Trading in innocence: slave-shaming in Ghanaian children’s market fiction

DE BRUIJN, E. and MURPHY, Laura (2018). Trading in innocence: slave-shaming in Ghanaian children’s market fiction. Journal of African Cultural Studies, 30 (3), 243-262.

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Ghana’s market fiction of the early 2000s takes up the issue of modern slavery, particularly in the form of forced child labour. This paper argues, first of all, that market fiction pits innocent children against negligent parents, to insist that parents shoulder the blame for their children’s descent into slavery. However, the texts frequently directly associate this notion of contemporary culpability with historical complicity in the Atlantic slave trade in a turn that points to the larger systemic inequalities of modernity that encourage parents to ‘sell’ their own children. With reference to Perry Nodelman’s notion of the ‘shadow text’ that accompanies all narrative constructions of childhood, we examine how depictions of innocence in these stories of child capture are informed by adult desires and anxieties. Accordingly, the sensational strategy of eliciting culturally painful–and shameful–memories serves as a typically extreme mechanism for delivering cautionary warnings both to adult and young readers not only about the horrific nature of contemporary slavery but also about excessive investment in the structures and ideologies of global capitalism.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: Ghanaian literature; market fiction; human trafficking; modern slavery; children's literature; African popular fiction; Ghanaian literature; English language literature; 2000-2099; fiction; popular fiction; parent-child relations; enslavement; 1699 Other Studies in Human Society; 2002 Cultural Studies; 2004 Linguistics
Identification Number:
Page Range: 243-262
SWORD Depositor: Symplectic Elements
Depositing User: Symplectic Elements
Date Deposited: 10 Dec 2019 16:09
Last Modified: 18 Mar 2021 03:05

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