22 June 2017

GJRA Abstracts: Atalay, Shannon, Swogger, 'The Journey To Complete The Work: Comics, storytelling and the law in the implementation of the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act’

At this point I am running out of new ways to say that we are continuing to post abstracts for our upcoming conference at St Mary’s University, Twickenham, 4-5 July 2017 – register here! – but we plod on regardless.

One of the great things about the GJRA is its diversity. Already this week we’ve posted abstracts about copyright education, gender violence, and justice more broadly. Today’s paper shows further possibilities of graphic justice, where the act of storytelling becomes tied into the implementation of the law and the pursuit of cultural justice.

Here is the abstract for ‘The Journey To Complete The Work: Comics, storytelling and the law in the implementation of the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act’, by Sonya Atalay (University of Massachusetts, Amherst), Jen Shannon (University of Colorado) and John G Swogger.

The Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA - Pub. L. 101-601, 25 U.S.C. 3001 et seq., 104 Stat. 3048) is a United States federal law enacted in 1990, which aims to protect cultural material on federal and tribal lands, and imposes requirements on Federal Agencies and museums which receive federal funding to return such material – including human remains, funerary objects, sacred objects and objects of cultural patrimony - to Native peoples.

In practice, both tribes and museums have found both compliance with and implementation of NAGPRA law complex, contentious and challenging. Sometimes the process of repatriation is straight-forward, and sometimes it is not. In particular, the requirement under NAGPRA for indigenous knowledge in the form of oral histories to be afforded equal weight with archaeological or “scientific” forms of evidence have caused tension in implementation of the law.

Journeys To Complete The Work is a graphic work which combines information about the legal requirements and limits of NAGPRA with stories illustrating how the law has been applied during specific instances of repatriation. The aim of the comic is to provide tribes, museums and archaeologists with a point of reference that brings together the legal and personal sides of the issue. The comic's use of storytelling as a form of information mirrors the use of testimony and oral history as forms of evidence within NAGPRA implementation.

The comic is to be published later this summer, and will be launched at the 2017 Indigenous Comic Con in New Mexico.


Sonya Atalay is assistant Professor in the Anthropology Department at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Her work is in engaged (public) anthropology, focusing on research partnerships with indigenous and local communities. She works across the disciplinary boundaries of cultural anthropology, archaeology, heritage studies, and Native American & Indigenous studies.

Jen Shannon is Curator and Associate Professor of Cultural Anthropology at the University of Colorado Museum of Natural History. Her research focuses on collaborative practice and connecting tribes to museum collections through NAGPRA consultations, co-directed research projects and exhibits, digitizing tangible and intangible heritage, the development of online access to collections, and oral history projects.

John Swogger is an archaeological illustrator who produces specialist technical illustrations for excavation and research projects, as well as reconstructions and visualizations of the past for museums and popular publications. Over the past decade he has increasingly used comics as a way to present archaeological information.

20 June 2017

GJRA Abstracts: Aidan Diamond, 'Cross the line’: Vigilante Justice and Batman on Trial in Under the Red Hood

 Once more unto the breach. Here is the paper Aidan Diamond will be presenting at our upcoming GJRA discussions. This paper looks set to be a fascinating contribution that takes a Foucauldian approach to the portrayal of justice within Batman.
Aidan Diamond (Memorial University of Newfoundland), ‘Cross the line’: Vigilante Justice and Batman on Trial in Under the Red Hood  
In this paper, I argue that the character of Jason Todd (the second Robin, Red Hood, and unexpected survivor of the infamous A Death in the Family storyline) performs an incisive critique of and challenge to Batman’s system of justice in Batman: Under the Red Hood (2006). 
Before engaging with Jason Todd’s three main narratives of juridical critique (‘The Second Robin’, Red Hood: The Lost DaysUnder the Red Hood), I will contextualise Batman’s system of justice and regulation as exemplified by the enduring conflict between Batman and the Joker, using Michael Smith’s reflection on the Joker’s relationship to ‘Evil’ and Michel Foucault’s ‘About the Concept of the Dangerous Individual’. 
I will then address Jason and the narratives in which he indicts Batman’s approach to justice, revenge, and punishment. In the context of the perspectives offered by Foucault and Smith, I argue that Jason poses a challenge to Batman’s juridical system from within the comics-world. Further, though this challenge is ultimately unsuccessful, I argue that it is significant in that it attempts to hold Batman accountable for his system and its failings, in a mythos that otherwise privileges Batman’s juridical system over any and every challenge. 
Aidan Diamond is finishing her Master’s in English at Memorial University of Newfoundland. She has presented in Canada, the UK, and the US; co-edited a special issue of the Journal of Graphic Novels and Comics (Sept. 2017); contributed a chapter to the forthcoming Essays on DC’s Harley Quinn, and an essay to ImageText’s forthcoming publication of the Mixing Visual Media in Comics conference, which she co-organised and moderated. 

19 June 2017

GJRA Abstracts: Lynsey Black, ‘Women as Victims – Exploring gender violence through the character of Batgirl/Barbara Gordon’.

Continuing our theme of publishing the abstracts for our forthcoming conference on 4-5 July, here is a great-looking paper from Lynsey Black (University College Dublin): ‘Women as Victims – Exploring gender violence through the character of Batgirl/Barbara Gordon’. 

In the 1988 comic book, Batman: The Killing Joke, the character of Barbara Gordon (alias Batgirl) is attacked by the Joker – shot in the spine and sexually assaulted. The issue became iconic; one of the great Batman/Joker stories. Crucially, it was not created as a classic Batgirl story. Instead, the victimisation of Batgirl saw the character stripped of significance beyond the significance her assault carried for the male characters in the book: Batman, the Joker, and her Police Commissioner father, Jim Gordon. This demonstrates what Gail Simone has called the ‘Women in Refrigerators’ trope within comic books, in which female characters are killed to provide motivation for male characters. Taking a cultural criminological perspective, this paper will examine online reactions to the victimisation of Batgirl, through analysis of responses to a controversial 2015 variant cover of a Batgirl comic which evoked the events of The Killing Joke, as well as the reaction to a new, and also controversial, animated feature film of this comic. The paper explores the characterisation of Batgirl, one of the most recognisable female characters within the superhero genre, with particular reference to her victimisation, and her status as a ‘possession’ belonging to either her father or Batman. Through analysis of online debate, the paper shows the conflict inherent among comics fans on these points and on how the meanings of sexual and gendered victimisation are understood and negotiated within comics fandom.

Lynsey Black is a Postdoctoral Fellow at University College Dublin. Her doctoral research explored women sentenced to death in post-Independence Ireland. Her postdoctoral research is a study of the death penalty in Ireland and Scotland, 1864-1914. Lynsey has previously carried out research on the media use and construction of gender.