Forms of Human Bondage in the Indian Ocean World: Origins, Structures and Transformations


Human bondage still exists despite international prohibitions of slavery (1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights; 1956 UN Convention on the Abolition of Slavery). Almost 30 million people are estimated to be trapped in modern forms of slavery that, some experts argue, globalization has accentuated. An affront to human rights, slavery endangers political and economic stability and health in regions where it is prominent, notably the Indian Ocean World (IOW) – a vast region running from East Africa to China.

This France-Quebec research collaboration seeks to do a structural analysis of historical and contemporary forms of bondage in three key areas of the IOW: China, India and, as a contrast, East Africa. The changes they underwent over the longue durée from 1800 to the present day – a period that corresponds with the rise and development of modern capitalism. China and India constitute major emerging economic powers that historically have played highly important roles in the IOW economy. By contrast, East Africa is home to some of the world's poorest countries. While democratic influences run deep in India, they are suppressed in China, and have only nominal influence in East Africa. As human rights form the foundation of democracy, the perpetuation of human bondage on a large scale in the IOW poses major threats to political and economic stability within the region and worldwide.