My part of our research project examines the representation of transnational child trafficking in crime fiction from Britain, Ireland and Denmark. The significance of investigating the nuances of these representations, and explore their capacity for contributing to a better public understanding and awareness of child trafficking, is becoming increasingly evident. Although recent work has recognised the particular vulnerability of women and children, the specific area of child trafficking and its representation has thus far received relatively little attention from critics and scholars, or the media.
My research investigates the thematic and textual methods employed in twenty-first century crime fiction to portray transnational trafficking of children and young people. This involves a consideration of how texts incorporate existing and new information about transnational trafficking, how they represent differing kinds of trafficking, and the textual and thematic means by which they lend visibility and voice to the experiences of children who are trafficked. I am drawing on trauma theory, amongst other critical frameworks, to analyse portrayals of violence, violation and exploitation in crime fiction. My investigation extends the point made by Leanne Dodd that: ‘Crime fiction opens up a space in which to depict more authentic and safe representations of traumatic experience to a willing and receptive audience.’(5) Tensions between representing trauma authentically and crime fiction’s need for suspense and closure suggest that this space may be problematic and have conflicting aims and purposes – this is one of the questions I will investigate in my work.
This research suggests that these separate and distinct areas of crime and exploitation are often interlinked in crime fiction, but also that these crimes are at times portrayed in a reductionist manner. Edith Kinney comments on these problems, stating that: ‘Reductionist narratives of crime and victimisation figure prominently in discourses about trafficking.’(91). These questions have wider implications for the way in which child trafficking and child victims are viewed by the wider public. This dimension, in turn, invites theoretical interventions through the employment of trauma theory, in order to analyse the fictional experiences and perceptions of child trafficking victims. This analysis will demonstrate the capacity of crime fiction to affect public understanding of child trafficking, through its representations of the victims, their contexts and experiences, and their treatment by criminals and the law.
Dodd, Leanne. 2015. “The Crime Novel as Trauma Fiction.” Minding The Gap: Writing Across Thresholds And Fault Lines Papers – The Refereed Proceedings Of The 19th Conference Of The Australasian Association Of Writing Programs, 2014, Wellington NZ, available at http://www.aawp.org.au/publications/minding-the-gap-writing-across-thresholds-and-fault-lines/ Accessed 27 January 2017.
Kinney , Edith. 2014. Victims, Villains, and Valiant Rescuers: Unpacking Sociolegal Constructions of Human Trafficking and Crimmigration in Popular Culture. In The Illegal Business of Human Trafficking (Ed.) Guia, Maria Joao, Springer.