Graphic Adventures in Anthropology
This is the final post in a blog series called Graphic Adventures in Anthropology. For several weeks now, guest contributors have been writing about various aspects of graphic anthropology (and by “graphic” we mean drawing in general, and comics in particular), from visual culture to visual communication, and from ethnographic method to dissemination device. Here’s the full list of guest contributors:
Andrew Causey: Drawing as an Ethnographic Method
Stacy Leigh Pigg: Learning Graphic Novels from an Artist’s Perspective
Sherine Hamdy & Mona Damluji: Reflecting on Arab Comics: 90 Years of Visual Culture
Coleman Nye: Teaching Comics in a Medical Anthropology & Humanities Class
Gillian Crowther: Fieldwork Cartoons Revisited
Juliet McMullin: Comics in the Community
Nick Sousanis: Unflattening Scholarship with Comics
Announcing ethnoGRAPHIC: A New Series
By Anne Brackenbury
Well, we’re just about finished our Graphic Adventures in Anthropology, and we hope you’ve had as much fun reading as we have had putting this together. We’ve visited a lot of places—from understanding the power of drawing and comics as a valuable method and way of seeing, as well as a potent teaching and communicative form that captures the sometimes less visible elements of fieldwork, to the representational and ethical challenges that this format raises, and the ways in which comic stereotypes might be appropriated effectively across cultures. If you’ve missed any of these posts, you can read the entire blog series here.
Now that we have you primed, we’re thrilled to announce a new book series here at the University of Toronto Press called ethnoGRAPHIC: Ethnography in Graphic Form. Whether you are an aspiring artist, or just interested in the possibilities of this format as both a methodology and a unique way of communicating your research results, we welcome expressions of interest and discussions about potential collaborations. It’s a brave new world out there, and we’re convinced that many academics want to be more creative in how they reach their audiences. We hope this series will harness some of that creativity.
What Do We Mean by “Graphic Form”?
When we first imagined this book series, we thought of a full-length graphic novel or comic in place of a traditional text-focused ethnography. But the more we talked to people about their ideas, the more rich and complex the vision became. A graphic ethnography might be a full-length graphic novel, but it might also be an ethnography that is largely text-based with graphic selections—either small sections of visual narratives interspersed throughout, or pulled together in a separate chapter. It might be equal part text and narrative—alternating between a chapter of text and a chapter of visual narrative, each working against and with one another to enhance the reading experience. Or, it might be a volume of ethnographic vignettes stitched together by an introduction that contextualizes and helps connect themes and concepts. For those anthropologists who are also aspiring artists, these projects might even originate as weekly serial comics created during fieldwork, and then collected in book form. In short, there are likely as many different ways of constructing an ethnoGRAPHIC narrative as there are people creating them.
Why a University Press?
There are a lot of fantastic graphic novel publishers, but we believe that a university press is uniquely situated to understand the reality of the scholarly comic challenge: the need to contextualize, clarify, and sometimes make the connections and highlight the nuances of research, as well as the need for a peer review process. We also understand the role these books can play as important tools in the undergraduate anthropology curriculum. Besides, university presses already make scholarly ideas available to the public, so why would we cede that ground to trade publishers? Nick Sousanis’s Unflattening is just the beginning. We believe that university presses can move beyond talking about comics, to actually publishing scholarship in comic form.
What We Offer
A scholarly monograph is a lot of work even in straight text form, and ethnography, with its ethical challenges and expectations, is harder than most. Complicate that with the need to translate research into more of a script format (not unlike a screenplay, complete with thick description, dialogue, and suggestions for establishing shots, close ups, etc.), then collaborate with a visual artist to realize a sophisticated visual rendering while maintaining the integrity of the research, and there’s no doubt that many people will turn and run. We believe there are far more positives than negatives, however, and that those who are committed to the idea will emerge from the process not only thrilled by a product that is sophisticated, creative, and unique, but that can be offered back to the community as a gift that might actually be read!
Our series is still very much nascent and many of the details will, no doubt, emerge as the projects unfold. We will be watching Penn State University Press’s ground breaking Graphic Medicine series as it evolves. Watch for their Manifesto being published this May. In the meantime, here is what you can expect from us:
- Information (supporting materials, suggested bibliography, cost estimates) for those embarking on their fieldwork so they can integrate a graphic ethnography into their grant proposals early on.
- Expertise/referrals (for academics who have finished their research and are ready to embark on a graphic ethnography) for possible funding sources, access to potential visual artists/illustrators, and graphic novel writing script templates.
- Feedback and advice on shaping projects so they reflect the most effective elements of a graphic ethnography.
- Peer review to ensure the scholarly, pedagogical, and visual aspects of the work meet the highest standards.
- Design, publishing, and distribution services to ensure dissemination to a worldwide academic and trade audience.
We can’t promise that we will have answers to all your questions in these early days, but we will provide as much information and support as we can to help work through the challenges with you.
ethnoGRAPHIC Series Guidelines
General Series Editor:
Joshua Barker, Associate Professor of Anthropology and Director of Asian Studies, University of Toronto
Sherine Hamdy, Associate Professor of Anthropology, and Kutayba Alghanim Professor of Social Science, Brown University
Juliet McMullin, Associate Professor of Anthropology, University of California, Riverside
Stacy Leigh Pigg, Associate Professor of Anthropology, Simon Fraser University
Fiona Smyth, Visual Artist, Cartoonist and Instructor, OCAD University (formerly Ontario College of Art and Design), Toronto
Nick Sousanis (PhD Columbia Teacher’s College), Postdoctoral Fellow in Comics Studies, University of Calgary
We invite expressions of interest and proposals from anthropologists who are curious about exploring ethnography in graphic format. Proposals should be between 3 and 8 pages, and include the following elements:
1. Summary of your research and a rationale for why you think this project would fit with the ethnoGRAPHIC series.
2. A brief description of how you envisage this project being realized as a graphic ethnography. How will text and visuals relate together in this book? Graphic samples or scripts should be included if they are available.
3. A brief outline of the structure of the book: table of contents, description of the plot or narrative driving the book, etc.
4. Estimated page length of the book.
5. Do you plan to do the illustrations yourself or will you work with a visual artist? If the latter, do you know a visual artist you can work with or are you looking for help finding one?
6. Do you have access to funding that might help underwrite the costs associated with this project or do you have thoughts on funding sources we might explore together?
7. Please outline your own timeline for realizing this project from proposal stage to publication of the final product.
8. Author CV.
Proposals and queries can be directed to Anne Brackenbury, Executive Editor, University of Toronto Press.