Legislative theater and modern slavery: exploring a hyperlocal approach to combatting human trafficking

Sofia Nakou, Stephen Collins, Nii Kwartelai Quartey

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Since 2018, Act for Change (AfC), a Ghanaian applied theater company, has been using Boalian theater techniques to address issues of modern slavery and human trafficking in their community. Here, using the framework of Boal’s Legislative Theater, we discuss the ways in which AfC has developed Boal’s work, innovating it within a specific context to find new and powerful ways of using performance to engage with intractable issues of modern slavery and human trafficking. Focussing on the specific dynamics of a single community, this article explores how employing a ‘hyperlocal’ approach in James Town, Accra, enables a focus on the local stories that highlight how modern slavery and human trafficking operate. More specifically, while using a Marxist-Freiran framework and by engaging with Augusto Boal’s concepts of Legislative and Forum Theater, this article focuses on how performance methodologies can engage with complex international issues by developing intra-local dialogue and partnerships at the local level. The goal here is not to argue that community action can act as a replacement for statutory instruments or state-led initiatives, but that they are a potentially significant and under-developed complementary tool in the fight against modern slavery, as they place the community and the survivor at the center of change. By taking this approach, we aim to reflect on how theories of legislative theater can aid the development of a hyperlocal methodology and how the project in James Town exemplifies modern legislative theater practice.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)283-305
Number of pages23
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 20 Dec 2023


  • applied theater
  • Ghana
  • community theater
  • modern slavery
  • Augusto Boal
  • Paul Freire


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