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Laura Murphy

Associate Professor

Laura Murphy
Laura Murphy

Laura T. Murphy is Associate Professor of English and the Director of the Modern Slavery Research Project at Loyola University New Orleans, where she and a team of researchers work to provide data-informed, community-based, survivor-centered research that improves community response to modern slavery in the U.S. and internationally.  She is the John G. Medlen, Jr. Fellow at the National Humanities Center in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina for the academic year 2017-2018. Her work has been funded by the National Humanities Center, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Department of Justice, Harrah’s Foundation, Covenant House International, the Greater New Orleans Human Trafficking Task Force, and the City of New Orleans.

Her book, Survivors of Slavery: Modern-Day Slave Narratives (Columbia University Press, 2014), explores human trafficking through the first-person testimony of nearly forty people who have been enslaved in the last twenty years. Her first book, Metaphor and the Slave Trade in West African Literature (Ohio University Press 2012, winner of the African Literature Association First Book Prize), examines the coded ways West African writers have memorialized the trauma of the trans-Atlantic slave trade. She is currently completing a new book titled The New Slave Narrative (forthcoming Columbia UP 2019), which investigates the way survivors of forced labor have mobilized the discourse of slavery in the 21st century to reinvigorate the genre of the slave narrative. The book also analyzes political, religious, and corporate cooptation of the voices of survivors in today’s anti-slavery movement. Her articles have also appeared in Slavery and Abolition, The Journal of Human Trafficking, African Cultural Studies, Genre, Cambridge Journal of Postcolonial Literary Inquiry, and Research in African Literatures.

Dr. Murphy is the series editor, with Ainehi Edoro, of Ohio University Press’s Modern African Writing Series, which publishes innovative and timely fiction written by African writers from across the continent and the diaspora. She is the editor, with Mukoma wa Ngugi, of the most recent issue of New Orleans Review, titled “The African Literary Hustle.” That issue includes over 40 up-and-coming and established African authors of poetry, fiction, and non-fiction, whose work push the boundaries of genre, politics, and literature.

Through her work with the Modern Slavery Research Project, she has interviewed 600 homeless youth in the United States and Canada and has authored two major studies that provide a 4-pronged blueprint for community-based actions that will reduce the risk of trafficking in this population. She has conducted research on modern slavery and consulted for anti-trafficking organizations across the U.S. and Canada, as well as in Nigeria, Ghana, and India.  Dr. Murphy is a Subject Matter Expert on human trafficking for the United States Family Youth Services Bureau within the Department of Health and Human Services as well as for the Office of Victims of Crime within the Department of Justice.  She is a sought-after trainer and public speaker who has educated and motivated thousands of community activists, students, law enforcement officers, service providers, and medical professionals to respond compassionately and effectively to the needs of survivors of trafficking. 

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Ph.D., Harvard University; M.A., Harvard University, M.A., Syracuse University; B.A., Louisiana State University

Classes Taught

  • Critical Reading and Writing
  • Writing about Literature: Literary Globetrotters
  • 21st Century Slavery and Abolition
  • Images of Africa
  • Magical Realities, Global Fictions
  • Postcolonial Literatures
  • The African Novel and the Burden of Memory
  • Literature and Injustice


Areas of Expertise

Historical and modern slavery, African literature, postcolonial and global studies