Understanding Global Slavery: A Reader

Understanding Global Slavery: A Reader

Understanding Global Slavery: A Reader

Understanding Global Slavery: A Reader

Synopsis

Although slavery is illegal throughout the world, we learned from Kevin Bales's highly praised exposé, Disposable People: New Slavery in the Global Economy, that more than twenty-seven million people--in countries from Pakistan to Thailand to the United States--are still trapped in bondage. With this new volume, Bales, the leading authority on modern slavery, looks beyond the specific instances of slavery described in his last book to explore broader themes about slavery's causes, its continuation, and how it might be ended. Written to raise awareness and deepen understanding, and touching again on individual lives around the world, this book tackles head-on one of the most urgent and difficult problems facing us today.

Each of the chapters in Understanding Global Slavery explores a different facet of global slavery. Bales investigates slavery's historical roots to illuminate today's puzzles. He explores our basic ideas about what slavery is and how the phenomenon fits into our moral, political, and economic worlds. He seeks to explain how human trafficking brings people into our cities and how the demand for trafficked workers, servants, and prostitutes shapes modern slavery. And he asks how we can study and measure this mostly hidden crime. Throughout, Bales emphasizes that to end global slavery, we must first understand it. This book is a step in that direction.

Excerpt

For Meera the revolution began with a single rupee. When a worker from the Sankalp organization found Meera’s unmapped village in the hills of Uttar Pradesh, India, he found the entire population was enslaved through debt bondage to work in stone quarries. The men and women hammered and pried rocks from the earth; the children hauled the rocks in baskets. Children as young as five worked in the pits making sand by smashing stones with a hammer. The dust, flying rock chips, and heavy loads meant that many villagers suffered from silicosis and damaged eyes or backs. These villagers were enslaved in order to make a substance so common, and that costs so little, that only by using slaves could handmade sand be profitable.

Calling together a few of the women, the Sankalp worker proposed a radical step. If ten women would agree to set aside a single rupee a week to form a credit union, he would help them put their savings in the local bank and arrange a loan of seed money. In India, small-scale credit unions such as these are known as “self-help groups.” In time, the first group was formed and the rupees slowly mounted up. After three months, enough money had been saved that the group decided to pay of the loan that held one woman—Meera—in bondage. The landlord and moneylenders were surprised that she had been able to pay off her debt, but they were not worried. Sometimes it happened that a relative from outside the village might send a gift, or an inheritance might provide enough to pay off a debt bond. Since the original debt holding a family might have been contracted two or three generations before, such repayments are seen as a windfall by the landlords. With the local economy . . .

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