General research interests: the global governance of forced labor; corporate power; global supply chains; regulation of labor markets; theories of unfree labor in the capitalist global economy; public and private governance interactions; the politics of corporate social responsibility; history of social movements and contemporary struggles for social justice.
Current projects include:
I. Understanding and Governing the Global Business of Forced Labor
2016-2019, Funded by the UK Economic and Social Research Council
This research investigates the global business models of forced labor, focusing on the tea and cocoa supply chains. It aims to achieve an in-depth understanding of how forced labor (and overlapping practices like slavery and human trafficking) operate in global supply chains. It will do so through a range of qualitative methods including elite interviews with key informants and ethnographic research among workers. The project will provide high-impact, multidisciplinary research for a wide-ranging audience, including government, civil society, and business organizations seeking to combat forced labor and trafficking in supply chains. It involves collaboration with the International Labour Organization (Geneva), Yale University, the UK House of Commons, and several other partner organizations.
II. Challenges in Researching the Shadow Economy
2015-2017, Funded by the British Academy for the Humanities and Social Sciences
Forced labor, human trafficking and slavery are widely believed to be rapidly proliferating in the global economy. There is however, no reliable global estimate of slavery or trafficking, nor a sound methodology for measuring the prevalence of severe labor exploitation. Given the risks associated with researching the shadow economy, few scholars and organizations have even attempted to collect hard data. Reliable estimates and data are necessary for future research on forced labor. This project will provide a vehicle for an interdisciplinary group of expert scholars to tackle this problem. It will systematically explore cutting-edge methodologies that have been employed to explore local issues of forced labor successfully, with a view to exploring the potential to ‘scale up’. We will also survey how scholars of other difficult-to-research problems like corruption, HIV, and the ‘old’ slave trade conducted their research before reliable datasets were available.
III. Beyond Trafficking and Slavery: Towards Decent Work for All
2017-2018, Funded by the UK ESRC Global Challenges Fund
This project, led by Prabha Kotiswaran at Kings College, London, School of Law, brings together global stakeholders to map the knowledge terrain and co-define an original research agenda around the 8th Sustainable Development Goal (SDG 8). This aims to achieve ‘decent work for all’ through what Target 8.7 describes as ‘immediate and effective measures to eradicate forced labour, end modern slavery and human trafficking, and secure the prohibition and elimination of the worst forms of child labour’ by 2030. Through stakeholder engagement workshops in India, South Africa, and Mexico, the project will engage with and consolidate academic and non-academic networks to map the state of knowledge, aggregate regional perspectives, and articulate a meaningful global research agenda to inform SDG 8.7.