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This Toronto conference panel is moderated by Ian Williams.
Managing difference through graphic cancer narratives, Juliet McMullin, Department of Anthropology, University of California, Riverside
A common refrain in cancer disparities research states that while cancer mortality rates have dramatically decreased over the past decade, these gains have not accrued evenly across populations. Yet, there is little surprise in the findings of difference in cancer mortality rates. Cancer has always been about difference; difference in cells, in a body, between bodies, in access to resources, knowledge, and medical care. Graphic novels that have cancer narratives at their center, such as Mom’s Cancer, Alicia en el mundor real, or Cancer Made Me a Shallower Person, provide insights into the processes by which difference is revealed and biomedical citizens and selves are (re)made. This process is keenly observed through the specter of cancer and its unresolvable entanglement with biomedicine. Through the analysis of graphic novels of cancer, this paper examines the co-production of metaphors and practices of disparity and difference. The multiplicity of cultural meanings associated with these narratives have important and yet sometimes confounding implications for understanding cancer disparities. By examining the intersections of metaphors, activism, and biomedicalization in graphic novels we can gain insight into the simultaneous creation and erasure of cancer as difference. The entanglement with biomedicine leads to a proliferation of spheres through which one can not only come to know cancer as difference and marginalization but also know themselves as biomedicalized citizens.
The slides that correspond to Juliet’s presentation can be viewed in Prezi format here.
Disability, Dismodernism and Kaisa Leka’s ‘I Am Not These Feet’ (2003), José Alaniz. associate professor, Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures, University of Washington.
In 2002, Finnish comics artist Kaisa Leka, who due to a congenital condition had long suffered severe pain from arthritis in her lower extremities, chose to have them amputated. She chronicled her controversial decision, journey through the surgical procedure and its aftermath in her autobiographical comics, I Am Not These Feet.Proceeding from Disability Studies scholar Lennard Davis’ concept of Dismodernism (for its critically body-based approach to Postmodernist identity), this presentation addresses some key issues raised by Leka’s work and life story: the resistance to medical, sentimental, humorless and “overcoming” models of impairment, in favor of a social model; the place of prostheses in contemporary posthumanism; and the comics representation of the disabled, autonomous self.
Cancer superwoman: Performing femininity in Marissa Acocella Marchetto’s Cancer Vixen, Jessica Wolpert, Master of Arts in Literature and Medicine from Kings College, London.
In her graphic novel Cancer Vixen, Marisa Acocella Marchetto feminizes the metaphor of battling against illness by depicting herself as a superheroine who uses fashion, exercise, and diet as weapons to defeat cancer. Unlike the traditional male superhero, Marchetto is in a fight to the death against her own body—a battle already familiar to the readers of women’s magazines, the intended audience of Cancer Vixen. This story of a cancer superheroine is both comfortingly familiar and deliberately prescriptive, creating a narrative universe in which the feminine culture of breast cancer–Barbara Ehrenreich’s “pink kitsch”–can literally be a lifesaver.
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