Brown Center for the Study of Slavery and Justice

Lunch talk with Prof. Samuel Okyere

Thursday, October 29th, 2015
12:00 PM
Smith Buonanno Room 201, 95 Cushing Street 

Deconstructing trafficking and enslavement of children in the modern era: evidence from children’s involvement in artisanal gold mining work in Ghana

Lunch will be served. Please RSVP here:

Public and policy discourse around the globe has been dominated in recent years by concerns about human trafficking and other conditions deemed to constitute modern forms of slavery. Within the modern slavery trope, few other stories draw as much condemnation as those involving children. We are often presented with a picture of naïve, unsuspecting, innocent child victims forced, tricked or coerced by heartless parents, adults and slave masters into unremitting toil, with calls to rescue these children through their removal from these jobs, abolishment of their work and boycott of products tainted by children’s labour.  This presentation critically deconstructs the child slavery narrative drawing on research of children’s involvement in artisanal gold mining, an activity often described by abolitionists as the outcome of child trafficking and forced labour. The narratives of the child research participants seriously trouble the picture of trafficking and enslavement often painted in mainstream debates on this phenomenon. Without seeking to idealise children’s involvement in this dangerous or precarious work, Sam will argue that far from ‘rescuing’ or ‘saving’ children, contemporary slavery and trafficking abolitionist discourses have become obstacles to understanding the complex structural determinants of children’s insecurities in the developing world, and by extension, obstacles to genuinely positive transformations in the lives of these children and their communities.


Sam Okyere, PhD (University of Nottingham, 2012) is Lecturer in Sociology at the University of Nottingham, UK, and a former Centre for Advanced Studies award holder. He specializes in critical approaches to human rights and social justice, (in)equality, globalisation, migration, racism and identity with emphasis on forced labour, trafficking and slavery. His research on the worst forms of child labour has been presented at numerous international conferences and featured by the BBC. He is the author of a forthcoming book on children’s rights and international development, has published in major academic journals and has advised numerous policymakers and research user groups on the need for better informed analysis and solutions to the worst forms of child labour and other phenomenon counted as evidence of modern slavery.