As we work to achieve the goal of ending slavery, we need to listen to the antislavery ideas and solutions of enslaved people themselves: what do they suggest would enable their communities to become not just slavery-free but slavery-proof? We are creating, analysing and utilizing the first major development resource of contemporary slave narratives. We argue that contemporary slave narratives are a central facet of the antislavery agenda and we place survivors' ideas at the heart of the antislavery movement. This includes a mapping of survivor accounts onto the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in order to answer the question: which SDG achievements are more likely to prevent or end enslavement, from the point of view of slaves themselves? Underpinning all our work to uncover the Survivors’ Solution for ending slavery is our support for a Survivor Alliance: a survivor-led, national organizing body for survivor voices that builds survivor-leadership capacity.
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.
Zoe Trodd is a Professor in the Department of American and Canadian Studies at the University of Nottingham, founding co-director of the Centre for Research in Race and Rights, and co-director of the university's research priority area in Rights and Justice. Her focus is the history, literature and visual culture of protest movements, especially antislavery.