There are currently more than 35 million people living in slavery worldwide. Antislavery policy debate and practice at local, national and international levels needs to be informed by past antislavery methods and ideas in order to tackle this global problem.
Zoe’s comprehensive assessment of contemporary slavery and antislavery argues that today’s abolitionists should learn lessons from the first antislavery movement’s failures, successes, contradictions and unfinished work. For example, she has examined the literary and visual culture of the 21st century global antislavery movement, some of which repeats the paternalism, dehumanisation and sensationalism that limited historical antislavery. In response she has gathered narratives and artwork by formerly enslaved people for a more empowering antislavery culture.
The research has informed antislavery debate, policy and practice. Zoe has influenced debate at the European Union, presenting her research findings to the Subcommittee on Human Rights. The study assessed the EU’s antislavery efforts so far and recommended new courses of action, including action based on learning from history.
Zoe has also collaborated on this research with antislavery NGOs, to put a usable past at the heart of their campaigns. A new research grant, The Antislavery Usable Past, is now continuing this work.