Kevin Bales

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Dr. Kevin Bales is an expert on modern slavery and President of Free the Slaves, and lives in Washington DC. Free the Slaves is the US Sister organization of Anti-Slavery International (the world’s oldest human rights organization). He is Emeritus Professor of Sociology at Roehampton University in London, Visiting Professor at the Wilberforce Institute for the Study of Slavery and Emancipation, University of Hull, as well as serving on the Board of Directors of theInternational Cocoa Initiative.

Bales’s book Disposable People: New Slavery in the Global Economy published in 1999, has now been published in ten other languages. Archbishop Desmond Tutu called it “a well researched, scholarly and deeply disturbing expose of modern slavery”. A revised edition was published in 2005. This book was based on the first-hand in-depth study of five slave-based “businesses” in five different countries: Thailand (prostitution); Mauritania (water selling); Brazil (charcoal production); India (agriculture); and Pakistan (brick making). His book was the basis for, and he worked on, the film “Slavery: A Global Investigation” made by TrueVision in 2000. That film won the Peabody Award for 2000 and two Emmy Awards in 2002.

Bales work was informed by the development of globalization theory by Martin Albrow, the theorization of human rights by Darren O’Byrne, and the empirical training he received from Jack Gibbs and Larry DeBord. Some commentators believe that Bales’ views on the new slavery were anticipated by contributors to the 1970s mode of production debate, and that his work on debt bondage in India and Pakistan was anticipated by the Marxist Tom Brass. Bales’s work won the Premio Viareggio for services to humanity in 2000. He was awarded the Laura Smith Davenport Human Rights Award in 2005; the Judith Sargeant Murray Award for Human Rights in 2004; and the Human Rights Award of the University of Alberta in 2003. In 2006 the association of British Universities named Bales’ work as one of the top “100 world-changing discoveries of the last fifty years”. In December 2008, Utne Reader named him one of “50 Visionaries Who Are Changing Your World.” In 2009 he was awarded a Prime Mover fellowship, and in 2010 was awarded an honorary doctorate by Loyola University of Chicago for “outstanding service on behalf of human rights and social justice.”

Previously, Bales was a Trustee of Anti-Slavery International and was a consultant to the United Nations Global Program on Trafficking of Human Beings. He has been invited to advise the US, British, Irish, Norwegian, and Nepali governments, as well as the governments of the Economic Community of West African States, on the formulation of policy on slavery and human trafficking. He edited an Anti-Human Trafficking Toolkit for the United Nations, and published, with the Human Rights Center at Berkeley, a report on forced labor in the USA. Bales is working with the chocolate industry to remove child and slave labor from the product chain.

Bales writes on contemporary slavery (see for example his feature article in the April 2002 Scientific American). His book Understanding Global Slavery was published in September 2005. His book Ending Slavery: How We Free Today’s Slaves was published in 2007. In 2008, with Zoe Trodd, he published To Plead Our Own Cause: Personal Stories by Today’s Slaves; and with seven of the Magnum photographers, Documenting Disposable People: Contemporary Global Slavery. In 2009, with Ron Soodalter, he published The Slave Next Door: Slavery and Human Trafficking and Slavery in America Today; and in the same year Modern Slavery with Zoe Trodd and Alex Williamson. He is currently writing a book on the relationship of slavery and environmental destruction; and with Jody Sarich, a book exploring forced marriage worldwide. He gained his Ph.D. at the London School of Economics.

In 1990, Bales teamed with Simon Pell, then head of Arts for Labour in the UK, to form the fundraising and research consultancy Pell & Bales Ltd. Since that time the firm has grown to be the largest company of its type in Britain, and has raised more than $1 billion for medical charities, human rights groups, environmental campaigns, overseas development, and the Labour Party.

Kevin Bales was Visiting Professor of International Studies at the Croft Institute at the University of Mississippi from 2001 to 2005.

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