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Character, Otherness, and the Non-Human in the Star Wars Novel Corpus

On Monday, October 31, Mark Algee-Hewitt, Quinn Dombrowski, Nichole Nomura and Matt Warner presented on “Character, Otherness, and the Non-Human in the Star Wars Novel Corpus.”

The Star Wars franchise offers a powerful set of representations of otherness within its various cultural artifacts and media forms. While previous work on representation of racialized, gendered and othered bodies in the Star Wars universe has rested on the visible signals of identity and otherness that visual media present to viewers (in the films, televisions series, and graphic novels), relatively little work has been done on the textual representation of these markers of difference in the novels. Within a purely textual medium, how is otherness communicated and how does it map onto our own categories of race, ethnicity and gender identity? When is it necessary to identify a character as a non-human? As a humanoid? How do these non-human identities intersect with gender? And to what extent does human-ness play the role of the default representational category, echoing the ways in which whiteness is an unmarked category within racialized depictions of characters in non-science fiction literature?

In this presentation, we will update our findings from 2021. Building on the Lab’s suggestions, we have deepened our NLP research in ways that allow us to focus on characters rather than species descriptors. We have also expanded our corpus to include those books missing from our previous work. As we begin the process of writing up this project, we very much welcome comments and suggestions from Lab members on both the new work that we will present and the research that we will summarize.