Assistant Professor Elizabeth Hoiem will present her research on the representation of slavery in children's nonfiction books at the Children's Literature Association conference (ChLA 2017), which will be held on June 22-24 in Tampa, Florida. The theme of the conference, "Imagined Futures," explores the many possible futures to be found in, through, and for children's literature.
Hoiem will give the talk, "The Politics of How Things Are Made: Representations of Slavery and Violence in Children’s Histories of Technology," during a session titled, "Borders and Frontiers: Explorations of the Past." According to Hoiem, production stories—a genre that includes Amelia Alderson Opie's abolitionist chapbook, The Progress of Sugar (1826); David Macaulay's Cathedral (1973); Laban Carrick Hill and Bryan Collier's Dave the Potter: Artist, Poet, Slave (2010); and Discovery Channel’s How It's Made—have always been deeply political.
"My paper analyzes examples of children's production narratives from 1750 to the present, showing how books in this genre can idealize industrial standardization in order to elide ethical questions posed by labor conditions or celebrate technological progress at the expense of human actors. Ignoring slavery or social inequality is not inherent to the genre. Rather, the formal elements of production narratives require writers and illustrators to make inherently political choices about whether to include, alongside a technological narrative, the social narrative of who makes things, under what conditions, and for whom," she said.
Hoiem teaches in the areas of reading and literacy, history of children's literature, and fantasy literature. In her research and teaching, she explores the history of technological innovations in children's literature—from early children's books and toys to contemporary applications of digital pedagogy—and looks at modern technology through a historical lens. Her research interests also include digital humanities. This paper evolved from her current book project on the class politics behind representations of work and play in children's literature of the industrial era. Hoiem holds a PhD in English from Illinois.