Theorizing Contemporary Practices of Slavery

Asst. Prof. Jane Gordon was named winner of the 2012 Best Paper Award from the Foundations of Political Theory section of American Political Science Association (APSA). Kudos to Jane! And Mazel tov to the Gordon family on the Sula becoming a Bat Mitzvah.

The Best Paper Award Committee is thrilled to present the 2012 Best Paper Award to Jane Gordon of Temple University for her paper “Theorizing Contemporary Practices of Slavery.” In this ambitious and creative paper, Professor Gordon asks why it is that in the present, when democratic theory seem more popular than ever, and democratic institutions seem more pervasive than ever, contemporary slavery and forced labor are growing exponentially. She asks us to consider “the meaning of the simultaneous growth of a prevailing place for talk of democratic norms (and of expanded opportunities for citizens to engage in collective decision-making) and of practices of enslavement (that aim to make matters of consent entirely irrelevant).” Drawing on a copious amount of research, Professor Gordon tackles this urgent problem with verve, ultimately developing historical and theoretical claims that are both compelling and illuminating. Her use of history and theory to produce a new, critical interpretation of key political concepts in our self-understanding is impressive, and her use of political theory to shed light on one of our most disturbing contemporary political practices is exemplary.