Spring 2023 - LBST 307 D100

Unfree Labour and Modern Slavery: Understanding Coercion and Exploitation in Contemporary (3)

Class Number: 2658

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Jan 4 – Apr 11, 2023: Thu, 2:30–5:20 p.m.

  • Instructor:

    Kendra Strauss
    Office: AQ 6079
    Office Hours: 1-2pm, Thursdays, AQ 6079 (or by appointment)
  • Prerequisites:

    Strongly Recommended: LBST 101.



An exploration of the expanding forms of unfree labour in capitalist economies as products of changing labour processes, global labour markets, and the policies of neoliberalism and 'austerity'.


An exploration of the expanding forms of unfree labour in capitalist economies as products of changing labour processes, global labour markets, and the policies of neoliberalism and 'austerity'.

Slavery, many claim, is not a thing of the past. Contrary to the expectations of economists, policy-makers and political theorists, contemporary processes of capitalist globalization have resulted in the growth, rather than obsolescence, of unfree labour.  Concerns about child, debt-bonded, and forced labour have come to figure centrally in analyses of global commodity production, while domestic servitude and sexual exploitation – widely associated with human trafficking - are understood to affect millions of (mostly) women and children worldwide.  Transnational bodies like International Labour Organisation (ILO), the European Union (EU) and the United Nations (UN) have been central to the articulation of these concerns and the shaping of political responses to them; at the same time, there has been a massive increase in the number of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) campaigning against ‘modern slavery’. This course seeks to understand these phenomena from a labour perspective, focusing on workers and labour markets in the global political economy.


Students will learn:

  1. How free and unfree labour are conceptualized and defined.
  2. How current understandings of forced labour and modern slavery relate to historical forms of slavery and struggles for emancipation.
  3. About the relationship between the unfreedom in labour markets and the social construction of categories of difference such as race, gender, class, and legal status.
  4. To identify and analyze contemporary politics of, and legal approaches to, trafficking, forced labour and modern slavery.


  • Participation 10%
  • Report and presentation 20%
  • Mid-term exam 30%
  • Project proposal with annotated bibliography 5%
  • Final project 35%


Grading: Where a final exam is scheduled and the student does not write the exam or withdraw from the course before the deadline date, an N grade will be assigned. Unless otherwise specified on the course syllabus, all graded assignments for this course must be completed for a final grade other than N to be assigned. An N is considered as an F for the purposes of scholastic standing.

Grading System: The Undergraduate Course Grading System is as follows:

A+ (95-100) | A (90-94) | A- (85-89) | B+ (80-84) | B (75-79) | B- (70-74) | C+ (65-69) | C (60-64) | C- (55-59) | D (50-54) | F (0-49) | N*
*N standing to indicate the student did not complete course requirements

Academic Honesty and Student Conduct Policies: The Labour Studies Program follows SFU policy in relation to grading practices, grade appeals (Policy T 20.01) and academic honesty and student conduct procedures (S10.01‐S10.04). Unless otherwise informed by your instructor in writing, in graded written assignments you must cite the sources you rely on and include a bibliography/list of references, following an instructor-approved citation style.  It is the responsibility of students to inform themselves of the content of SFU policies available on the SFU website.

Centre for Accessible Learning: Students with hidden or visible disabilities who believe they may need classroom or exam accommodations are encouraged to register with the SFU Centre for Accessible Learning (1250 Maggie Benston Centre) as soon as possible to ensure that they are eligible and that approved accommodations and services are implemented in a timely fashion.



This course makes use of a wide variety of readings, sources and media. You will be provided with list of required readings (by week) in the full course syllabus; readings and other sources are provided online through Canvas.


Your personalized Course Material list, including digital and physical textbooks, are available through the SFU Bookstore website by simply entering your Computing ID at: shop.sfu.ca/course-materials/my-personalized-course-materials.

Registrar Notes:


SFU’s Academic Integrity website http://www.sfu.ca/students/academicintegrity.html is filled with information on what is meant by academic dishonesty, where you can find resources to help with your studies and the consequences of cheating. Check out the site for more information and videos that help explain the issues in plain English.

Each student is responsible for his or her conduct as it affects the university community. Academic dishonesty, in whatever form, is ultimately destructive of the values of the university. Furthermore, it is unfair and discouraging to the majority of students who pursue their studies honestly. Scholarly integrity is required of all members of the university. http://www.sfu.ca/policies/gazette/student/s10-01.html