date Apr 25, 2018
Publicly Available Date May 1, 2020
Journal Geoforum
Print ISSN 0016-7185
Publisher Elsevier
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 93
Pages 22-31


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