Troubling Recognitions in British Responses to Modern Slavery

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This article interrogates the advent of modern slavery policy in Britain, explaining how the police and NGO sector have welcomed an organised crime model, politically conceived in ‘excessively positive’ terms. Deploying Christopher Bollas’ (1993: 167) concept of ‘violent innocence’, defined as a defence against the ‘desire to be innocent of a troubling recognition’, we argue that the politics of modern slavery render it difficult for many to imagine offenders as anything other than the ‘evil’ nemesis of ‘innocent’ victims. The article argues for: the need to be mindful of Britain’s historical role in the advent of slavery and practices like it; and recognition of the extent to which immigration control practices exacerbate the vulnerabilities to exploitation modern slavery policy attempts to tackle.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1440-1461
JournalBritish Journal of Criminology
Issue number6
Early online date8 Jan 2018
Publication statusPublished - 5 Oct 2018


  • modern slavery
  • violent innocence
  • immigration
  • Psychoanalysis


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