Between Fear and Safety: Post-Memory in “European” Comics and Graphic Narratives

deadline for submissions: 
September 29, 2016
full name / name of organization: 
Umberto Rossi and Kai Mikkonen for ENCLS 2017

This is a Call for Papers for a proposed panel to be held as part of the European Network for Comparative Literary Studies' 7th Biennial Congress 2017: Fear and Safety. It will take place at the University of Helsinki in Helsinki, Finland on August 23-26, 2017.
Submitters are required to send their abstract to Professor Umberto Rossi: 
The deadline for paper submission is September 29, 2016.

One of the focal questions posed in the CFP of the congress is “How are increasingly popular adaptations and multimodal works of art connected to contemporary notions of fear and safety in their ways of (re)telling (past) stories?” Thus one promising research path is the exploration of graphic narratives (or comics) that deal with issues of fear and safety in the European context, the more so when the discussion of comics is pivoted on the concept of post-memory, as defined by Marianne Hirsch. Hirsch has used the term “postmemory” in relation to Art Spiegelman’s Maus (1991) to mean “the relationship that the ‘generation after’ bears to the personal, collective, and cultural trauma of those who came before-to experiences they ‘remember’ only by means of the stories, images, and behaviors among which they grew up”.

Spiegelman is an American comics artist, but the story he tells and draws in Maus is a retelling of one of the darkest and most notorious episodes in the recent European history: the Holocaust, which remains a major point of reference in contemporary discussions about racism, xenophobia, and ethnic hatred in our continent (from the hostility towards migrants to the resurgence of quasi-Fascist/Nazi political movements in many EU countries). Still another comics masterpiece that was born out of the complex negotiations of post-memory and, at the same time, seeming to address our contemporary concerns, is V for Vendetta (1982-85), written by one of the most important practitioners of the sequential art, Alan Moore, and illustrated by David Lloyd. While this paradigmatic graphic novel has been generally read against the background of the revamped Cold War of the 1980s, re-reading it with hindsight today allows us to see the ambiguity of the hero/anti-hero, the arch-terrorist V., whose deeds acquire even more poignancy in relation to the current European debates about terrorist threats.

This panel focuses on:

  • contemporary comics by European authors dealing with fear and safety in the European context, by focusing on recent or moderately remote past events (Hirsch's “generation after” may also be widened in scope by thinking in terms of “generations after”, e.g. in graphic narratives about the Great War, Fascism, Nazism, left-wing terrorism, or ethno-nationalist conflicts such as the IRA campaigns or the Troubles, etc.);
  • comics from a recent past dealing with fear and safety (e.g. terrorism, racism, economic crises, authoritarian regimes, war, disasters, immigration and emigration, environmental issues) that can be reinterpreted against the background of contemporary concerns about those issues;
  • comics by non-European authors but set in contemporary/recent past Europe and dealing with issues of fear and safety;
  • critical/theoretical approaches to the themes of fear and safety, and those that are directly related to them (e.g. individual/collective paranoia, social control, gated communities, liquid societies, the radicalization of Muslims, etc.), with examples drawn from or analysis based on comics and graphic novels;
  • comics dealing with collective (but also individuals') paranoia, as this concept may be said to bridge the apparently mutually exclusive ideas of fear and safety.

Contact Info: 

If you have any query, please do not hesitate to contact the Panel Organizers:

Umberto Rossi:
Kai Mikkonen: