All are welcome to this talk from Jonathan W. Gray, Associate Professor English at the CUNY Graduate Center and John Jay College, on the representation of race and disability in comics.
Social Depths: Representing Race & Disability in Comics & Graphic Novels
Comics play an important role in the political and cultural imagination of its readers, with representation contributing to objectification and marginalization of people of color and disability.
As Frantz Fanon noted in Black Skin, White Masks: “In [comics] the Wolf, the Devil, the Evil Spirit, the Bad Man, the Savage are always symbolized by Negroes or Indians; since there is always identification with the victor, the little Negro, quite as easily as the little white boy, becomes an explorer, an adventurer, a missionary “who faces the danger of being eaten by the wicked Negroes.” While recent representation challenges these stale stereotypes and stigmas, we must attend to how the comics medium offers unique potential for transforming our understanding of race and disability in truly profound ways.
Understanding Comics Scott McCloud’s foundational analysis of the comics form presents an able-bodied white masculine subject as its point of view subject.
McCloud attempts to quantify a reader’s response to cartoon representation by positing an affective identification with comics illustration that enables the reader to supplant his identity with that of the illustrated subject on the page.
But this act of imagination depends on the presumed universality of the illustration, the ability of every reader to project himself—and this pronoun is used deliberately—into the image. McCloud fails to consider apprehension that occurs when the reader or the character under consideration is in fact racialized or disabled or gendered as other.
In this talk, Dr Jonathan W. Gray will address this oversight by collapsing McCloud’s separation between the photo and the cartoon to observe that entering the world of the cartoon might produce not identification but the realization of one’s self as “an other.”
In order to explain this, Dr Gray will examine the social and material meanings embedded in the origins and permutations of the disabled figure of Victor Stone, better known to comics reading and movie going publics as Cyborg.
This talk is organized in collaboration between the Centre for Human-Computer Interaction Design, School of Science and Technology, and the Department of Media, Culture & Creative Industries, School of Communication & Creativity.
It should be of interest to students and academics interested in areas such as Black Studies, Digital Justice, Disability Studies and the Cultural Politics of both design and popular culture.
About the speaker
Jonathan W. Gray, Associate Professor English at the CUNY Graduate Center and John Jay College, is the author of Civil Rights in the White Literary Imagination (University Press of Mississippi) and is currently working on the book project Illustrating the Race: Representing Blackness in American Comics.
Prof. Gray contributed the essay “Race” to NYU’s Keywords for Comics Studies, co-edited the essay collection Disability in Comics and Graphic Novels for Palgrave McMillian and served as the founding editor of the Journal of Comics and Culture (Pace U. Press).
Prof. Gray's meditations on race and representation in popular culture have appeared in Film Quarterly, The New Republic, Entertainment Weekly, Medium, and Salon.
Refreshments will be provided. If you have a query about the event, please contact Dr Dominic Davies or Dr Ernesto Priego.
Attendance at City events is subject to our terms and conditions.