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Accepted paper:

Between freedom and unfreedom: county lines, state coercion and the re-discovery of modern slavery in austerity Britain

Author:

Insa Koch (London School of Economics)

Paper short abstract:

Efforts to relieve moral suffering have become a central tenet of policy making. The British government's modern slavery agenda in relation to county lines illuminates how states shore up popular consent beyond a politics of law and order when their democratic mandates have come under attack.

Paper long abstract:

States' efforts to relieve moral suffering have become a central tenet of domestic policy making. The British government's modern slavery agenda in relation to county lines provides a case in point. County lines is the name given by the police to networks of Class A drugs spreading from the cities to coastal and market towns that rely on young runners as foot soldiers. These foot soldiers - predominantly working class and ethnic minority young men who would normally be criminalised for their involvement in the illicit economy - are now being discovered as modern slaves in need of saving. Yet, images of victims' suffering also justify techno-moral control, as professionals invoke technocratic expertise to separate those worthy of saving from others who are the object of rightful punishment. The fraught politics of victimhood at the heart of the modern slavery agenda foregrounds the role of moral registers in governing disenfranchised populations in austerity Britain. It illuminates how states shore up popular consent beyond a politics of 'law and order' at a time when their democratic mandates have come under attack.

panel P103
The rise of technomoral governance: anthropological insights into value-laden scales of evidence