Sex, Power, Human Trafficking

Slavery, or human trafficking in contemporary language, is one of the most puzzling, controversial, and enduring questions in history. This course explores changes and continuities in the institution of slavery from antiquity to the 21st century. It approaches this complex question from an interdisciplinary and international perspective. While the Atlantic slave trade continues to define our understanding of slavery, we will also look into forms of slavery in Africa and the Indian Ocean World that predated the Atlantic trade by millennia and question strict dichotomies between slave and free. In our explorations across time and space, we will analyze how conceptualizations of gender, race, and religion shaped various forms of slavery. Students will understand how the relationship between power structures, gender and socio-economic status have made females particularly vulnerable to enslavement and human trafficking. This gendered dimension of slavery will further lead us to investigate its blurred boundaries with marriage, and especially the practice of forced marriage in past and contemporary societies. The aim of the course is to critically analyze human trafficking as a social, legal, political, cultural and economic institution in the past and present.