Scaling Up: Combatting Modern Slavery in Supply Chains

CERIC webinar presented by Judy Fudge (Labour Studies, McMaster University)

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This paper focuses on the scalar dimension of the problem of modern slavery and the governance initiatives developed to eliminate it in order to explore how sovereignty is configured in the global anti-slavery governance network. It adopts a legal geographic perspective to study initiatives that are intended to tackle slave-made goods that are transmitted across national borders through supply chains by providing incentives for businesses to ensure that their supply chains are free of modern slavery. It sets out the conceptual took kit, which draws upon Foucauldian concepts of governmentality, assemblage and dispositif, to provide methodological guidance for understanding the tangled hierarchy of dispersed and interscalar actors, governance technologies, strategies, practises, and discourses that make up on the anti-slavery governance network. It traces the emergence of modern slavery as a global policy domain and explores the role of philanthrocapitalists and public/private partnerships in developing an ethical business apparatus to combat modern slavery in supply chains. By concentrating on how these social actors assembled this apparatus, the paper probes how scale and governance interact in ways that reconfigure sovereignty and align it with neoliberal governmentality.


Judy Fudge is the LIUNA Enrico Henry Mancinelli Professor of Global Labour Issues at the School of Labour Studies, McMaster University Canada. From 2013 to 2018 she was on staff at Kent Law School, where she developed her research interest in modern slavery. She takes a socio-legal approach to studying work and labour, and her most recent work focuses in labour exploitation, modern slavery and unfree labour in the context of labour migration and supply chains. She is interested in the role of legal norms and institutions in the multi-scalar governance of different forms of unfree labour. Recent work includes: ‘(Re) Conceptualizing Unfree Labour: Local Labour Control Regimes and Constraints on Workers’ Freedoms’, Global Labour Journal 10(2): 108-122 (2019); With Deirdre McCann, ‘A Strategic Approach to Regulating Unacceptable Forms of Work’ 46:2 Journal of Law and Society (2019) 271-301; ‘Illegal Working, Migrants and Labour Exploitation in the UK’ 38(3) Oxford Journal of Legal Studies, 557-584 (2018); ‘Modern Slavery, Unfree Labour and the Labour Market: The Social Dynamics of Legal Characterization’, 27(4) Social and Legal Studies 413-434 (2018).