27 June 2019

Slavery, Colonialism and Contemporary Global Inequality

CONFERENCE | 27 June 2019 | 9:00 – 17:00 | Tropenmuseum and KIT Royal Tropical Institute

In this conference we take modern slavery as a framework for thinking through diverse forms of dehumanising and precarious labour. What are the specificities of the different forms, how do they differ and how might it benefit us to think them together? Speakers will explore the relationship between slavery and other historical forms of forced or precarious labour and modern day slavery and human trafficking.

At the end of 2018, social media erupted with videos showing practices of contemporary slavery in Libya. These videos were circulated to garner solidarity, to mobilise support from social movements, global governance bodies and nation states alike. The moral outrage that emerged across social media was not without history, with many people connecting this dehumanizing practice with earlier forms of enslavement and violent, forced labour. Modern Slavery is the term used to describe diverse contemporary forms of dehumanisation and exploitation, including the trafficking of humans, mostly women and children, for sexual exploitation or exploitative and inhumane labour conditions. 

This conference is part of the Tropenmuseum’s ongoing series Gedeelde Geschiedenis, where we explore the afterlives of the slavery and colonial part of the RCMC’s ongoing research project Materialising Slavery. For more information on the Materialising Slavery project, which addresses the material and visual culture of slavery and colonialism, please take a look at

This conference is developed in collaboration with the Chocolonely Foundation.



Registration open


Welcome: Stijn Schoonderwoerd (director NMVW)


Keynote: Joanna Ewart-James (Freedom United)

  Q&A with audience

Keynote: prof. Kamala Kempadoo (York University)

  Q&A with audience

Session 1: Precarious Lives: on gender, sexuality and labor precarity

  with Annemarie de Wildt (Amsterdam Museum),
prof. Kamala Kempadoo (York University)
and Belit Sag (artist)

Session 2: Colonial past and labor inequality

  with keynote by Joanna Ewart-James (Freedom United)
and dr. Lennon Mhishi (University of Liverpool)
13:00-14:00 Lunch

Keynote by dr. Richard Benjamin (International Slavery Museum)

  Q&A with audience

Session 3: Structural Inequalities

  with dr. Catherine Lu (McGill University),
Inez van der Scheer (University of Color/ Universiteit van Amsterdam)
and Sammie Sam (artist)

Session 4: Economy of Slavery: from cotton to chocolate

  with dr. Lipi Begum (London University),
dr. Pepijn Brandon (Vrije Universiteit)
and Andrea Chung (artist)
16:45 Closing reception
Image: Sammy Baloji, (Lubumbashi, DRC, 1978), 'Mémoire 2006'. TM-6391-1