Graphic Dissertation

Page 1 of my dissertation tentatively titled Unbelonging.
(c) Kay Sohini Kumar, 2020

When I initially started thinking about my dissertation, I went with the more conventional route. I wanted to look at the role of comics as literatures of resistance, by examining how formal aspects of the comic form enable non-reductionist representation of complex and intersectional identities, while also focusing on the collective crisis that informs the individual self’s marginalization. However, the more I thought about how comics appeal to social justice, how they accommodate narratives by and about people who have been historically pushed to the margins, how they help readers overcome social biases about gendered/racial/cultural Others—the more I was compelled to think about modes of production. In other words, I could no longer think about my academic work in isolation from who I am, what informs my scholarship, the motivation behind this project, and how my own intersectionality mediates my work. Primarily, if I am concerned with comics as literatures of resistance, and if one of my motivations for this project is to appeal to social justice via my research, and to inquire how comics’ potential for justice can be maximized, I need to ask questions about accessibility and readability: who are the readers for the final product? Who is my audience? If I seek to address people beyond the confines of academia, if I seek to address people who share the marginalized position/s my work is predominantly concerned with, how can I readjust or tailor my academic discourse to appeal to them? Moreover, is there a way I can address both academic and non-academic in a way that does not entirely alienate either group?

These questions led to me to consider comics as a medium, not just as primary texts for this study. Because, if I use the comic medium to write about comics, I get to utilize the versatility of the medium—its multiple narrative tracks, color schemes, spatial dynamics—to give shape to my hybrid work.