Interdisciplinary Conference on Human Trafficking at the University of Nebraska


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Working Paper for the University of Nebraska‘s Conference on Human Trafficking, September 30 - October 2, 2010, Lincoln, Nebraska. Copyright 2010 Thomas Reuland.


In this paper, I challenge current efforts to combat human trafficking. Trafficking is a problem that the law has difficulty preventing, in part, because of market forces. Moreover, the structure of many corporations responds to these market forces, implicates these enterprises in human trafficking, and encourages members of a company to remain complacent in the face of human rights abuses. As corporations strive to increase profit margins on each product they make, they demand low-cost labor and commodify the human beings who satisfy that demand. Meanwhile, branding provides a powerful tool that corporations use to prevent the consumer from recognizing the connection between the company‘s product and the company‘s human rights violations. I argue that the law, especially in the United States, overlooks the power of branding. Unfortunately, it will likely continue to do so unless it takes active steps to connect a corporation‘s brand identity to that same corporation‘s human trafficking abuses. I conclude by proposing some simple steps in the right direction—revisions to the law‘s approach to trafficking.

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