Getekende stripboeken met tekstwolken
Getekende stripboeken met tekstwolken

Imperial Pasts in Contemporary Comics

Interrogating German and Dutch Colonialism through Word and Image

Building on insights from postcolonial studies and comics studies, this PhD-project will investigate how contemporary comics co-construct or challenge the dominant cultural archives of colonialism in the Netherlands and Germany. These archives are characterised by problematic tendencies of silencing and forgetting, whilst effectuating present-day forms of Othering and racism. In their visual-verbal form, the selected comics interfere with these issues in innovative ways. Although graphic literature has indeed gained recognition internationally for critiquing colonial, imperial, and racist mentalities and practices (Bragard and Lambert; McKinney; Wanzo), little scholarly work has been done on critical comics in the Dutch and German postcolonial contexts. Using cultural analysis, this research will fill this gap by studying graphic novels, educational comics, and webcomics. In the context of representing problematic histories, comics can reappropriate images and discourses from cultural memory and disrupt those through their plurivocal and multimodal form.

As a medium with a history of racial caricature, contemporary comics “draw back” to an archive of imperialism (Dony; McKinney) and productively represent the past by telling anti-racist, plural and explicitly constructed versions of it. This research works towards a theoretically innovative approach that challenges Eurocentrism in comics studies and enriches text-centred postcolonial theory by placing comics in conversation with the concepts of colonial aphasia (an inability to speak about colonial history, as coined by Stoler), the cultural archive (Wekker), and writing/drawing back (Ashcroft et al.). Comparing the Netherlands and Germany allows for a study of transnational discourses and national specificities in these two countries that have significantly different colonial pasts but overlapping memories of it today. The project’s aim is to contribute to postcolonial debates by paying attention to new and productive graphic interventions in the cultural archive.

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