Consuming modern slavery: re-examining the role of consumption in enabling and escaping extreme labour exploitation

   School of Management

This project is no longer listed on and may not be available.

Click here to search for PhD studentship opportunities
  Prof Andrew Crane, Prof Pierre McDonagh  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

The University of Bath is inviting applications for the following PhD project based in the School of Management under the supervision of Professor Andrew Crane ( and Professor Pierre McDonagh (


Modern slavery has been identified as one of the most significant, yet intractable, human rights abuses of our time. Estimates suggest that tens of millions of people are currently in some form of modern slavery, defined by the ILO as “situations of exploitation that a person cannot refuse or leave because of threats, violence, coercion, deception, and/or abuse of power”.

Our understanding of the role of consumption in enabling or preventing such practices has tended to focus on whether and how rich consumers in the global North can shift their purchasing behaviour to lower-risk or slave-free goods. Important as such research is, it ignores the Catch 22 situation that modern slavery is often initiated and perpetuated by the consumption behaviour of victims themselves. This may be payments to people smugglers, the purchasing of illegal documents to secure work, or constant payments to perpetrators for food, accommodation, transport and other necessities that exacerbate debt bondage and enable exploiters to continue to extort value from vulnerable workers. More positively, the consumption practices of victims can also provide brief moments of human agency, freedom or pleasure when confined to situations of exploitation, for example through the ability to consume valued goods such as clothes, phone calls, or cigarettes.

This research project seeks, for the first time, to analyze the consumption practices of modern slavery victims and explore their role in enabling and escaping extreme exploitation. Adopting a qualitative, interpretive methodology, the research will draw on a mixture of depth interviews, survivor narratives, and victim testimonies to understand consumption from the perspective of the exploited. This insider view is lacking in existing research. The goal is to develop new theory around the role of consumption in modern slavery. Practical implications will include the development of recommendations for more effective policy, support and guidance for potential victims, as well as new ways of potentially disrupting modern slavery practices within the current system.


Applicants for a studentship must have obtained, or be about to obtain, a First or Upper Second Class UK Honours degree, or the equivalent qualifications gained outside the UK, in a relevant discipline.

Formal applications should be made via the University of Bath’s online application form:

Please ensure that you quote the supervisor’s name and project title in the ‘Your research interests’ section.

More information about applying for a PhD at Bath may be found here:

Anticipated start date: 28 September 2020.

Funding Notes

Candidates applying for this project will be considered for a University studentship, which will cover UK/EU tuition fees, a training support grant of £1,000 per annum and a tax-free maintenance allowance at the UKRI Doctoral Stipend rate (£15,009 in 2019-20) for a period of up to 4 years. Limited funding opportunities for outstanding Overseas candidates may be available. Some School of Management studentships require recipients to contribute annually up to a maximum of 133 hours of seminar-based teaching and assessment in years 2, 3 and 4 of study (students will not be expected to give lectures).

How good is research at University of Bath in Business and Management Studies?

Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

Click here to see the results for all UK universities
PhD saved successfully
View saved PhDs