Dr. Farzana Gounder to convene an international conference on labour practices and human rights

Dr Farzana Gounder is a linguist and Deputy Head of School (Research) at IPU New Zealand Tertiary Institute. Dr Gounder’s overarching research analyses the intersections of discourse, health, human security and migration.  Her research has expanded from the platform of narrativized identity conceptualizations at the personal level to narratives within public spheres on conceptualizations and lived experiences of illness and healing as she seeks to make a difference in individual and collective lives. To that end she has convened the a new conference named: The Old & the New Indenture: Labour Practices and Human Rights.


Labour exploitation is a violation of human rights that can be considered through different lens: it poses a significant development challenge for a country, impacts international co-operation, and is an abuse of vulnerable citizens.

Historically, labour exploitation has occurred throughout the world, as evidenced through African slavery, South Pacific blackbirding, Chinese and Indian Indenture. The global legacy of such large-scale dislocation of people is recognised by UNESCO through its slave and indentured route projects.

The abolition of slavery more than 180 years ago and the abolishment of indenture over a 100 years ago were momentous in the de-commodification of labour and the recognition of social welfare and justice for workers.  Unfortunately, these historical exploitations have resonance with the present. Modern slavery and “indenture” are growing contemporary concerns.


Photo ; Dr. Farzana Gounder speaking in 2019 

To help address the issue and mitigate its detrimental impact on vulnerable populations, concerted efforts are needed to analyse the causal factors underpinning the migration and exploitation of low-skilled workers.  As seen both historically and in the present day, political and economic turmoil and overpopulation are correlated with the displacement and relocation of individuals, which makes them vulnerable to exploitation. Just as importantly, geographical upheavals have a direct impact on people’s vulnerability to labour exploitation. This is a grave issue for South Pacific citizens, who are experiencing growing economic disadvantages and increasing poverty through lack of economic opportunities, disproportionate increase in populations without proportionate growth in economies, governance issues, deterioration in health and of course, the detrimental consequences of rapid climate change and now, the consequences of pandemics.  Given the connections between labour exploitations and the displacement of people due to environmental factors, such as rising sea levels, erosion of homelands, hurricanes, earthquakes and droughts, labour exploitation and migration is a crucial social justice concern for the South Pacific region today.

This trans-disciplinary conference will bring together national and international scholars and social justice activists to provide a concerted emphasis on labour exploitation and migration as a present-day humanitarian crisis.  The conference also seeks to understand past labour exploitations through blackbirding, slavery and indenture as a social justice issue that continues to have consequences for the present.

The conference provides a platform to examine social justice challenges in the form of the social and material structures of labour systems and how these structures create complex, inter-related and overlapping relationships that are detrimental to the wellbeing of the labourers.  Exploitations of human rights may take the form of deceitful recruitment practices, poor working and living conditions, forced labour, debt bondage, and child labour.  Through such discussions, the conference provides avenues for analysing the interplay of power, micro and macro-level politics and governance in determining and improving individuals’ resource access and health outcomes.


The conference aims to create a dialogue between scholars from different disciplines:

  • To explore the connections between historical displacement of people through labour migration, and its significance for the present day
  • To provide an interdisciplinary forum to discuss the influences behind labour exploitation
  • To provide an interdisciplinary forum to find solutions to labour exploitation and migration as a South Pacific humanitarian crisis
  • To strengthen global efforts to end labour exploitation in the present day


The conference will be held from the 9-11 October 2021

For further information and to register interest, please see the original article here.

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