Speaker: Professor Bridget Anderson (University of Bristol)
6 June 2018
In public debate, employing the language of ‘anti-trafficking’ and ‘anti-slavery’ has become a useful way of managing tensions between borders controls and human rights. In the recent Windrush debacle for example, the claim that the Home Office initiated ‘hostile environment’ has resulted in injustice and deportation was refuted on the grounds that it targets ‘illegal immigrants alone, some of whom had been working in conditions akin to slavery’. This lecture will explore what is concealed and what is revealed by this language. Pretensions at historical detail can be deeply misleading. The mobility of transatlantic slaves was an involuntary but legal movement, while the mobility of migrants across the borders of the European Union is a voluntary but illegalised movement. I will argue that one of the key demands of slaves was ‘the right of locomotion’ (Wong 2009: 242). It is this that takes the invocation of slavery beyond the figurative. Yet it is precisely this demand that European governments are determined to ignore.
Bridget Anderson is Professor of Migration, Mobilities, and Citizenship at the University of Bristol. She was previously the Research Director of the Centre on Migration, Policy and Society (COMPAS) at the University of Oxford. Her interests include citizenship, nationalism, immigration enforcement (including ‘trafficking’), and care labour. Her most recent authored book is Us and Them? The Dangerous Politics of Immigration Controls (OUP, 2013). Care and Migrant Labour: Theory, Policy and Politics, co-edited with Isabel Shutes, was published by Palgrave in 2014. Citizenship and its Others, co-edited with Vanessa Hughes, was published by Palgrave in 2015. Although now an academic Bridget started her working life in the voluntary sector working with migrant domestic workers, and she has retained an interest in domestic labour and migration. She has worked closely with migrants' organisations, trades unions and legal practitioners at local, national and international level.
The Annual Elizabeth Colson Lecture is named in honour of Professor Elizabeth Colson, a renowned anthropologist.