Human Trafficking and Heroic Consumerism


Consumers are the new activists in the fight against modern slavery, with awareness campaigns urging citizens to use their consumer power to demand an end to labour exploitation. The contribution of political, or ethical, consumerism campaigns to the trafficking narrative is examined in this article through an analysis of the characterisation of consumers and corporations in campaigns from, Stop the Traffik UK, and World Vision Australia. This article argues that campaigns urging political consumerism depict consumers as the heroic rescuers of enslaved victims, and embed solutions to modern slavery within a culture of unquestioned capitalism. This approach may have the unintended consequence of sidelining victims from the trafficking story as the focus of the narrative becomes the product, rather than the victim, of labour exploitation.

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Except where otherwise noted, content in this journal is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
Published: 2018-12-01
Pages:51 to 66
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How to Cite
O’Brien, E. (2018) “Human Trafficking and Heroic Consumerism”, International Journal for Crime, Justice and Social Democracy, 7(4), pp. 51-66. doi: 10.5204/ijcjsd.v7i4.430.

Author Biography

Queensland University of Technology

Erin O'Brien is Senior Lecturer in the School of Justice, Faculty of Law, Queensland University of Technology. Dr O'Brien's current research examines political advocacy, activism, and policy debate on issues of sex, gender, and justice. She is the author of Challenging the Human Trafficking Narrative: victims, villains and heroes (Routledge 2019), and co-editor of Crime, Justice and Social Democracy: international perspectives (Palgrave 2013).