Modern Slavery in Literature: Searching for the Subaltern


Funded PhD


3 years (full-time) 5 years (part-time)

Application deadline:

Midnight 31 January 2022

About this project

Modern slavery involves the exploitation of a person in a form of incarceration for the financial or personal benefit of another; the exploitation can take many forms including labour, criminal or sexual exploitation, domestic servitude or organ harvesting. In 2020, criminal exploitation was by far the most common form of modern slavery reported by those identified by the National Referral Mechanism – the UK government’s formal identification and support system – and 74% of those identified were males. However, this picture is not reflected in contemporary British literary representations of modern slavery, where narratives of sexual exploitation of girls and women take the forefront.

This project will challenge, expose and dismantle prevailing ways of thinking about incarceration in British literature, focusing primarily on autobiographical accounts since 2010 but also potentially fictional narratives. The research will explore the complex processes involved in the production of such texts as well as their popularity, particularly in the aftermath of the Modern Slavery Act of 2015.

This PhD project is interdisciplinary, meaning that the successful candidate will be a part of both the Wilberforce Institute for the study of Slavery and Emancipation and the Faculty of Arts, Cultures and Education. It aligns with the goals of the Wilberforce Institute of advancing fundamental knowledge of slavery and emancipation by working to uncover why certain representations of modern slavery are more present in popular literature than others. Based at the Wilberforce Institute, the candidate will have a dedicated workspace and be situated amongst a team of passionate scholars and practitioners working on all forms of slavery – historic and contemporary.

The successful candidate will join a vibrant, interdisciplinary research environment at the University of Hull's Cultures of Incarceration Centre (CIC) which is proud of its growing postgraduate community.

For informal enquiries, please contact Dr Alicia Kidd.

About the 'Transatlantic Cultures of Incarceration’  research cluster 

Based in the Faculty of Arts, Cultures and Education, the Cultures of Incarceration Centre explores creative responses to the experience of incarceration across cultures and continents, with ‘incarceration’ applied to a host of historical and contemporary contexts, including prisons, pandemics, and modern slavery. Our work informs wider discussions of race, class, gender, humanity, and citizenship in countries across the world, and pioneers new interdisciplinary ways of working with colleagues from across subject areas and in collaboration with external partners and stakeholders.

Our students will play an active role in the Centre, whether by supporting the Centre’s research seminar programme, producing podcasts connected to student research projects, or mentoring MA Incarceration Studies students. Cultures of Incarceration Centre students receive expert supervision from a dedicated team of supervisors, and also benefit from access to pastoral and career mentoring opportunities. Students enjoy dedicated workspace within our on-campus resource room and at the Wilberforce Institute for the study of Slavery and Emancipation, based in Hull’s historical city centre.

Click here to watch a recording of our recent webinar about this funded postgraduate research opportunity.  You'll hear from programme leaders, supervisors, and students and listen to queries from other applicants in the Q&A.


Other PhDs in this cluster

Modern Slavery in Film: Producing and Representing Exploitation

Photographing the Incarcerated Flood Victim

Creative Practice & Incarceration: Writing Maternity Diaries

‘Shut up’: Pandemic Lockdowns and Health Inequalities, 1600 to present

Watch: find out more about postgraduate study at the University of Hull

Watch the video


The successful applicant will receive a fee waiver and a maintenance grant/stipend for three years (full time) or five years (part-time), which covers the research period of the PhD. The fee waiver for 21/22 is £4,500 (Home fee) and the maintenance grant is £15,609. This rises each year in line with the UKRI’s recommended stipend allowance.

Submission of thesis

Submission of your final thesis is expected within three years and three months from the start of your PhD scholarship for full time and within five years and six months if studying part-time.

If you need to move into a fourth year (full time) or sixth year (part-time) to complete your thesis, please note that you will not receive a tuition fee waiver or maintenance grant during this period.

Entry requirements

A 2:1 undergraduate degree (in Criminology, English or a cognate humanities or social sciences discipline). A Masters in any social sciences or humanities discipline or relevant experience would also be an advantage. A satisfactory DBS check is a condition of this project.

The candidate should be prepared to undertake research nationally, or potentially internationally, if required.

For more details on our entry requirements please visit the postgraduate admissions webpage.

This scholarship is available for full-time and part-time study.

Research training

As a PhD student here at the University of Hull you will undertake the Postgraduate Training Scheme alongside your main degree, to help you develop the research skills and knowledge you’ll need in your future career. You will gain a Postgraduate Certificate or Diploma in Research Training in addition to your PhD.

International applicants

This opportunity comes with a home fee waiver only.

How to apply

You will need to supply a personal statement when applying for this scholarship position. Find out more about writing a personal statement. Please also ensure you include the following information:

  1. What motivates you to pursue PhD study
  2. Why you are interested in this project
  3. How your skill set matches the requirements for your choice of project and/or any additional training you will need
  4. The wider significance of research in this area and potential future research directions for the project.

Apply now

Apply for this scholarship: Full time | Part-time 

Closing date: Midnight on Monday 31 January 2022.