Creative Paths to Freedom? Arts and Humanities-Based Approaches to Addressing Contemporary Slavery as a Development Issue

Posted on 29 May 2020 by Dr Lennon Mhishi

Contemporary slavery, human trafficking, and other forms of exploitation constitute today an area of heightened concern. Part
of an evolving and contested arena, modern slavery can be seen as presenting various challenges as well as opportunities, conceptually in how we frame conversations around exploitation, and how these operate historically and in the present. It also obliges us to focus on the attendant material consequences of such conceptualisations. How we cast what we claim to be a problem, a prognosis of sorts, shapes our responses. In exploring the entanglements of the modern slavery agenda with, on the one hand, the arts and humanities, and, on the other, the development agenda, we confront questions such as:

Why have such a diverse set of phenomena come to be understood and addressed as ‘modern slavery’?

How, and with what effects, has this discourse become significant in the development agenda?

How could, or should, the arts and humanities play a role in addressing these issues?

This review is an attempt at responding to these questions, and explores some of the salient currents of the present concern with ‘enslavement’, cast in specific terms as the deprivation of the ‘freedom’ of other human beings. 

Creative Paths to Freedom