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The Persistence of Forced Labor in the Southwest, 1865-2000

The Southwestern Historical Quarterly is seeking expressions of interest to submit articles to a special issue on coerced labor, forced labor, and slaveries in the Southwest in the period between 1865 and 2000. The Southwest is defined as the border states of the United States west of the Mississippi. Sitting at the crossroads of empires, nation states, and migration streams, the American Southwest has long been a site of labor exploitation, and it continues to be a home to modern slavery. Since the 2000 passage of the Trafficking victims Protection Act and the formation and adoption of the United Nations’ Palermo Protocol, human trafficking and modern slavery has captured the attention of human rights activists, academics, jurists, labor organizers, and many others. Reports that the number of people caught in conditions of modern slavery continue to rise, as do the types of interventions to fight modern slavery. At the same time scholars of contemporary trafficking note that trafficking correlates to immigration restriction. Consequently, the Borderlands of the Southwest provide a fertile ground for interrogating the history of modern slavery. This special issue seeks to take the global phenomenon of modern slavery and trafficking, and ground it in the Southwest, considering the ways that labor migration, immigration restriction, border violence, and economic inequality combine to produce the soil that can give rise to modern slavery. 

We are especially interested in work that:

  • Engages critically with the historical production of categories such as “peonage,” “forced labor,” “slavery,” and migratory “illegality” as they have pertained to the Southwest.
  • Examines ways border control regimes produced or exacerbated new vulnerabilities.
  • Explores the historical lived experience of forced labor in public and private institutions (such as reformatories, detention centers, prisons) in the Southwest.
  • Places trafficking and forced labor within a wider discourse of indenture, slavery and un-freedom; as well as imperialism, mobility, and globalization, while showcasing the ways these dynamics played out in the Southwest.
  • Explores how vulnerability, co-ethnic exploitation and solidarity, or disability, age and/or sexuality can serve as catalysing factors in producing forced labor.

All submissions must be historical in focus.

Prospective contributors to this special issue are asked to send an extended abstract of 1,000 words to the issue’s guest editors, John Mckiernan-Gonzalez ( and Jessica Pliley ( by 15 February 2020. Abstracts should describe the prospective article and how it explicitly engages with the theme of the special issue. Authors should also include a discussion of the sources—archival or published—they will be using in the article.

Selected contributors will be informed within two weeks and asked to submit a complete manuscript by 15 March 2020, which will go through the Southwestern Historical Quarterly’s standard process of peer and editorial review. If the manuscript is accepted for publication at the end of this process, it will be published in the special issue.