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Seminar: Conversations on Social Reproduction


Manufacturing Freedom: Sex Work, Anti-Trafficking Rehab, and the Racial Wages of Rescue

Trafficking in Antiblackness: Modern-Day Slavery, White Indemnity, and Racial Justice


Elena Shih, Brown University

Lyndsey Beutin, McMaster University

WHEN: Friday, July 14th 2023, 10am - 11.30am EDT/ 3pm - 4.30pm BST/7.30pm - 9pm IST

WHERE: Online (MS Teams)

Manufacturing Freedom is an ethnography of US NGOs in China and Thailand that try to rescue sex workers but end up shuttling them into moralized low wage jewelry making schemes.

Trafficking in Antiblackness shows how the term “modern-day slavery” is used within discourses of human trafficking in ways that remake the justifications for transatlantic slavery by mobilizing old narratives of “slavery in Africa” and “Black incapacity for self-determination” in new visual representations.

By bringing discourse and on-the-ground workers’ experiences together, the books make the case that anti-trafficking advocacy cannot be reformed, it must be defunded.

Trafficking in Antiblackness book cover

Lyndsey Beutin is Assistant Professor of Communication Studies and Media Arts at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. She earned her PhD in Communication from the Annenberg School at the University of Pennsylvania and was a pre-doctoral fellow at the Carter G. Woodson Institute for African-American and African Studies at University of Virginia. Her research focuses on the racial politics of communication, social justice, and the relationships among public and collective memory of slavery and demands for reparations and redress. Her first book, Trafficking in Antiblackness: Modern-Day Slavery, White Indemnity, and Racial Justice (Duke University Press, 2023), explores how campaigns against human trafficking use the memory of transatlantic slavery to reproduce antiblackness in the name of ending so-called “modern-day slavery.” She has been involved with community projects for farm worker rights, queer liberation,prison abolition, reparations and racial justice in NC, VA, PA, and NY. Her writing has appeared in Cultural Studies, Surveillance & Society, Feminist Media Studies, Anti-Trafficking Review, and Southern Cultures.

Manufacturing Freedom book cover

Elena Shih is Manning Assistant Professor of American Studies and Ethnic Studies at Brown University, where she directs a human trafficking research cluster with the Simmons Center for the Study of Slavery and Justice. She also the co-author of, White Supremacy, Racism and the Coloniality of Anti-Trafficking (2022), with Kamala Kempadoo, an edited volume that explores the hidden sources of systemic power built into anti-trafficking interventions. Recent op-eds about her research and organizing as a core collective member of Red Canary Song appear in The New York Times, Providence Journal, Myanmar Times and Al Jazeera. Shih serves on the editorial boards for The Anti-Trafficking Review, a peer-reviewed journal of the Global Alliance to Combat Traffic in Women, and openDemocracy's Beyond Trafficking and Slavery op-ed platform. Shih earned a Phd in Sociology from UCLA, and a BA in Asian Studies and Women’s Studies from Pomona College.



The Laws of Social Reproduction project

The Laws of Social Reproduction project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (under grant agreement No. 772946). For more information about the project, please email

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Prabha Kotiswaran

Professor of Law & Social Justice

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