From Inclusion to Transformation: Decolonial Feminist Comix Methodology (With Handy Illustrations)

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Virginia Tech

Feminist rhetorics need to move us from inclusion to transformation: instead of "including" more and more marginalized groups into the scholarly status quo, or "including" comics into methods of analysis that we already use, we need to transform our practices themselves. Seeing comics research as an expedition into comics doesn't work. The spatial metaphor is failing because it's analogous to a takeover in the colonial sense.

I center the both/and experience of being a producer of comics and analyst of them. Drawing from a critical reading of my own comic, I describe "the disobedient how," a way of learning from transgressive models. I argue that instead of "collecting" comics, decolonial feminist methodology asks that we "attend" comics through listening, experiencing, and having a relationship with them and their creators.

As Shawn Wilson's work suggests, knowledge lies in relationships. I use this concept to guide an analysis of Lynda Barry's recent comics work as well as her comments during a panel at the Comics: Philosophy and Practice conference. In order for academics to have true knowledge about Barry's work, we must have a right relationship to her and to it, which requires decolonizing our relationship to texts and taking Barry's comics seriously as sources of theory. Next, I argue for scholars to pay closer attention to Alison Bechdel's comics beyond their engagement with her memoir, Fun Home. I describe her participation in queer rhetoric through a close reading of her comic strip Dykes To Watch Out For and her public discussion of her composing practices. Finally, I perform a retrospective of the history of my own comic book, Oh Shit, I'm in Grad School, drawing on (and developing documentation for) personal archives.

rhetoric, comics, feminism, decolonial, composition