Meet Dr Zahra Shirgholami

Dr Zahra Shirgholami

Lecturer in Modern Slavery

Wilberforce Institute and the Law School

University of Hull

We are delighted to welcome Dr Zahra Shirgholami, our second new member of staff to the Wilberforce Institute, to extend and strengthen our modern slavery research. She will also be teaching in the Law School. Here Zahra explains what drew her to modern slavery research and what she will contribute to the Institute.

What drew you to modern slavery research?

To make a long story short, I have a background in engineering. But I was always passionate about social issues as a person who felt the bitterness of injustice and oppression in her home country of Iran. So, in 2018, I shifted my focus from engineering to social science.

Tell us about your professional background

I have researched modern slavery and governance issues in various contexts over the last four years. During my PhD research, I tried to broaden an understanding of the dynamics of apparel value chains facilitating the persistence of modern slavery and corporate practices. I have also been examining the nature of labour exploitation and modern slavery along with related policy and law enforcement mechanisms in the UK. I also worked with Pact, an international non-profit organisation, to map and analyse the relevant national and international modern slavery legislation in the mineral supply chain of the Democratic Republic of Congo and United Kingdom (DRC-UK).

How does your background inform your current work?

These experiences taught me that much remains to be done to address the fundamental institutional misalignments and governance gaps and, ultimately, to tackle modern slavery. Yet, considering the UK, the political discourse supports a hyper-flexible labour market along with a hostile environment for migration, making it challenging for individuals to access their fundamental rights. Nonetheless, my research could pave the way for addressing modern slavery by unravelling the unknowns about it and providing robust evidence on how it could be best prevented. I also have a teaching position in the Law School which aligns well with my research interests.

What do you think are some of the misconceptions about modern slavery?

As Emily Kenway well said in her book, The Truth About Modern Slavery, we sometimes should ‘unknow’ what we know about modern slavery, to understand it. For example, it is not a migration issue and it is not an exception.

What is something people do not know about you?

I think they know all they should know!