Rights and Rescue: Morals and Secularization in Faith-Based Anti-Trafficking Practice in the UK

Friday, 20 July 2018: 10:45
Oral Presentation
Hannah LEWIS, The University of Sheffield, United Kingdom
Gwyneth LONERGAN, University of Sheffield, United Kingdom
Emma TOMALIN, University of Leeds, United Kingdom
Louise WAITE, University of Leeds, United Kingdom
This paper will explore emerging postsecular partnerships in the global 'fight' against 'modern slavery' and human trafficking. Faith-based organisations (FBOs) and actors have an increasingly visible role in responses to human trafficking, in awareness raising among faith congregations, in providing services to trafficked persons, and increasingly, as policy advisors. Human trafficking emerges amid complex intersections of migration regimes, global inequalities, precarious labour, and the criminalization of certain activities, peoples and mobilities. Abolishing modern slavery has achieved global policy consensus, arguably by relying on simplistic tropes of ‘evil’ traffickers and deserving ‘victims’.

The paper will report on early findings of a UK Economic and Social Research Council project that aims to better understand the roles of faith-based organisations in three terrains: anti-trafficking service provision, public representations, and governmental discourse and policy making. The methodology of the project explicitly aims to tie together the three analytical levels of political party, faith based organisations, and individuals operating in the realm of anti-trafficking in England. The paper will consider these multi-level lenses to unpick the direction of influence between religion and social policy in the realm of modern slavery. Against a background of the UK’s changing religious landscape and growing welfare pluralism in times of austerity, a congruence emerges between neo-abolitionist and state positioning of human trafficking as a particular ‘evil’ unrelated to wider state and social structures. This paper will consider the particular assemblages and affective atmospheres created for trafficked persons in faith-based and secular anti-trafficking settings. Processes of secularization among anti-trafficking FBOs taking up key roles as government-funded service providers or statutory partners demonstrate a variety of positions in managing religious discourses of ‘rescue’ or ‘saving’ trafficked persons while operating within international legal rights-based frameworks.