Library News

Graphic Novels and Identity in Africa and the Diaspora

Dear Colleagues,

Please join us this Friday, April 4th at 2:00 pm in the Hatfield Room for this week’s Faculty Colloquium.

Our speaker will be:

Michelle Bumatay, Visiting Assistant Professor of French

Title: Graphic Novels and Identity in Africa and the Diaspora: A Visual Postcolonial Discoursebumatay_sm

Abstract: Former French President Charles de Gaulle’s famous claim that Belgian character Tintin was his only international rival speaks to the ubiquity of bandes dessinées (comics and graphic novels) in the francophone world. Similarly, in Peau noire, Masques blancs, Frantz Fanon highlights the popularity of bandes dessinées and points to the negative psychological impact of such texts on non-European readers who identify with Western explorer characters rather than with the racialized stereotypical images of non-European characters. One major factor for this is that the emergence and development of French and Belgian bandes dessinées took place during the height of European colonialism and subsequently drew from and participated in a visual culture—such as travel postcards, brochures and keepsakes from colonial expositions, and in particular advertisements for exotic goods such as Banania—that helped construct the European imaginary of Africa. My current work examines how contemporary cartoonists employ a wide range of visual and verbal strategies to subvert existing visual stereotypes of blacks and Africa prevalent in French-language graphic novels (the most ubiquitous example being Tintin in the Congo) and visual culture (including ad campaigns for exotic goods such as Banania). Focusing on cartoonists from West and Central Africa whose work dates from the 1980s to today, my work is chiefly concerned with the representations of postcolonial identity formation. Moreover, I contend that these cartoonists, by challenging mainstream European graphic narrative conventions, invite readers to question meaning-making processes and actively generate new ways of thinking of and visualizing Africa.

Doreen Simonsen and Stephanie DeGooyer
Faculty Colloquium Coordinators