Denial and Acknowledgement in Modern Slavery


Denial and Acknowledgement in Modern Slavery is a collaboration with the Irving K Barber Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences Economics, Philosophy and Political Science at The University of British Columbia, Okanagan, Canada.

This project focuses on slavery, arguably the most blatant infringement of a human’s rights, to develop fluid narratives to study both the internal mechanisms of denial, which are used to cope with the overwhelming nature of human rights violation and the helplessness this might cause, and the structural operations of denial and denialism that distance us from the suffering Other.

In studying modern slavery, we investigate how denial of suffering has been not merely internalised by individuals, but also at a societal level. Acknowledging slavery, particularly in the production of consumer goods in the global south, is inconvenient and distasteful to northern consumers. It causes a cognitive dissonance in those who believe in human rights but also desire cheaply produced goods. We suggest that policy-based international acknowledgement can break through denial with a potentially transformative reparative impact.