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    Speaking about speaking about child sexual abuse in Britain, 1965-1991

    Basannavar, Nicholas Ranjan Gadsby (2019) Speaking about speaking about child sexual abuse in Britain, 1965-1991. Doctoral thesis, Birkbeck, University of London.

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    Focusing on three case studies between the years 1965 and 1991, this thesis explores the mutable ways in which child sexual abuse has been represented – or spoken about – in Britain, particularly in popular media forms. Drawing on historian Frank Ankersmit’s observation that historical investigation is a form of “speaking about speaking”, it paints a picture of representational, attitudinal and social change over time, clarifies definitional forms relating to childhood, attraction, and abuse, and examines the deeply historical tropes inherent in present-day inquiries into abuse. An analysis of the Moors murders trial shows that discussions about sexual attraction to children did exist, but were often couched in heavily coded, indirect ways. By the 1970s, this was changing: ‘paedophilia’ was discussed more commonly not only in medicine and academia, which had historically been its domains, but also in the popular press and in governmental debates. I argue that it was angst about the Paedophile Information Exchange (PIE) that shaped subsequent cultural constructs of the ‘paedophile’ in Britain. The final case study on the Cleveland child sexual abuse crisis reveals the employment of increasingly direct terminology in the 1980s, although allusive, metonymical forms and displacements persisted and were entrenched amidst deep moral and social concern for the child. The thesis concludes by using the figure of Jimmy Savile as a means of thinking about a wider debate on the relationship between anachronism and abuse. The study argues that historical debate about child sexual abuse needs to move further from stark notions of historical absence and silence, and towards a heightened awareness of historical ‘speaking’, in all its complex narrative forms.


    Item Type: Thesis
    Additional Information: Date of PhD award confirmed as 2019 by registry
    Copyright Holders: The copyright of this thesis rests with the author, who asserts his/her right to be known as such according to the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988. No dealing with the thesis contrary to the copyright or moral rights of the author is permitted.
    Depositing User: Acquisitions And Metadata
    Date Deposited: 13 May 2019 12:47
    Last Modified: 15 Jun 2021 09:48


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