Rights and rescue: Morals and secularisation in faith-based anti-trafficking practice in the UK

This is an event in the Corporate Social Responsibility series taking place at Leeds University Business School on 7 November 2018

This presentation will explore emerging post secular partnerships in the global 'fight' against 'modern slavery' and human trafficking. Faith-based organisations (FBO's) and actors have an increasingly visible role in responses to human trafficking, in awareness raising among faith congregations, in providing services to trafficked persons, and increasingly, as policy advisors. Human trafficking emerges amid complex intersections of migration regimes, global inequalities, precarious labour, and the criminalisation of certain activities, peoples and mobilities. Abolishing modern slavery has achieved global policy consensus, arguably by relying on simplistic tropes of ‘evil’ traffickers and deserving ‘victims’.  

This presentation will report on early findings of a UK Economic and Social Research Council project that aims to better understand the roles of faith-based organisations in three terrains:

  • anti-trafficking service provision
  • public representations
  • governmental discourse and policy making

The methodology of the project explicitly aims to tie together the three analytical levels of political party, faith based organisations, and individuals operating in the realm of anti-trafficking in England. The presentation will consider these multi-level lenses to unpick the direction of influence between religion and social policy in the realm of modern slavery.

Against a background of the UK’s changing religious landscape and growing welfare pluralism in times of austerity, a congruence emerges between neo-abolitionist and state positioning of human trafficking as a particular ‘evil’ unrelated to wider state and social structures. This presentation will consider the particular assemblages and affective atmospheres created for trafficked persons in faith-based and secular anti-trafficking settings. Processes of secularisation among anti-trafficking FBO's taking up key roles as government-funded service providers or statutory partners demonstrate a variety of positions in managing religious discourses of ‘rescue’ or ‘saving’ trafficked persons while operating within international legal rights- based frameworks.

About the speaker

Professor Louise Waite

Louise Waite is Professor of Human Geography at the University of Leeds, UK. Her research interests span migration, trafficking and slavery with a particular focus on discourses of 'modern slavery', unfree/forced labour and exploitative work among asylum seekers and refugees.

She has published on these themes in a range of peer reviewed journals including:

  • Annals of the Association of American Geographers
  • Progress in Human Geography
  • Geoforum
  • Antipode
  • International Migration
  • Social and Cultural Geography
  • Emotion
  • Space and Society
  • Geography Compass
  • Gender, Place and Culture
  • Social Policy and Society

and in recent books:

  • The modern slavery agenda: Politics, policy and practice in the UK (with G. Craig, A. Balch, H. Lewis, Policy Press, 2018)
  • Vulnerability, exploitation and migrants: Insecure work in a globalised economy (with H. Lewis, G. Craig & K. Skrivankova, Palgrave, 2015)
  • Precarious lives: Forced labour, exploitation and asylum (with H. Lewis, S. Hodkinson & P. Dwyer, Policy Press, 2014)
  • Citizenship, belonging and intergenerational relations in African migration (with C. Attias-Donfut, J. Cook & J. Hoffman, Palgrave, 2012)

For further information, please contact Dr Matthew Davis (Business School Director of CSR) at M.Davis@leeds.ac.uk