Centenary research theme
SOAS was the first institution in the Britain to create a Department of Linguistics, and is unique in the in the breadth and depth of its language teaching. Its research is concerned with ‘language’ in all its forms, from text to image, the spoken word, music and performance.
Understanding the languages of a place or region is critical to a true understanding of politics, society, religion, or culture; and whether through globalisation or local processes, often the diversity of languages and dialects spoken in any one place is tremendous.
At the same time, the search for a ‘common language’ is often seen as central to promoting mutual understanding between regions and cultures, whether that common language is English, or perhaps music, image, or a particular understanding of legal or political structure.
Over its centenary year, and the coming century, SOAS will deepen its understanding of the different ways that global voices can be heard, interpreted and transmitted. Emerging research on literature and film at SOAS seeks to understand how ideas are transmitted and adapted across cultures. Research on linguistic variation, poetry and music, and law and politics is concerned with fundamental questions of similarity and difference.
For example, can research on local multilingual practice in West Africa help us to address the challenges of multiculturalism and superdiversity in the West? Do similarities in musical and linguistic structure in oral cultures rooted in performance – the norm across many parts of Asia and Africa – hold clues to the fundamental connections between music and language as means of communication? And to what extent can we re-interpret and re-invent understandings of politics and the law globally, if we listen to the different legal and political languages that have emerged in different cultural and historical contexts?