Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Undergraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2023-2024 (archived)


Department: Geography


Type Open Level 3 Credits 10 Availability Not available in 2023/24 Module Cap Location Durham


  • Any Level 2 GEOG Module


  • None

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None


  • This specialised module offers final-year geographers the chance to explore contemporary labour relations characterized by varying forms and degrees of unfreedom on the one hand, and interventions around trafficking, contemporary ‘slavery’ and forced labour on the other. It will draw on literature from diverse disciplines such as sociology, political economy, development studies, and law, while highlighting geographers’ contributions to understanding unfreedom in labour relations. Students with a background in either economic geographies or geographies of development will be able to deepen their understanding of these fields through a focus on unfreedom in labour relations.
  • The module will:
  • Consider competing conceptualisations of work, labour and freedom
  • Compare cases of unfreedom in labour relations
  • Examine terms such as trafficking, forced labour, unfree labour and modern slavery as they are used in the legal and regulatory sphere, in academic discourse and in advocacy work
  • Survey policy approaches and interventions targeting ‘slavery,’ ‘trafficking’ and forced or unfree labour


  • The course will examine phenomena variously labelled as unfree labour, ‘new / modern slavery’, debt bondage, trafficking and forced labour. It will consider why there has been a dramatic increase in awareness of and interest in such phenomena. It will reflect on how competing representations and policy frames are applied, assess the ways in which descriptions, explanations and policy prescriptions can be understood by uncovering their disciplinary, theoretical and ideological underpinnings. It will explore the possibilities for geographical approaches to analyzing unfreedom in labour relations.
  • Themes – all with reference to unfreedom in labour relations:
  • Representations and discourse
  • Gender and sex work
  • Race, ethnicity and caste
  • Migration
  • HistoriographyHistorical comparisons
  • Supply chain capitalism
  • Advocacy, policy, regulation and corporate social responsibility

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • On successful completion of this specialized module, in addition to the module learning outcomes, students are expected to be able to:
  • Reconcile competing interpretations of unfreedom in labour relations
  • Appreciate the diversity of unfreedom and its varying contexts by drawing on case studies
  • Evaluate the roles of discourse and representation in providing distinct policy frames
  • Embed local and national patterns of change within the context of global economic change
Subject-specific Skills:
  • On successful completion of this specialized module, in addition to the module learning outcomes, students are expected to be able to:
  • Evaluate and apply key concepts in geography by focusing on their application within a specialised area of research
  • Critically appraise the roles of policy, advocacy, regulation and corporate social responsibility in addressing ‘trafficking,’ forced labour and related categories.
  • Identify ways in which a geographical approach to the topic may yield fresh insights
Key Skills:
  • On successful completion of this specialized module, in addition to the module learning outcomes, students are expected to be able to:
  • Demonstrate the ability to synthesise and integrate knowledge and apply it to contemporary issues
  • Demonstrate critical reflection and understanding of competing arguments and positions

Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

  • Teaching will focus on the presentation of different perspectives around unfreedom in labour relations which are covered in the readings. We will consider different types of work/labour as well as ways in which employment relations are structured (e.g., through migration regimes and supply chain dynamics). Alongside this, we will consider the contested definitions of trafficking, forced labour and contemporary ‘slavery’ (along with their quantification) and policy responses to them.
  • Lectures will complement module readings.
  • There will be a session to view a film which touches on a number of module themes.
  • Workshops will consist of small group work centred around readings and/or additional materials (e.g., films, documentaries, reports, etc.)
  • There will be a dedicated Question and Answer (Q&A) session.
  • There will be a group formative assignment, with two (student-led) sessions timetabled for small group work. Formative assignments will be made available for other students to view online. Peer assessment will take place through a dedicated feedback session.
  • The summative assessment (essay on selected aspect of the course content) will help develop students’ ability to analyse different interpretations of unfreedom in labour relations, synthesise and integrate knowledge, develop an argument with reference to existing scholarly debates, and consider how a topic studied across disciplines may benefit from the application of geographical approaches.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lectures 10 1 hour 10
Workshops 3 1 hour 3
Film Showing 1 2 hours 2
Q&A session 1 1 hour 1
Small groupwork sessions 2 1 hour 2
Peer feedback session 1 2 hours 2
Preparation and Reading 80
Total 100

Summative Assessment

Component: Individual summative essay Component Weighting: 100%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Individual summative essay Max 5 pages A4 100%

Formative Assessment:

Verbal feedback will be provided on small group work carried out in workshop sessions. Group assignment: 5-10 minute narrated PowerPoint slideshow (or equivalent). This will be submitted online; groups will be paired up to provide peer feedback on each other’s assignments during a dedicated peer feedback session.

Attendance at all activities marked with this symbol will be monitored. Students who fail to attend these activities, or to complete the summative or formative assessment specified above, will be subject to the procedures defined in the University's General Regulation V, and may be required to leave the University