In recent years, Graphic Medicine has emerged as an important movement in changing attitudes to patient experience within the practice of Western medicine. Combining insights from life writing and comics studies, Graphic Medicine texts and scholarship evidence the efficacy of life narrative in the medium of comics for opening up new channels of communication between medical staff, patients, their loved ones, and the community; providing alternative sites for community building among patients and their loved ones in regards to specific conditions and their related treatments; and for educating medical practitioners about patient experiences within healthcare systems. Graphic Medicine also provides new opportunities for life narratives to be coaxed, collected, and published for the benefit of the wider community and for the education of medical professionals.
This special issue of Biography will bring comics practitioners and other artists who work within the field of graphic medicine and/or life writing together with scholars of graphic medicine, life writing, and comics to examine the rise of Graphic Medicine as a discourse and practice, and to consider its possible futures, limits, sites of expansion, and the challenges it may face in offering alternative perspectives on the lived experience of health, illness, and healthcare systems, and their attendant discourses.
The guest editors welcome proposals for scholarly articles and comics on any of the following topics:
The graphic in Graphic Medicine: Can Graphic Medicine help overcome stigmas regarding the body, affective states, and psychological responses associated with different forms of illness and disability? What are the possible limit cases for telling personal stories of illness, health, and death in Graphic Medicine? What role do images play when Graphic Medicine texts attempt to narrate experiences associated with healthcare—such as specific procedures, side effects, or elements of recovery—that may go against social and cultural norms of “good taste”?
Ethics: What ethical questions are raised when artists tell the stories of others in Graphic Medicine? What questions emerge when a patient’s illness story necessarily involves telling the stories of others?
Fictionality: Is there a role in Graphic Medicine for fictive stories of patient experience? Why might practitioners turn to invention and fictionality to tell true stories of health and illness? Does fictionality open up different avenues of critique of medical discourses and practices?
Mediality and terminology: Must the term “Graphic Medicine” only apply to life narratives about health and illness told in comics? Can personal zines, visual artworks, documentaries, live performances, site-specific installations, blogs, Twitter, and other forms of multimodal or intermedial life writing also be included under the banner of “Graphic Medicine”? How might current theorizing about what Graphic Medicine is and does change if other cultural forms were included in its rubric?
Graphic Medicine and disability studies: How do the principles, ideas, and practices of Graphic Medicine intersect with the field of critical disability studies?
Graphic Medicine and diversity: Can the focus on the experiences and expectations patients have when interacting with institutions and procedures in Graphic Medicine expand the recognition of and respect for bodily and psychological difference and neurodiversity within the medical establishment? Does this potential for increased recognition of diversity create a tension with the medical discourses that underpin the provision of healthcare and treatment?
Graphic Medicine and epistemology: What alternative forms of care and healing does Graphic Medicine need to address? Does it offer a means for communicating the importance and efficacy of non-Western and Indigenous practices?
Graphic Medicine and intersectionality: Can Graphic Medicine offer new insights into effects of race, gender, sexuality, ethnicity, class, and age in informing access to the provision of healthcare? How might Graphic Medicine address the discourses that structure the scene of encounter between patient and medical staff and shape how patients’ experiences are interpreted?
We are interested in papers and articles that explore Graphic Medicine from creative practitioner and scholarly perspectives, and which may take the form of original artwork in comics or other text-image combinations, as well as more traditional scholarly formats.
Please submit 350–500-word abstracts or proposals for creative works to Erin La Cour and Anna Poletti by September 15, 2019 to firstname.lastname@example.org. Notifications will be sent by November 15, 2019. Articles of up to 10,000 words or creative works of up to 10 pages in draft form will be due March 1, 2020, and will be workshopped prior to the International AutoBiography Association (IABA) world conference in Turku, Finland, June 9–12, 2020. Biography will reimburse workshop participants for accommodations.