Call for Papers: Human Trafficking in Early America

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US_Slave_Free_1789-1861An interdisciplinary conference, Human Trafficking in Early America, will be held April 23-25, 2015 at the University of Pennsylvania. The Keynote Speaker will be Edward E. Baptist of Cornell University.

The United Nations defines “human trafficking” as the act of “recruiting, transporting, transferring, harboring or receiving a person through a use of force, coercion or other means, for the purpose of exploiting them.” In early America, human trafficking took many forms, engaging and displacing native, African and European populations in every decade and in every colony and state.

Drawing upon a wave of new scholarship on Indian captivity, the middle passage, the domestic slave trade, child abduction and sex trafficking, this conference offers a timely opportunity to examine the cultures and shadow economies created by and elaborated around forced migration in North America and the Atlantic world before 1860.

Papers are being sought that examine any one of the many varieties of human trafficking in early America. Subjects may include – but are not limited to – motivation and self-justification; violence and trauma; discipline and resistance; complicity and collaboration; law and lawlessness; logistics and marketing; and activism and abolition. We particularly welcome papers that place micro-historical episodes into macro-historical context or that connect theoretical paradigms to lived experience.

Paper proposals should include a brief c.v. and an abstract of no more than 500 words. Preference will be given to fresh, unpublished work that might later find a place in a new volume of essays to be selected and edited by the organizers.

Applicants should email their proposals to by April 15, 2014. Decisions will be announced by August 1, 2014 and papers must be submitted for pre-circulation by February 1, 2015. Limited support for participants’ travel and lodging will be available.

The conference will be hosted by the University of Pennsylvania, and co-sponsored by the McNeil Center for Early American Studies, the Department of History at the University of Maryland, College Park, and the Department of History at Drew University.  Conference co-organizers are Richard Bell (Maryland) and Sharon Braslaw Sundue (Drew).

Illustration courtesy Wikimedia Commons.


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  1. Pingback: Human Trafficking is Uncontrolled in America | Miami Legal Round Table

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