Graphic Resistance: Comics and Social Protest: MLA 2018 Special Session

deadline for submissions: 
March 15, 2017
full name / name of organization: 
MLA/ Leah Misemer and Margaret Galvan
contact email: 

From March artist Nate Powell sharing a poster design for the Women’s March to Phil Noto’s revised image of Muslim American superhero Kamala Khan going viral in response to the Executive Order on Immigration, comics have played an active role in recent social protests.  They have formed the visual vocabulary of protest, taking advantage of the combination of text and image to efficiently circulate ideas of resistance.  The role of comics in social protest is not new.  Across the past century, comics have served as sites of resistance in a variety of global contexts, with cartoonists emerging from the student and labor movements formed in response to the events of May ‘68 in France and from the feminist and gay and lesbian activist movements in America in the 1970s and 80s. Cartoons have also fomented South African protest against political corruption and Japanese protest against nuclear war.  As part of these movements, comics have moved outside of their frames, circulating in new spaces and reaching different audiences as they intersect with other forms of image-text, such as zines, posters, flyers, and web comics.

This roundtable seeks to investigate how and why comics serve as sites of resistance and social protest. In the conversation we will examine how viewing comics through the lens of social protest reframes current understandings of comics history, form, and audience.  To this end, we aim to create new image-text genealogies that situate comics within local, national, and global moments of social protest.

Presentations might explore:

  • How have comics been used historically and globally in moments of social protest, such as May ‘68, AIDS activism, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the LA Riots, the Arab Spring, and Occupy?

  • How does the history of comics as social protest inform the contemporary moment?

  • How does the multiplicity of the comics form--the fact that it is made up of image, text, panels, narrative boxes, speech bubbles, etc.--facilitate social protest?

  • How does social protest move beyond comics into other image-text forms, such as zines, posters, pamphlets, and web comics?

  • How does social protest change the circulation of comics images and forms, moving them into other spaces and helping them reach different audiences on a local, national, and global scale?

 Send 250 word abstract and bios to Leah Misemer (lsinsheimer@wisc.edu) and Margaret Galvan (mag21@nyu.edu). The deadline for submissions is March 15, 2017. Submitters will receive notification of results no later than April 1.  Acceptance to the panel does not guarantee acceptance to MLA. All prospective presenters must be current MLA members by no later than April 7, 2017.