21A.445J | Spring 2015 | Undergraduate

Slavery and Human Trafficking in the 21st Century

Instructor Insights

Course Overview

This page focuses on the course 21A.445J Slavery and Human Trafficking in the 21st Century as it was taught by Mitali Thakor in Spring 2015.

This course explored the issue of human trafficking for forced labor and sexual slavery, focusing on its representation in recent scholarly accounts and advocacy as well as in other media. Students examined the wide range of factors and agents that enable human trafficking practices, such as technology, cultural practices, social and economic conditions, and the role of governments and international organizations.

Ethnographic and fictional readings along with media analysis helped to develop a contextualized and comparative understanding of the phenomena in both past and present contexts. Students discussed the analytical, moral and methodological questions of researching, writing, and representing trafficking and slavery.

Course Outcomes

Course Goals for Students

  • Critically analyze the relationships between gender, sexuality, race, and class
  • Read, listen to, and discuss literary and visual texts that highlight how slavery and human trafficking illuminate the interconnectedness of multiple systems of inequality and injustice
  • Understand that slavery and human trafficking are live, and not purely academic, issues

Instructor Insights

"My dissertation research is on trafficking, so it’s a topic I know very well, but I wasn’t used to teaching it or explaining it to others in such detail. Teaching the class allowed me to explore many elements of the topic that I don’t study myself. It took a lot of emotional energy to teach the class, but I loved the experience."
— Mitali Thakor

In the following pages, Mitali Thakor describes various aspects of how she taught 21A.445J Slavery and Human Trafficking in the 21 Century.

Curriculum Information



Requirements Satisfied


The students’ grades were based on the following activities:

  • 40% Term paper (outline, bibliography, revised draft)
  • 20% Attendance, preparation, and participation
  • 20% Weekly response memos
  • 10% Small group meetings
  • 10% Small group final presentation

Student Information


18 students

Breakdown by Year

Mostly juniors and seniors

Breakdown by Major

Variety of majors

Typical Student Background

Many students had taken courses in women’s and gender studies or anthropology prior to enrolling in the class. Several Wellesley students participated and many of them were majoring in women’s and gender studies.

How Student Time Was Spent

During an average week, students were expected to spend 12 hours on the course, roughly divided as follows:


  • Met twice a week for 1.5 hours per session; 24 sessions total; mandatory attendance.
  • All students were expected to complete the readings, and participate in class discussions and activities. Activities included “fishbowl” exercises and a debate on the legalization of sex work in the US.

Out of Class

  • Readings and screenings in preparation for class sessions
  • 12 weekly response memos
  • Small group meetings
  • Small group final presentations
  • Term paper

Course Info

As Taught In
Spring 2015
Learning Resource Types
Presentation Assignments
Written Assignments with Examples
Instructor Insights