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COURSE NAME: "Human Trafficking and Contemporary Slavery"
SEMESTER & YEAR: Fall 2020

INSTRUCTOR: Silvia Scarpa
EMAIL: [email protected]
HOURS: TTH 1:30-2:50 PM
PREREQUISITES: Prerequisite: Junior Standing
OFFICE HOURS: by appointment

The course introduces students to the hidden phenomena of contemporary forms of slavery and human trafficking, relying on international legal definitions - including among others those of slavery, practices similar to slavery, forced labour, the worst forms of child labour and human trafficking - to better understand and assess the international action against these forms of exploitation. A brief comparison between slavery of the past and its contemporary manifestations, as well as an analysis of relevant contemporary forms of exploitation - including chattel slavery and religious slavery, debt bondage, the sexual exploitation of children in travel and tourism and exploitation in some global supply chains - follows. The differences between human trafficking and the smuggling of migrants emerging from the imperfect international legal architecture founded on the two Protocols on Trafficking in Persons, in particular Women and Children and the Smuggling of Migrants annexed to the 2000 Convention against Transnational Organized Crime are also spelled out. Finally, the course focuses on understanding what ought to be done to fight against contemporary forms of slavery and human trafficking.

The course compares slavery of the past with contemporary exploitative practices and it discusses the characteristics of modern forms of slavery. It subsequently analyzes various forms of exploitation by comparing legal and sociological definitions existing in this field – including in particular, the ones of slavery, practices similar to slavery, forced labour, the worst forms of child labour and human trafficking - and commenting on the inconsistent application of these concepts by global governance actors. Forms of exploitation - such as chattel slavery, religious slavery, the bonded labor/debt bondage practice, forced prostitution and sexual exploitation, including their link with sex tourism, early and forced marriages, the exploitation of child soldiers, child labour and forced labor - are studied. The course subsequently examines trafficking in human beings, focusing on its spreading in the world, the unreliability of estimates and the lack of data, and the most common forms of exploitation connected with it, including sexual and labor exploitation, the involvement of children in armed conflicts, illegal adoptions and trafficking for the removal of  organs. The lack of an internationally agreed definition of human trafficking until the adoption in 2000 of the United Nations Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children will be discussed and the differences between this phenomenon and the smuggling of migrants, which is defined by the United Nations Protocol against the Smuggling of Migrants by Land, Sea and Air will be studied. Specific attention will be dedicated to understanding what could be done to fight against contemporary forms of slavery and human trafficking. 

Upon completion of the course, students will be able to define the various contemporary practices and processes studied, being aware of the inconsistent use of definitions by global governance actors. They will have an understanding of the spreading in the world of contemporary forms of slavery and of human trafficking, of their main causes and consequences, and of short and long-term strategies needed to eradicate them. They also will be able to assess the major successes and failures in establishing a framework in which these phenomena could be eradicated, and they will have conducted group work and research on a specific topic of their choice for the purpose of drafting an advocacy project. 
Book TitleAuthorPublisherISBN numberLibrary Call NumberCommentsFormatLocal BookstoreOnline Purchase
Contemporary Forms of SlaverySilvia ScarpaEuropean Union9789284644346 Available online    
Disposable People: new slavery in the global economyKevin BalesUniversity of California Press978-0520272910 available online   

Mid-term examEssay questions. Sample exam available online.30%
Advocay planGroup work + oral presentation.30%
Final examEssay questions. Non-cumulative. 30%
Class participationAttendance is compulsory & students shall contribute to class discussions.10%

AWork of this quality directly addresses the question or problem raised and provides a coherent argument displaying an extensive knowledge of relevant information or content. This type of work demonstrates the ability to critically evaluate concepts and theory and has an element of novelty and originality. There is clear evidence of a significant amount of reading beyond that required for the cours
BThis is highly competent level of performance and directly addresses the question or problem raised.There is a demonstration of some ability to critically evaluatetheory and concepts and relate them to practice. Discussions reflect the student’s own arguments and are not simply a repetition of standard lecture andreference material. The work does not suffer from any major errors or omissions and provides evidence of reading beyond the required assignments.
CThis is an acceptable level of performance and provides answers that are clear but limited, reflecting the information offered in the lectures and reference readings.
DThis level of performances demonstrates that the student lacks a coherent grasp of the material.Important information is omitted and irrelevant points included.In effect, the student has barely done enough to persuade the instructor that s/he should not fail.
FThis work fails to show any knowledge or understanding of the issues raised in the question. Most of the material in the answer is irrelevant.

Attendance is compulsory. Students are expected to attend classes regularly, to read assigned reading materials before each class and to contribute to class discussions. Students have at their disposal a maximum of 4 unexcused absencesthroughout the semester. Additional absences will be penalized with an F grade being recorded for class participation.
As stated in the university catalog, any student who commits an act of academic dishonesty will receive a failing grade on the work in which the dishonesty occurred. In addition, acts of academic dishonesty, irrespective of the weight of the assignment, may result in the student receiving a failing grade in the course. Instances of academic dishonesty will be reported to the Dean of Academic Affairs. A student who is reported twice for academic dishonesty is subject to summary dismissal from the University. In such a case, the Academic Council will then make a recommendation to the President, who will make the final decision.
John Cabot University does not discriminate on the basis of disability or handicap. Students with approved accommodations must inform their professors at the beginning of the term. Please see the website for the complete policy.







Week 1

Introduction to the Course

What is contemporary slavery? What is human trafficking?

Quirk, Ch. 1 – p. 23-33; Scarpa, Ch. 1 – p. 3-8; Scarpa-Article-Groningen J.

Week 2



Is slavery of the past different from the one of today?


Bales, Ch. 1; Quirk, Ch. 3.

Week 3

Vestiges of past slavery: chattel slavery and religious slavery.

Bales, Ch. 3; Black, p. 1-26; 35-38.

Week 4

Forced labor.



Child labor. Child labor in cocoa plantations.

Readings on forced labor: ILO Handbook, p. 8-16; Kang Muico, p. 1-19 and 27; Anti-Slavery Report, p. 1-5.

Readings on child labor: Lieten; Hindman; AI_Cocoa Report, p. 3-18 and 40-69.

Week 5

Debt bondage.

Bales, Ch. 4, 5 and 6.

Week 6


The sexual exploitation of children in travel and tourism.

ECPAT Report, p. 13-17 and 48-74.

Week 7


Contemporary forms of slavery and & trafficking in persons: lack of data, estimates, and stereotypes.

Scarpa-Cont-Slavery, p. 38-42; Weitzer.


Week 8

The forms of exploitation related to human trafficking.

Scarpa, Ch. 1 – p. 22 - 34 and 40.

Week 9

Peacekeeping and human trafficking.


Week 10


Trafficking in persons for the removal of organs.

Pearson; Scheper-Hughes; Scarpa, Ch. 1 - p. 34 - 39.

Week 11

The smuggling of migrants: definition. Trafficking in persons v. the smuggling of migrants. Trafficking in persons in the wider context of international migrations.

Bhabha and Zard; Gallagher; Anti-Slavery International Report on Migration-Trafficking Nexus, p. 1-15.

Week 12


What can be done to fight against contemporary slavery and human trafficking?


Students’ presentations.

Bales, Ch. 7.

Week 13

Students' presentations

Week 14

Final summary.

Week 15

Final exam

Date TBA