Research Unchained: The Antislavery ERA Special Issue

Our Special Issue of the Journal of Modern Slavery is free to access here.

This December, the Antislavery Early Research Association launched its first publication – a Special Issue of the Journal of Modern Slavery edited by Antislavery ERA Executive Committee members, Katarina Schwarz, Hannah Jeffery, and Rebecca Nelson and supported by the Antislavery Usable Past. The Special Issue brings together contributions from 19 Network members across 9 papers, demonstrating the spirit of collaboration and interdisciplinarity fostered across the past 4 years of the network’s development.

The topics featured in the Issue span across a wide range of disciplines, from Law, American Studies, History, and Literature, to Geography, Social Science, and Business, applying a multidisciplinary framework to antislavery research. Authors work together to wade through some of the key contemporary challenges in the field, and to present new methods and innovations to apply to the problems of enslavement and exploitation in the contemporary world.

Not only do contributors present scholarship about slavery and exploitation, but harness the tools of their research to push the antislavery movement forward – to contribute to real-world change and not only to academic discourse.

There is a clear sense in the writings of this generation that their work is not purely academic, that the issues of slavery and antislavery are at the forefront of the public agenda, and that they are seeking to be part of the solution rather than the problem.

Foreword to the Special Issue by Professors Jean Allain and Kevin Bales

It is not the voices of network members – early career scholars dedicated to advancing antislavery research – that are at the heart of this research but survivors themselves. These voices can be found in different ways in each and every paper included in the issue, but also in the processes through which the articles were published. As part of our ongoing collaboration with the Survivor Alliance, and with the support of the Journal of Modern Slavery and Antislavery Usable Past, we piloted a new form of peer review for the field, conducted by survivors themselves.

In addition to review by established, specialist academics working in the field, each of the papers was also reviewed by survivors, considering the contribution made by each article from a grounding in lived experience. This process not only improved the specific pieces published in the Special Issue, but encouraged us to be better antislavery scholars – to make sure research we produce is accessible and meaningful for the people about whom it concerns, to consider our starting point as non-survivors and how this impacts our scholarship, and to hold survivors’ voices at the centre of our work, at all times.

special issue papersFor us in the Antislavery ERA, this Special Issue echoes the journey from our inaugural conference in 2015 bringing post-grad researchers together to learn about each other’s research, to the PhD School on Anti-trafficking and Slavery in 2016 building academic and antislavery skills, to the Ideas to Impact workshop in 2017 connecting post-grads and established academics with a focus on translating research for policy, and finally to the Scholarship with Survivors workshop in 2018 bringing ECRs and survivors together in a day of constructive dialogue about the future of this space. It speaks to these various impulses throughout – prioritising collaboration, academic rigour, real-world impact, and survivors’ voices simultaneously.

This Special Issue gives voice to a new wave of antislavery research that connects past, present and future and highlights the important role of research networks at all levels of scholarship. It transcends disciplinary boundaries, fuels collaboration, and brings the evolving research of early career scholars to light. With the growing visibility of the contemporary antislavery movement on the global stage, and the rising demand for new and revolutionary research about human exploitation, emergent scholarship in the field is becoming increasingly vital. By establishing strong connections, the will to collaborate, and a desire to deliver change through ethical scholarship through the Antislavery ERA and this issue, we turn our attention to the antislavery challenges of the future together.

If you would like to learn more about our Survivor Review, please feel free to contact us at – further resources on this process, including guidelines and our Survivor Review Form coming soon.

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