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Category Archives: General

Allies and Disability Representation in Contemporary Russian Comics

José Alaniz

University of Washington, Seattle

Note: all translations are the author’s own.

 

Corrections Class (Klass korrektsii, d. Ivan Tverdovsky, 2015) is a hard-hitting film about disability in Russia. In one scene, a mother, Svetlana Viktorovna (Natalya Pavlenkova), struggles to push her paraplegic teen daughter Lena (Maria Poyezhayeva) in her wheelchair up a two-track cement ramp outside her high school. But the ramp, which we had seen in the process of construction earlier in the movie, has a fatal flaw: a gap of several inches between it and the sidewalk – too wide for a wheelchair to overcome. Worse than useless, the ramp is a spit in the face, a bureaucratic nod to inclusivity with no actual follow-through. It drives Svetlana Viktorovna, who has more than enough troubles in her life, to hiss with rage: “Thank you very much, my dears. Great job.”[1] Equal parts maudlin melodrama, documentary exposé and black farce, the scene is not exactly fiction (though the film is). It had a real-life basis.

In the fall of 2012, a popular series of memes emerged on the Runet (Russian internet): pictures of the many inaccessible spaces for wheelchair-users in Russian cities, turned into absurdist set decoration by ramps built impossibly steep; ramps with trees and other objects blocking the way; broken ramps with wide cracks; and ramps leading to/from nowhere (e.g., into walls). “The inaccessible-ramps meme gained popularity not as [a] representation of the problem of disability inclusion in Russia,” wrote anthropologist Cassandra Hartblay, “but as a joke about the country’s infrastructure, ironic evidence of dysfunction in Russian daily life” (“Good”: 3).[2] Hartblay goes on to call the ramps “an overdetermined symbol, or a red herring for access” in postsocialism (“Good”: 4).

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Comics Forum 2020: Call for Proposals – Pages of Whiteness

Comics Forum 2020: Pages of Whiteness
November 2020, Online
Conference Lead: Olivia Hicks

Call for Contributions

In White, Richard Dyer argues that race is something which is only applied to non-white people; and thus white people are allowed to speak from a non-racialised, normalised position of power.1 In Unstable Masks, Sean Guynes and Martin Lund state that whiteness is a set of malleable historical, geographical and cultural values, that is ‘one of the key historical formations of power, surveillance and control’ in the West.2 Drawing attention to whiteness is drawing attention to what is naturalised and/or normally invisible.

The title of this conference comes from Tracy D. Morgan’s essay ‘Pages of Whiteness’, which explores white supremacy in the erotic fantasies of the queer physical culture movement in the American post-war period.3 The essay title refers both to the white paper used to produce physical culture magazines, but also the overwhelming presence of white bodies within, and the suffocating racist fantasies which inform the rare appearances of Black or Latino models. The phrase suggests an intersection of identity, materiality and (comics) production. This essay is one of many exposing how whiteness shapes the media we create and consume. The idea of whiteness as a ‘norm’ and the backdrop against which all other identities are contrasted and controlled, filters into
every facet of the comics we read and study; from the over-abundance of white characters and storylines, the privileging of white editorial and creative voices, to the ‘whiteness’ of the comic’s pages, suggesting a white, blank default, to the inks which are used in production, which privilege white skin tones. As Zoe D. Smith notes in her essay ‘Four Color-ism’, ‘Brown skin in comics of this period fails in part because there’s too much ink. The layers of cyan, magenta, and yellow are unreliable and painfully noticeable. White skin, by contrast, is thoughtlessly stable.’4

Maintaining the status quo of Western society is a thoughtless action; challenging the structuring logic of our worlds is a task which requires engagement and action. This conference is calling for a critical examining of whiteness and the structuring systems of comics and comics scholarship. One could respond to this theme by exploring whiteness within comics and/or comics academia. One could also choose to examine those identities which are marginalised or excluded; exploring creators and characters with marginalised identities. This call also encourages work on the production and materiality of comics; submissions on colouring (which is an underappreciated part of comics production) and zine culture, where creators often deliberately choose colourful paper or a collage effect which disrupts the notion of the white page being the norm.

Some ways Pages of Whiteness could be interpreted are as follows:

  • Whiteness and Comics
  • Comics and Race
  • Comics and Identity
  • Comics and Activism/Protest
  • Queering Comics
  • Comics Production (including colouring)
  • Zine Culture
  • Colour and Comics
  • Comics scholarship; new approaches to studying comics
  • Comics Practice as research
  • Digital “Page-less” Comics

Formats

Comics Forum 2020 will take place online. We invite contributors to submit proposals in the following formats, but we are open to other suggestions if speakers are in a position to offer them:

Pre-recorded videos: This may be a single speaker talk of 10-15 minutes, or a 20-minute conversation between two or more speakers. These can be followed by live Q&As either in a video call and/or via Twitter (please specify which you wish to use when you submit your proposal).

Live Events: These may be workshops, reading groups, demonstrations of practice or research methods etc. Events will be hosted on relevant openly-accessible platforms suitable for large-scale live video calls – if you would like to use a particular platform please specify this, otherwise make clear in your proposal what the format of your proposed event is so we can ensure we have access to a platform that will support it. Please note that time-zones mean that live events can be geographically exclusive, so if you can run your event in a way that includes some asynchronous content this will enable more people to participate.

Digital Zines: Zines on the conference theme can be submitted in PDF format for inclusion in the event via Issuu.

Proposals of up to 250 words in length for contributions in the formats detailed above are now being accepted at the following linkhttps://tiny.cc/comicsforum20The deadline for submissions is the 1st of September 2020 and you will be notified of acceptance by or before the 14th of September 2020. Please include a short (100 word) biography with your proposal.

Comics Forum 2020 is part of the Thought Bubble Sequential Art Festival. Find out more about Thought Bubble at: https://www.thoughtbubblefestival.com/.


Note: The Comics Forum organising committee asked Olivia Hicks to be a co-organiser for the 2020 conference in 2019. In January 2020, Olivia proposed the call ‘Pages of Whiteness’ which as accepted by the team immediately. The call was an urgent call to action in comics scholarship in January, and recent events have only served to further highlight how necessary this work is.


1: Richard Dyer, White, (London: Routledge, 1997), p.2.

2: Sean Guynes and Martin Lund, ‘Introduction’ in: Unstable Masks: Whiteness and American Superhero Comics (Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 2019), p.2.

3: Tracy D. Morgan, ‘Pages of Whiteness: Race, Physique Magazines, and the Emergence of Gay Culture’ in Queer Studies: A Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Anthology, edited by Brett Beemyn and Mickey Eliason (New York and London: New York University Press, 1996), pp.280-297.

4: Zoe D. Smith, ‘4 Colorism, or, the Ashiness of it all’, Women Write About Comics (24 May 2019), <https://womenwriteaboutcomics.com/2019/05/4-colorism-or-the-ashiness-of-it-all/>

 
 

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CfP Update: Extended Deadline | ComFor Goes Online “Comics and Agency – Actors, Publics, Participation”

This year’s conference of the German Society for Comics Studies (ComFor) “Comics and Agency – Actors,  Publics, Participation” will take place online. The deadline for submissions has been extended until 15 June, 2020. Interested scholars can send an abstract of approx. 500 words plus a short biography (in English or German) to comfor2020@comicgesellschaft.de. All papers will be presented October 8-10, 2020 live via Zoom.

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Posted by on 2020/05/24 in General, News

 

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CFP: First Conference of the ICLA Research Committee on Literatures/Arts/Media (CLAM)

Transcodification: Literatures – Arts – Media

Department of Humanities – Excellence Program 2018-2022
July 1-3, 2020 – University of L’Aquila

Call for Papers

 

+++ Deadline extended until February 23, 2020 +++

 
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Posted by on 2020/02/16 in General

 

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Program: Fluid Images — Fluid Text: Comics’ Mobility Across Time, Space and Artistic Media

The conference Fluid Images — Fluid Text: Comics’ Mobility Across Time, Space and Artistic Media (23 – 24 January 2020) is announced on the website of Cardiff University as follows:

This two-day interdisciplinary conference will explore the mobility of comics and graphic novels along three axes: time, space, and media. It is sponsored by the Institution of Modern Languages Research (IMLR), University Council of Modern Languages (UCML) and Cardiff University’s School of Modern Languages.

The conference program is now available for download here. Please note that registration closes on Thursday 9 January 2020.

 
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Posted by on 2020/01/08 in General

 

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