Detectives and the Police: Fictional Friction?

deadline for submissions: 
October 15, 2021
full name / name of organization: 
NeMLA 53rd Convention

Update: the deadline for this CFP has been changed to October 15, 2021.

NeMLA's 53rd convention will be held March 10-13, 2022, in Baltimore, MD. Please submit an abstract of 200-300 words through the NeMLA website [] and any questions to Kathryn Hendrickson at

The genre of detective fiction has proved to be a mutable one, generating offshoots across multiple classifications and, in so doing, responding to cultural shifts and changes in political and ideological contexts. Across these shifts, detective fiction contains varied images of police departments and different levels of competence among the individual police officers. However, as Haia Shpayer-Makov has argued, the pattern across the literature reveals an uncomplimentary portrayal of police. Reading through detective fiction reveals friction as a feature of the relationship between the individual detective and the official police departments with the crime serving as an even that launches their parallel investigations as competitions, races to be the best at identifying and stopping dangerous criminals.

This tense relationship between detective and police has been used to explore the corruption and brutality of the law and to explore questions of justice. This panel seeks to dive more deeply into that relationship and ask if the fictional detective offers a genuine alternative to policing, or if they are simply police without a badge? Is a detective-approach, at its core, reproducing the same structures of inequity and dehumanization revealed as inherent in our current policing system, or does it offer a genuine critique of the police-prison paradigm? Papers might involve (though they are not limited to) readings of specific detectives; offshoots of the detective fiction genre; or examinations of film or tv productions.