Date of Award

Summer 2019

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Religious Studies

First Advisor

Long, Stephen D.

Second Advisor

Ward, Katharine

Third Advisor

Jennings, Willie


Is there life beyond slavery? In the past 20 years, there has been a significant increase in research related to human trafficking. However, very little of it has examined the ethical issues that survivors face as they attempt to reintegrate back into society, or that aftercare workers face as they attempt to assist survivors in the reintegration process. And there has been almost nothing written on how the tools of moral and political theology might offer insight into these issues. This dissertation attempts to begin to address this gap in the literature.In order to assess what the nature of these ethical issues are, a series of interviews were conducted with survivors of human trafficking (both bonded labor and sex trafficking) and professionals providing assistance to survivors in Chennai and Mumbai. From these interviews, six topics arose that were germane to analysis using the tools of moral and political theology: (1) the nature of slavery itself, (2) captive mentality and the desire to return to enslavement, (3) the ethics of institutionalizing survivors, (4) housing, singleness, and family, (5) labor and caste, and (6) justice for perpetrators who were at one point trafficked themselves. Each of these six issues receives its own chapter-length treatment, and each makes a series of recommendations for NGOs (and especially Christian NGOs) working with trafficking survivors.Chapter 1 utilizes a New Testament theology of the Powers to analyze slavery’s continued pull on survivors, even after emancipation. Chapter 2 concludes that the institution of slavery contains implicit conceptions of the nature of love, justice, and God, and that programs for survivors must address these claims. Chapter 3 looks at the theology behind the methods of monastic and prison discipline used in institutional aftercare for sex trafficking survivors. Chapter 4 examines the theologies of singleness and family that are operative in NGOs and housing associations in Mumbai. Chapter 5 offers a theology of civil disobedience as a way to begin to address labor problems based in caste discrimination. And chapter 6 suggests a restorative justice rubric for dealing with offenders who are themselves survivors of human trafficking.

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