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The Identity Lever

In a host of countries, race and religion remain cultural weapons for enslavement. Perceived differences form a dividing line between slave and free. Beyond the popular idea that contemporary slavery is colour-blind—unlike trans-Atlantic chattel slavery—is the reality that economic and social marginalisation along lines of race, ethnicity or religion makes people vulnerable to slave traders. Yet to date, no one has explored this slavery lever in any depth.We are therefore completing an extensive examination of the relationship between contemporary slavery and social identities. We uncover how intersecting identities are appropriated to construct, legitimise, and perpetuate enslavement, but also how the same identities are mobilised to contest and resist. We aim to understand when marginalisation along identity lines is creating social exclusions and economic vulnerabilities; when it is shaping ritual slavery as part of deeply embedded cultural practise; and when it is simply a convenient weapon for slaveholders who are adept at applying ideologies. With this understanding, we can then understand how religious practice and racial identity can better play a role in the liberation and rehabilitation of enslaved persons.