Professor Mavis Reimer


Professor Mavis Reimer
Canada Chair in the Culture of Childhood
University of Winnipeg

On Location: The Home and the Street in Recent Films about Street Kids

A happy child inside a family home is a naturalized image that occupies the emotional centre of many texts for and about young people. In children’s literary and media texts, for example, a return home often closes the narrative. The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child enshrines children’s rights to adequate food, clothing, housing, medical care, and social services. In legal discourses, the presence of children outside the home or inside an unsafe home is a trigger for the intervention of the state. International and domestic aid organizations often feature homeless, hungry children in their appeals because such spectacles prompt generous donations from viewers. The widespread assumption that children belong at home, however, appears to be challenged by contemporary texts for and about young people, perhaps nowhere more obviously than in the international, award-winning documentary and narrative films about street kids produced during the past ten years. From Edet Belzberg’s 2001documentary Children Underground, about a group of homeless children in Bucharest, to Siddiq Barmak’s 2004 narrative film Osama, based on the true story of a young girl disguised as a boy who seeks to support her widowed mother and grandmother in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan, to Danny Boyle’s and Loveleen Tandan’s 2008 blockbuster hit Slumdog Millionaire, about a Mumbai street kid who becomes an unlikely game-show winner, these films both rely on and interrogate conventional affective narratives of human belonging. In this presentation, I look at the films through theoretical vocabularies of globalization, and consider the possibility that these narratives are creating new authorized sites and practices of childhood.

Biographical Note

Mavis Reimer is Canada Research Chair in the Culture of Childhood at the University of Winnipeg, where she directs the activities of the Centre for Research in Young People’s Texts and Cultures and teaches in the Department of English. She is author of more than twenty journal articles and book chapters; co-author, with Perry Nodelman, of The Pleasures of Children’s Literature (3rd ed., 2003), which has been translated into Traditional Chinese (2009); and editor of two collections of scholarly essays, most recently Home Words: Discourses of Children’s Literature in Canada (2008). She is the lead Editor of Jeunesse: Young People, Texts, Cultures, a journal that publishes research, scholarship, and essays on texts by, for, and about young people. In all of her research, she is interested in the politics of the representation and production of young people in culture. Her current research projects focus on two contexts, late-nineteenth-century children’s literature of Empire, and contemporary texts for and about young people featuring homeless kids.

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