Laura Murphy

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Assistant Professor of English and Director of African and African American Studies, Loyola University New Orleans

Department of English
6363 St. Charles Ave. Box 50
New Orleans, Louisiana 70118
(504) 865-2479

Expertise & Civic Involvements

Murphy’s research is on slavery and human trafficking, past and present. She is a scholar-activist whose work investigates how slavery is represented in contemporary American cultural discourse and how human trafficking has been mobilized as a political tool in the last twenty years. She is a survivor advocate and community organizer, as founder of the Survivors of Slavery network ( and the New Orleans Human Trafficking Working Group ( She is also the National Chapter Coordinator for Free the Slaves.

SSN Briefs

Key Publications

  • "Trafficking and Exploitative Labor among Homeless Youth in New Orleans," (with Christian L. Bolden and Rae Taylor), Modern Slavery Research Project, Loyola University New Orleans, March 2015.
    Studies the prevalence of trafficking among homeless and marginally-housed youth in New Orleans, Louisiana.
  • "‘White Slavery!’: Unionized Labor, Organized Crime, and Commodified Women in The Wire" Genre (forthcoming).
    Links the discourse surrounding human trafficking that we find in media such as the HBO television show The Wire to the “white slave trade” scare of the early 20th century to suggest that Bush-era immigration fears and conservative sexual mores influence the discussion of human slavery today, as they have for over a century.
  • Survivors of Slavery: Twentieth and Twenty-First Century Slave Narratives (Columbia University Press, 2014).
    Provides over forty first-person accounts of modern day slavery from the voices of slaves and traffickers. Utilizes extensive interdisciplinary introductions to explore the political and economic contexts that facilitate human trafficking, as well as the themes, tropes, and silences that emerge in narrating slavery today.
  • Metaphor and the Slave Trade in West African Literature (Ohio University Press, 2012).
    Investigates the metaphorical representations of the trans-Atlantic slave trade that pervade Anglophone West Africa literary and cultural discourse since 1950 to identify the modes of memory particular to the African communities affected by the traumatic trade in human lives.

Media Contributions

Talks and Briefings

  • "The Illegibility of Modern Slavery and the Sentimental Reading Lesson," American Comparative Literature Association Conference, Toronto, ON, April 2013.
  • "On Becoming a Scholar-Activist," Keynote Lecture, African Literature Association, Charleston, SC, March 2013.
  • "The Silence Slavery Keeps: How Survivors of Slavery Remember (and Forget)," College of the Holy Cross, Worcester, MA, November 2012.
  • "Freedom and the Modern Day Slave Narrative," Interdisciplinary Conference on Human Trafficking, Lincoln, NE, October 2012.
  • "Crusade Politics and the Appropriation of Human Rights Discourse," African Literature Association, Dallas, TX, April 2012.
  • "Captive Commodities: The Fiction and Reality of Modern Day Slavery in West Africa," African Studies Association, Washington, DC, November 2011.