We offer the first corpus linguistics approach to slave narratives and slavery discourse, working with data from NGOs, social media, data generated through the Rights Lab itself, and industry data from recent disclosure legislation. In our first strand, Record and Represent, we combine research on corpus linguistics and privacy preserving search to understand how language data generated by vulnerable groups in society can be collected and processed in a manner that preserves the privacy of the individuals who create it. In our second strand, Fractured Identities, we use innovative, cutting-edge approaches from sociolinguistics to establish shifting patterns of identity as individuals tell narratives of their time enslaved. This analysis will enable policy makers and other key stakeholders to gain direct access to the experiences of those who have been enslaved in their own voices. We are further using corpus linguistics to examine large quantities of media language, in order to study the representation of slaves by different agencies and link this back to the experiences expressed by slaves themselves.
Political utopianism looks at the engagement with contemporary socio-political debates in order to come up with solutions and changes in the pursuit of a new way of life. The British Empire, with its ideological focus of the “good life” and the “civilising project”, can arguably be called a conscious attempt at utopia. In this thesis, I examine the ways in which the British Raj influenced language, culture, wealth, technology, gender and sexuality, and religion using critical utopian theory, queer theory, and postcolonialism in attempt to rethink the mainstream narratives of Empire and its legacies.