Feminist Detection in Contemporary Literature, Media, and Culture

deadline for submissions: 
June 14, 2020
full name / name of organization: 
Meghan Gilbert-Hickey, Sara K. Day, Sonya Sawyer Fritz

Detective fiction has historically been dominated by male individuals who represent a raced, classed, and gendered form of knowledge. From Sherlock Holmes to twentieth-century figures such as Hercule Poirot and Sam Spade, the iconic detective has traditionally been embodied by a white man, with characteristics that echo Anglo-European colonialist discourse: the detective deduces, discovers, pursues, and reveals; he is full of agency and reason, bringing meaning and order to darkness and mystery. While there have certainly been female counterparts to these great detectives-- Miss Marple, Nancy Drew, and Mma Precious Ramotswe, for example--as well as more recent fictional male investigators who subvert some of these norms, such as Alex Cross, Alex Delaware, and Milo Sturgis, the imagined work of detection has been rooted in epistemologies and behaviors linked to Western patriarchy. 


Despite this history of white male dominance, however, there is a large and ever-growing body of narratives that approach the work of detection by centering the experiences and subjectivities of marginalized people in a variety of ways. As we explore feminist modes of detection, we want to consider  how feminisms as a plurality of theories and philosophies are not limited to a focus on gender alone in their advocacy for equity and inclusion. Thus, foundational to our understanding of both feminism and feminist detective narratives is the notion of intersectionality: we are concerned with the ways that oppressions overlap, compounding vulnerability and disempowerment, and we are interested in how narratives about crime and detection can reckon with this. We also understand that feminist detective narratives can take myriad shapes and employ numerous strategies to unravel patriarchal structures on behalf of those who are oppressed by them; therefore, we aim to be as inclusive as possible in our understanding of feminism and the individuals it champions. 


This proposed volume seeks essays that take a feminist approach to analyzing any of a wide variety of texts and cultural iterations of detectives and the work of detection, including traditional crime fiction and mystery novels as well as film, television series, podcasts, video games, and other media. Topics may include but are not limited to


  • Intersectional feminism and portrayals of detectives or detection

  • Detective narratives that address crime and/or violence against marginalized people

  • Detective work as restorative and/or social justice

  • Transfeminism, genderqueer feminism, and/or non-binary feminism in detective narratives

  • Crime fiction as trauma narrative

  • Detection and the ethics of care

  • Postcolonial and global feminisms in detective narratives

  • Relationships between detection and ecofeminism

  • Feminist epistemologies and detective narratives


We are currently seeking a book contract for this volume. Submit a 500-word abstract, along with a working bibliography and a brief, up-to-date CV by June 14, 2020 to Meghan Gilbert-Hickey, Sara K. Day, and Sonya Sawyer Fritz at feministdetection@gmail.com. Completed essays of 5000-7000 words will be due by February 1, 2021.