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The New Abolitionism, International Law, and the Memory of Slavery

  • Ariela J. Gross and Chantal Thomas
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Today, millions of migrant workers, some of them caught in debt bondage, some victims of fraud or forced migration, and others simply desperate for a better life elsewhere but instead finding themselves working for below subsistence wages or no pay at all, could be called modern-day slaves. Campaigns to end modern-day slavery have taken many forms. Most visibly, what is sometimes called “the new abolitionism,” constitutes a strand of modern antislavery and antitrafficking movements that draws often on the analogy between these workers’ plight and chattel slavery in the Atlantic world.

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agross@law.usc.edu
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The authors thank Jenny S. Martinez, Rebecca J. Scott, James Campbell, and the other participants in the symposium, A Crime Against Humanity: Slavery and International Law, Past and Present, held at Stanford Law School, May 15–16, 2015, and give special thanks to Deans Liz Magill and Jenny Martinez for generously supporting and helping to organize the symposium. They also thank Ana Lucia Araujo, Leora Bilsky, James F. Brooks, Audrey Celestine, Myriam Cottias, Jeannine DeLombard, Crystal Fleming, Abdoulaye Gueye, Prabha Kotiswaran, Roy Kreitner, Johann Michel, Olivette Otele, Jaya Ramji-Nogales, Steven Ratner, Brishen Rogers, Peter Spiro, and participants in workshops at Tel Aviv University Law School, Minerva Center for Human Rights and International Law; UC Santa Barbara Seminar on Slavery, Captivity and Freedom; the “States of The Memory of Slavery: Comparative International Perspectives” Symposium, École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, Paris, France; “Shaping the Definition of the Palermo Protocol,” Symposium, King's College London School of Law; International Law Colloquium, Temple University School of Law; and International Law Workshop, University of Michigan School of Law, for many helpful comments.
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1. Thomas, Chantal, “Immigration Controls and Modern-Day Slavery,” in Shaping the Definition of Trafficking in the Palermo Protocol, ed. Kotiswaran, Prabha (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2016).

2. United Nations Convention Against Transnational Organized Crimes and the Protocols Thereto, G.A. Res. 55/25 (November 15, 2000) http://www.un-documents.net/a55r25.htm (September 21, 2016).

3. Ibid, 2.

4. Office To Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, United States Department of State, 2015 Trafficking in Persons Report (2015). https://www.state.gov/documents/organization/245365.pdf (September 21, 2016).

5. See, for example, The Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000, 22 U.S.C. ¶¶ 7101–10 (2000) www.state.gov/documents/organization/10492.pdf (September 21, 2016).

6. Jessica Prois, “New Human Trafficking Laws Now Passed in 39 U.S. States: Report,” The Huffington Post, August 15, 2013 http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/08/15/us-human-trafficking-laws-_n_3761495.html (September 21, 2016). See, for example, Abolition of Child Commerce, Exploitation, and Sexual Slavery Act of 2011, Cal. Penal Code ¶ 26.9 (2011).

7. State of California Department of Justice Office of the Attorney General, “What Is Human Trafficking,” 2016 https://oag.ca.gov/human-trafficking/what-is (June 11, 2016).

8. Proclamation No. 9225, 80 Fed. Reg. 825 http://www.gsd.harvard.edu/project/memorial-to-the-abolition-of-slavery-in-nantes/, accessed November 19, 2016.

9. Ibid.

10. United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, Global Report on Trafficking in Persons, December 2012 https://www.unodc.org/documents/data-and-analysis/glotip/Trafficking_in_Persons_2012_web.pdf.

11. Memorial to The Abolition of Slavery–Nantes. n.d. http://www.gsd.harvard.edu/project/memorial-to-the-abolition-of-slavery-in-nantes/ (accessed November 19, 2016).

12. Memorial by Krzysztof Wodiczko and Julian Bonder (MDesS '96), unveiled in Nantes, France, April 6, 2012 http://www.gsd.harvard.edu/#/news/memorial-by-krzysztof-wodiczko-and-julian-bonder-mdess-96-to.html (November 19, 2016).

13. “The Memorial Political Will,” Memorial to The Abolition of Slavery–Nantes http://memorial.nantes.fr/en/le-memorial/une-volonte-politique/ (September 23, 2015).

14. See, for example, the materials collected in Carr, Bridgette, Milgram, Anne, Kim, Kathleen, and Warnath, Stephen, Human Trafficking Law and Policy (Durham: Carolina Academic Press, 2014); and Barbosa, Leonardo, “Behind the Definition of Contemporary Slavery in Brazil: Concepts of Freedom, Dignity, and Constitutional Rights,” Brésil/s (forthcoming, 2017).

15. For greater elaboration of this argument, see, generally, Gross, Ariela J., “All Born to Freedom? Comparing the Law and Politics of Race and The Memory of Slavery in the U.S. and France Today,” Southern California Interdisciplinary Law Journal 21 (2012): 523–60; and Gross, Ariela, “When Is The Time of Slavery? The History of Slavery in Contemporary Legal and Political Argument,” California Law Review 96 (2008): 283321 .

16. Bales, Kevin, Disposable People: New Slavery in The Global Economy (Berkeley: University of California Press, rev. ed. 2012).

17. Ibid, 16.

18. Ibid., 3.

19. Ibid., 5.

20. Ibid., 15.

21. Bravo, Karen E., “The Role of the Transatlantic Slave Trade in Contemporary Anti-Trafficking Discourse,” Seattle Journal for Social Justice 9 (2011): 555–97.

22. Ibid., 562.

23. For a discussion of this point, see Quirk, Joel, “Uncomfortable Silences: Contemporary Slavery and the ‘Lessons’ of History,” in From Human Trafficking To Human Rights: Reframing Contemporary Slavery, ed. Brysk, Alison and Choi-Fitzpatrick, Austin (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2012), 2543 ; and Quirk, Joel, The Anti-Slavery Project: From The Slave Trade To Human Trafficking (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2011).

24. Statement by His Excellency Mr. George W. Bush President of the United States of America, Address to the United Nations General Assembly, September 23, 2003 http://www.un.org/webcast/ga/58/statements/usaeng030923.htm.

25. Bravo, “The Role of the Transatlantic Slave Trade,” 567.

26. Ibid., 570.

27. Ibid., 563–80.

28. See, for example, President George W. Bush, Human Trafficking—A New Form of Slavery, September 29, 2015, 11:29 a.m. http://georgewbush-whitehouse.archives.gov/infocus/traffic/ (November 18, 2016).

29. International Convention for the Suppression of the “White Slave Traffic,” May 4, 1910, 211 Consol. T.S. 45, 1912 GR. Brit. T.S. No. 20, as amended by Protocol Amending the International Agreement for the Suppression of the White Slave Traffic, and Amending the International Convention for the Suppression of the White Slave Traffic, May 4, 1949, 2 U.S.T. 1999, 30 U.N.T.S. 23, entered into force June 21, 1951.

30. For an account of the role of contemporary feminists against prostitution in influencing international antitrafficking law and policy, see Halley, Janet, Kotiswaran, Prabha, Shamir, Hila, and Thomas, Chantal, “From the International to the Local in Feminist Legal Responses: Four Studies in Contemporary Governance Feminism,” Harvard Journal of Law & Gender 29 (2006): 336423, at 352–60.

31. See Chantal Thomas, “Disciplining the Global Social Body” (manuscript on file) (comparing immigration levels into the United States at the turn of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries).

32. Loi 2001-434 du 21 mai 2001 tendant à la reconnaissance de la traite et de l'esclavage en tant que crime contre l'humanité [Law 2001-434 of May 21, 2001 for the recognition of trafficking and slavery as a crime against humanity] Legifrance: Le Service Publique de la Diffusion du Droit [LegiFrance: A Public Service for the Dissemination of the French Laws].

33. Reparations discourse may appear more prominent today to the extent that other avenues to racial justice have been closed off. Al Brophy argues that reparations debates present “another front on…the culture wars.” Brophy, Alfred L., “The Cultural War Over Reparations for Slavery,” De Paul Law Review 53 (2004): 1181–213, 1182. Darren Hutchinson chronicles the discourse of “racial exhaustion,” the argument prominent in many court opinions from the 1883 Civil Right Cases to the present that we have done enough about race. Hutchinson, Darren L., “Racial Exhaustion,” Washington University Law Review 86 (2009): 917–74, 922. Reparations for slavery have been an ever-present demand in African American politics but have only begun to receive public attention in recent years. Historians Martha Biondi and Mary Frances Berry have recently published histories of black reparations movements, beginning with that of Callie House and the campaign for ex-slave pensions after the Civil War. Civil rights activists from Martin Luther King Jr. to black nationalist leaders demanded reparations for slavery. See, generally, Berry, Mary F., My Face Is Black Is True: Callie House and The struggle for Ex-Slave Reparations (New York: Vintage, 2005): 239; Biondi, Martha, “The Rise of the Reparations Movement,” Radical History Review 87 (2003): 518 ; and Brophy, “The Cultural War,” 922.

34. Emory University recently held a conference on slavery, and the university chronicles numerous such efforts at universities across the United States, including Emory's own “Transforming Community” project. See, for example, Brown University Steering Committee on Slavery and Justice, Slavery and Justice, 2006 http://brown.edu/Research/Slavery_Justice/ (November 18, 2016). The largest museum exhibition was staged at the New York Historical Society, funded by the Gilder–Lehrman Center at Yale University. New York Historical Society, About the Exhibit, Slavery in New York http://www.slaveryinnewyork.org/about_exhibit.htm (September 22, 2015). Richard Gilder and Lewis Lehrman are two of the largest funders of slavery studies in the United States today. See Howard Holzer, “Prizing History: An Interview with Richard Gilder and Lewis Lehrman,” American Heritage, 51(3) (May/June 2000): 95. This has raised questions about conservative influence on slavery studies. See, for example,, Jesse Lemisch, “Are Gilder and Lehrman Tilting American History to The Right? A Case in Point,” History News Network, November 8, 2004 http://historynewsnetwork.org/article/8420 (November 18, 2016).

35. See, generally, Gross, “All Born to Freedom?”

36. See, for example, President Barack Obama, A More Perfect Union (March 18, 2008) (quoting Faulkner, William, Requiem For a Nun [New York: Random House, 1950]).

37. See for example, D'Souza, Dinesh, The End of Racism: Principles for A Multicultural Society (New York: Free Press, 1995); and In re African American Slave Descendants Litig., 375 F. Supp. 2d 721 (2005), aff'd in part and rev'd in part and modified in part, 471 F. 3d 754, 780 (7th Cir. 2006) (detailing the great price that Union troops, enslavers, and generations of Americans paid for the Civil War).

38. See, for example, Herman Belz, “Conservative Principles and Black History: Affirmative Action and Identity Politics” http://phillysoc.org/belz-conservative-principles-and-black-history/ (November 18, 2016). See, generally, Gross, “When Is The Time of Slavery.”

39. The transcript for the May 17, 2016 interview, “Gare à la criminalisation générale du passé! [Watch out for the general criminalization of the past!],” by Figaro of Pierre Nora, cofounder of Liberté pour l'histore, is available at http://www.lph-asso.fr/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=15%3Apierre-nora-l-gare-a-la-criminalisation-generale-du-passe-r&itemid=34&lang=fr (November 18, 2016).

40. See Christian Sauvage, “Un Prix pour les Traits Négrières: Entretien avec Olivier Pétré-Grenouilleau,” Journal du Dimanche, June 2005 http://www.wasadugu.org/Petre120605.thm

41. Gross, “All Born to Freedom,” 528.

42. Tous nés en 1848. 150éme Anniversaire de l'abolition de l'esclavage, 1848–1998 [All born in 1848. The 150th anniversary of the abolition of slavery, 1848–1998], Ministére de la Culture et de la Communication. http://ww.culture.gouv.fr/culture/actual/abolition/esclavage.htm (September 22, 2015).

43. Jacques Chirac, Speech at the Reception in Honor of the Slavery Remembrance Committee: Mémoire de l'esclavage (January 30, 2006) http://www.ambafrance-uk.org/Memoire-de-l-esclavage [English translation of certain exceprts available at http://www.ambafrance-uk.org/Speech-by-M-Jacques-Chirac,6848.html (September 22, 2015)] (“L'abolition de 1848 est un moment decisive de notre histoire: l'un de ceux qui ont forge l'idée que nous nous faisons de notre pays, en tant que terre des Droits de l'Homme … C'est ainsi qu'un people se rassemble, qu'il deviant plus uni, plus fort.” [“The Abolition of 1848 was a decisive moment in our history: one of those that reinforces the unity of our nation.”]). See also Kowaleski-Wallace, Elizabeth, The British Slave Trade and Public Memory (New York: Columbia University Press, 2006), 207–8; Reinhardt, Catherine A., Claims To Memory: Beyond Slavery and Emancipation in the French Caribbean (Oxford: Berghahn Books, 2006) (describing the commemoration of slavery in the former French colonies of Martinique, Guadeloupe, and Haiti); and Chivallon, Christine, “Bristol and the Eruption of Memory: Making the Slave-Trading Past Visible,” Social & Cultural Geography 2 (2001): 347–63.

44. Frith, Nicola, The French Colonial Imagination: Writing The Indian Uprisings, 1857–1858, From The Second Empire To The Third Republic (New York: Lexington Books, 2014), 148; See also “Chirac Names Slavery Memorial Day,” BBC News, January 30, 2006, 15:07 GMT http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/4662442.stm (November 18, 2016).

45. See Johann Michel, Devenir Descendant D'esclaves: Enquête Sur Les Régimes Mémoriels [Becoming A Slave Descendant: An Investigation of Memorial Regimes] (Rennes: Presses Universitaires de Rennes, 2015), 190–202. The Committee for the Memory and History of Slavery has sponsored many terrific research and teaching initiatives http://www.cnmhe.fr/ (November 18, 2016).

46. Memorial to the Abolition of Slavery–Nantes http://memorial.nantes.fr/en/esclavage-et-lutte-pour-la-liberte/l'esclavage-aujourd'hui/ (September 22, 2015).

47. Ibid.

48. “The Atlantic Slave Trade and Colonial Slavery,” Memorial To The Abolition Of Slavery–Nantes http://memorial.nantes.fr/en/esclavage-et-lutte-pour-la-liberte/la-traite-negriere-atlantique-et-l'esclavage-colonial/ (September 29, 2015).

49. Memorial To The Abolition Of Slavery–Nantes, http://memorial.nantes.fr/en/esclavage-et-lutte-pour-la-liberte/l'esclavage-aujourd'hui/ (September 22, 2015).

50. Loi 2001-434 du 21 mai 2001 tendant à la reconnaissance de la traite et de l'esclavage en tant que crime contre l'humanité [Law 2001-434 of May 21, 2001 for the recognition of trafficking and slavery as a crime against humanity] Legifrance: Le Service Publique De La Diffusion Du Droit [LegiFrance: A Public Service for the Dissemination of the French Laws].

51. Dowoti Desir, a human rights activist, says, “A state-sponsored monument that addresses the abolition of slavery without ever addressing how it began or the state's role in slavery is a form of recidivism because it misleads people.” Iglika Stankova, “Abolition of Slavery (Nantes) Two Years After its Inauguration,” Durban Declaration & Programme of Action Plan Watch Group, December 24, 2014 https://dowodesir.wordpress.com/2014/12/24/the-memorial-to-the-abolition-of-slavery-nantes-two-years-after-its-inauguration-by-iglika-stankova/ (November 18, 2016).

52. Ibid.

53. Ibid. Critics of the memorial have also focused on its abstract nature, arguing that it fails to convey the horrors of slavery or the Middle Passage. As Michel Feith writes, “What seems to be missing from the Memorial is a powerful reminder of the violent, scandalous nature of slavery.” Michel Fieth, “Introduction–Weaving Texts and Memories Around Toni Morrison's Beloved,” Black Studies Papers 1.1, 5, 2014 http://elib.suub.uni-bremen.de/edocs/00103772-1.pdf.

54. Hourcade, Renaud, “Commemorating a Guilty Past, The Politics of Memory in French Former Slave Trade Cities,” in Politics of Memory, Making Slavery Visible in the Public Space, ed. Araujo, Ana Lucia (New York: Routledge, 2012), 127.

55. Ibid.

56. Ibid., 129.

57. Ibid. See also Renaud Hourcade, Les Ports Négriers Face À Leur Histoire: Politiques De La Mémoire À Nantes, Bordeaux Et Liverpool [The Slave Trade Ports Face Their History: The Politics of Memory in Nantes, Bordeaux and Liverpool] (Paris: Dalloz, 2014); Nelly Schmidt, “Teaching and Commemorating Slavery and Abolition in France: From Organized Forgetfulness to Historical Debates,” in Araujo, Politics of Memory; Emmanuelle Chérel, Le Mémorial De L'abolition De L'esclavage De Nantes: Enjeux Et Controverses [The Memorial to the Abolition of Slavery in Nantes: The Stakes and Controversies] (Rennes: Presses Universitaires de Rennes, 2012); Michel, Devenir Descendant D'esclaves [Becoming A Slave Descendant]; Frith, Nicola, “Crime and Penitence in Slavery Commemoration: From Political Controversy to the Politics of Performance,” in France's Colonial Legacies: Memory, Identity and Narrative, ed. Barclay, Fiona (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2013).

58. Hourcade, “Commemorating a Guilty Past,” 135–36.

59. United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, Supplement the United Nations Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime. G.A. Res. 55/25, Annex 2, Art. 3 (November 15, 2000).

60. Ibid.

61. 1926 Slavery Convention, 60 LNTS 253, Art. 1 (1927). As Jenny Martinez has shown in her work on the international slave trade courts, there are numerous antecedent instruments in international law. See, generally, Martinez, Jenny S., The Slave Trade and the Origins of International Human Rights Law (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012).

62. Bales, Kevin, Understanding Global Slavery (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2005), 57 .

63. Thomas, , “Immigration Controls and Modern-Day Slavery,” in Shaping the Definition of Trafficking in the Palermo Protocol, ed. Kotiswaran, Prabha (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2016).

64. Gallagher, Anne T., “Human Rights and Human Trafficking: Quagmire or Firm Ground?Virginia Journal of International Law 49 (2009):789848, at 810.

65. Ibid.

66. 1926 Slavery Convention, 60 LNTS 253, Art. 1 (1927).

67. Siliadin v. France, 2005-VII Eur. Ct. H.R. 33.

68. C.N. and V. v. France, ECHR 374 (2012), application no.67724/09, at para. 121.

69. Queen v. Tang, [2008] H.C.A. 39 (Austl.)

70. Allain, Jean and Hickey, Robin, “Property and the Definition of Slavery,” International and Comparative Law Quarterly 61 (2012): 915–38, at 931 (“[A]s the Court made clear in Tang, the point about slavery is that it results in the total subjection of one person to another.”).

71. “The Bellagio–Harvard Guidelines on the Legal Parameters of Slavery,” Global Dialogue 14 (Summer/Autumn 2012): 14–21.

72. See Anne T. Gallagher, “Two Cheers for the Trafficking Protocol,” Anti-Trafficking Review 4, 2015, http://www.antitraffickingreview.org/index.php/atrjournal/article/view/88/109 (September 23, 2015).

73. Gallagher, “Human Rights and Human Trafficking,” 799.

74. See, generally, Barbosa, “Behind The Contemporary Definition of Slavery in Brazil.” See also Rebecca J. Scott, Leonardo Barbosa, and Carlos Haddad, “How Does The Law Put an Analogy to Work? Discerning ‘A Condition Analogous to That of a Slave’ in Contemporary Brazil” (unpublished paper on file with author).

75. For example, in 2011, the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission announced that it would pursue civil claims against an employer for a range of violations, including trafficking laws and employment discrimination laws. See Press Release, “EEOC Combats Labor Trafficking, Severe Abuse and Discrimination in Lawsuits Filed Today,” April 20, 2011 http://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/newsroom/release/4-20-11.cfm (September 21, 2016). The trafficking claim was ultimately dropped, in EEOC v. Global Horizons, 23 F. Supp. 3d 1301 (2014).

76. Sarah Maslin Nir, “The Price of Nice Nails,” New York Times, May 7, 2015 http://www.nytimes.com/2015/05/10/nyregion/at-nail-salons-in-nyc-manicurists-are-underpaid-and-unprotected.html?_r=0 (November 18, 2016).

77. Sarah Maslin Nir, “Cuomo Orders Emergency Measures to Protect Workers at Nail Salons,” New York Times, May 11, 2015 (“a new, multiagency task force will conduct salon-by-salon investigations” of wage theft, unfair labor practices, and health hazards).

78. Thomas, “Immigration Controls and Modern-Day Slavery.”

79. Ibid.

80. Nir, “The Price of Nice Nails.”

81. For further discussion of the ethics of open borders, see Thomas, Chantal, “What Does the Emerging International Law of Migration Mean for Sovereignty?Melbourne Journal of International Law 14 (2014): 392, 442–50 .

82. Dred Scott v. Sandford, 60 U.S. 393 (1857).

83. Gallagher, “Human Rights and Human Trafficking,” 808 (quoting Appeal Judgment, Prosecutor v. Kunarac, Kuvac & Vukovic, Case No. IT-96-23/1/T (2002).

84. Thomas, “Immigration Controls and Modern-Day Slavery.”

The authors thank Jenny S. Martinez, Rebecca J. Scott, James Campbell, and the other participants in the symposium, A Crime Against Humanity: Slavery and International Law, Past and Present, held at Stanford Law School, May 15–16, 2015, and give special thanks to Deans Liz Magill and Jenny Martinez for generously supporting and helping to organize the symposium. They also thank Ana Lucia Araujo, Leora Bilsky, James F. Brooks, Audrey Celestine, Myriam Cottias, Jeannine DeLombard, Crystal Fleming, Abdoulaye Gueye, Prabha Kotiswaran, Roy Kreitner, Johann Michel, Olivette Otele, Jaya Ramji-Nogales, Steven Ratner, Brishen Rogers, Peter Spiro, and participants in workshops at Tel Aviv University Law School, Minerva Center for Human Rights and International Law; UC Santa Barbara Seminar on Slavery, Captivity and Freedom; the “States of The Memory of Slavery: Comparative International Perspectives” Symposium, École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, Paris, France; “Shaping the Definition of the Palermo Protocol,” Symposium, King's College London School of Law; International Law Colloquium, Temple University School of Law; and International Law Workshop, University of Michigan School of Law, for many helpful comments.

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