Reparations & White Indemnity: The Memory of Slavery in Anti-trafficking Campaigns

AAS Visiting Research Scholar Lecture
Feb 29, 2024, 5:00 pm6:30 pm
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Event Description

Lyndsey P. Beutin will share the contours of her new book Trafficking in Antiblackness, which argues that campaigns to end human trafficking use modern-day slavery rhetoric and imagery to circumvent Western historical responsibility for racial chattel slavery. Narratives and figures like ‘slavery in Africa,’ ‘Arab slave traders,’ ‘bad Black mothers,’ and ‘Black incapacity for self-governance’ recur in anti-trafficking discourse in ways that turn Black people across the diaspora, instead of white Americans or Europeans, into the enslavers of the past and present. Doing so produces a white indemnity – a rhetorical insurance policy – against being held liable for slavery’s racial dispossessions amid organized movements for reparations and racial justice. The book shows that, despite decades of critiques, anti-trafficking discourse remains popular and politically useful for former slaving nations and their racial beneficiaries because it refashions historic justifications for white supremacy into today’s abolition of slavery. In this talk, Beutin highlights how anti-trafficking campaigns leverage discourses of slavery reparations, multiculturalism, and data in ways that compound, rather than disrupt, structural antiblackness. 

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