Call for Papers
“I Die Daily”: Police Brutality, Black Bodies, and the Force of Children’s Literature
Guaranteed 2017 MLA session sponsored by the Children’s Literature Association
On August 9, 2014, Ferguson, Missouri Police Officer Darren Wilson shot and killed eighteen-year-old Michael Brown. Brown’s bullet-ravaged body lay prone for more than four hours. In Ferguson Committeewoman Patricia Bynes’s estimation, this prolonged spectacle contributed to the building outrage among witnesses. “It was very disrespectful to the community and the people who live here,” Bynes noted. Her interpretation of the discourteous exposure of Brown’s bullet-riddled body resonates with those of other witnesses to the scene. Many agree that Brown’s body “sent the message from law enforcement that ‘we can do this to you any day, any time, in broad daylight, and there’s nothing you can do about it’” (NYT 8/23/14).
Bynes reads Brown’s body as a legible text. This proposal queries the role of children’s literature in relationship to rendering dead black bodies legible. Does children’s literature facilitate an enactment of what Michel Foucault calls “a policy of terror?” Does children’s literature function as part of a disciplinary apparatus reinforcing sovereign rule? What role does children’s literature play in civic responses to lethal police brutality and renderings of justice?