Connecting Thought and Action across Borders: The Challenges of Contemporary Slavery
Speaker: Rebecca J. Scott, Charles Gibson Distinguished University Professor of History and Professor of Law at the University of Michigan
Can one use the word "slavery" to describe modern forms of labor exploitation when nations no longer recognize a right of property in persons? Rebecca Scott begins her lecture by examining the 1814 enslavement in New Orleans of a child refugee named Sanitte, and tracing the mechanisms by which a freeborn girl came to be held as a slave. Nearly 200 years later, in 1994, an adolescent from Togo, Henriette Akofa, who had been held as an unpaid domestic servant in a household in Paris, brought suit in the European Court of Human Rights which then deliberated on whether to use the term "slavery" to describe her situation. Juxtaposing these two experiences and looking at the contemporaneous legal debate unfolding in Brazil, Scott suggests ways in which cross-national discussions can yield legal definitions and strategies for addressing the phenomenon of coerced labor.