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Staff Profile

Professor Joel Quirk

QualificationsBA, BAHons, PhD, GDipIR
Phone 0117179999
Organisational Unit Political Studies

Professor Joel Quirk is the Head of the Department of Political Studies. He is the author or editor of seven books, including The Anti-Slavery Project (2011), Mobility Makes States (2015), and Contemporary Slavery (2017). Joel is a member of the International Scientific Committee of the UNESCO Slave Route Project, where he serves as Rapporteur, and is also an editor for openDemocracy’s ‘Beyond Trafficking and Slavery.’ Before moving to South Africa, he was the Deputy Director of the Wilberforce Institute for the study of Slavery and Emancipation, University of Hull, United Kingdom. Joel has previously held visiting researcher positions at Yale University and the University of Milano-Bicocca.

Research Interests

Slavery and Abolition, Human Rights and Duties Beyond Borders, Critical Humanitarianism, the Politics of Arguments, Activism and Social Movements, Transitional Justice and Post-Conflict Reconstruction, Repairing Historical Wrongs, Migration and Diaspora, Sexual Violence and Gender, International Human Rights Law and International Criminal Justice, Heritage, Commemoration, Museums and Monuments, the History of Ideas, International Relations Theory, Global History and Cross-Cultural Exchange, Research Methods, Sub-Saharan African Politics and History, Post-Colonial Theories, Global Governance, the Politics of Numbers, the Prison Industrial Complex, Global Supply Chains and Decent Work, Teaching, Curriculum and Pedagogy, and the Politics of Visual Representation.

Current research projects

Beyond Trafficking and Slavery: (Funded by the Ford Foundation and the ESRC).

Global Benchmarking:  

Conjugal Slavery in War:  (Funded by the Canadian SSHRC).

Why Some Causes Succeed and Others Fail (book project).

Recent projects with openDemocracy

Online Policy Debate: Do the hidden costs outweigh the practical benefits of human trafficking awareness campaigns? (co-edited with Elena Shih and co-sponsored by Brown University’s Centre for the Study of Slavery & Justice and Yale University’s Gilder Lehrman Centre).  

Online Policy Debate: Can corporations be trusted to tackle modern slavery” (co-edited with Genevieve LeBaron and co-sponsored by Yale University’s Gilder Lehrman Centre).  



Joel Quirk, The Anti-Slavery Project: From the Slave Trade to Human Trafficking, (Philadelphia: Pennsylvania University Press, 2011). Paperback 2014.

Joel Quirk, Unfinished Business: A Comparative Survey of Historical and Contemporary Slavery, (Paris: UNESCO Publishing, 2009).

Edited Books

Annie Bunting and Joel Quirk, Contemporary Slavery: Popular Rhetoric and Political Practice (Vancouver, University of British Columbia Press, 2017).

Joel Quirk and Darshan VigneswaranMobility Makes States: Migration and Power in Africa, (Philadelphia: Pennsylvania University Press, in press).

Joel Quirk, Shogo Suzuki and Yongjin Zhang, Before the Rise of the West: International Orders in the Early Modern World, (London: Routledge, 2014).

Joel Quirk and Darshan Vigneswaran, Slavery, Migration and Contemporary Bondage in Africa, (Trenton: Africa World Press, 2013).

Douglas Hamilton, Kate Hodgson and Joel Quirk, Slavery, Memory and Identity: National Representations and Global Legacies, (London: Pickering & Chatto, 2012).

Edited Special Issue/Symposium

André Broome and Joel Quirk,  ‘The Politics of Numbers: The Normative Agendas of Global Benchmarking’, Review of International Studies on 41:5, 2015 pp. 813-1010.

Joel Quirk and Darshan Vigneswaran, ‘Representing ‘Hidden’ Populations: A Symposium on Sampling Techniques in Johannesburg’, Journal of Refugee Studies, 26:1, 2013, pp. 110-162 

Gerry Johnstone and Joel Quirk, ‘Repairing Historical Wrongs’, Social & Legal Studies, 21:2, 2012, pp. 155-256.


Joel Quirk and Julia O’Connell Davidson (eds.), Popular and Political Representations, BTS Short Course Volume One, (London: openDemocracy, 2016). ISBN: 978-0-9970507-0-7

Joel Quirk and Genevieve LeBaron (eds.), On History, BTS Short Course Volume Four, (London: openDemocracy, 2016). ISBN 978-0-9970507-3-8).  

Joel Quirk and Julia O’Connell Davidson (eds.), Race, Ethnicity and Belonging, BTS Short Course Volume Six, (London: openDemocracy, 2016), ISBN 978-0-9970507-5-2).

Selected Articles

André Broome and Joel Quirk, ‘Governing the world at a distance: the practice of global benchmarking’, Review of International Studies, 41:5, 2015, pp 819-841. Awarded the British International Studies Association prize for best article in the Review in 2015.

Joel Quirk and Darshan Vigneswaran, ‘Past Masters and Modern Inventions: Intellectual History as Critical Theory’, International Relations, 24:2, 2010, pp. 107-131.

Joel Quirk, ‘Trafficked into Slavery’, Journal of Human Rights, 6:2, 2007, pp. 181-207.

Joel Quirk, ‘The Anti-Slavery Project: Linking the Historical and Contemporary’, Human Rights Quarterly, 28:3, 2006, pp. 565-598.

Joel Quirk and Darshan Vigneswaran, ‘The Construction of an Edifice: the story of a First Great Debate’, Review of International Studies, 31:1, 2005, pp. 89-107.

Selected Book Chapters

Joel Quirk, ‘Defining Slavery in All its Forms: Historical Inquiry as Contemporary Instruction’, in Jean Allain (ed.), The Legal Understanding of Slavery:  From the Historical to the Contemporary, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012), pp. 253-277.

Joel Quirk, ‘Uncomfortable Silences: Contemporary Slavery and the ‘Lessons’ of History’, Alison Brysk and Austin Choi-Fitzpatrick (eds.), From Human Trafficking to Human Rights: Reframing Contemporary Slavery, (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2012), pp. 25-43.

Joel Quirk, ‘Modern Slavery’, The Routledge History of Slavery, Trevor Bernard and Gad Heuman (eds.), (London: Routledge, 2010), pp. 331-346.

Joel Quirk, ‘Historical Methods’, Oxford Handbook of International Relations, Duncan Snidal and Christian Reus-Smit (eds.), (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008), pp. 518-536

Educational Projects

Contemporary Slavery Teachers Resource (International Slavery Museum Liverpool, Wilberforce Institute, and UNESCO Slave Route, 2012),