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Mihaela Precup & Dragos Manea - Empathy, Fantasy and the Framing of the Perpetrator in Nina Bunjevac’s Bezimena

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conference contribution
posted on 2020-06-29, 15:42 authored by Dragoș Manea, Mihaela Precup
02/07/2020 11:00 Room 2 #empcgs

Serbian-Canadian cartoonist Nina Bunjevac’s third book, Bezimena (2018), zeroes in on the perspective of a perpetrator of child sexual abuse and murder while taking on the logic of fantasy and relying on well-circulated classical myths in order to frame a narrative of sexual violence, seemingly outside the traditional confines of history and biography. In this paper, we are particularly interested in the role of empathy for the perpetrator that the graphic narrative might generate, and how an ethics of empathy might shape both our experience of the work itself and our larger moral and political (re-)actions.

In conversation with scholars who expand the narrow category of “perpetrator” (Michael Rothberg, Scott Strauss), we attempt to give answers to questions such as: How can graphic narratives contribute to a more nuanced understanding of perpetration, particularly in the case of sexual assault? How do they contribute to the representation of perpetration, particularly when the depiction of perpetrators is mixed with elements of fantasy? What is the benefit of producing an ethics of empathy, wherein the perpetrator is both humanized and even made to appear sympathetic? How can we consider the gendered dimension of perpetration without simply reiterating a critique—however valid—of traditional masculinity and femininity?



Dragoş Manea is a lecturer at the University of Bucharest, where he teaches American literature, cultural memory studies, and film studies. His main research interests include the adaptation of history, cultural memory, and the relationship between ethics and fiction. Relevant publications include “Western Nightmares: Manifest Destiny and the Representation of Genocide in Weird Fiction” (Studies in Comics 8:2) and “Infantilizing the Refugee: On the Mobilization of Empathy in Kate Evans’s Threads from the Refugee Crisis” (a/b Auto/Biography Studies 35:2). Mihaela Precup is an Associate Professor in the American Studies Program at the University of Bucharest, where she teaches American visual and popular culture, contemporary American literature and comics studies. Her work explores the graphic representation of violence, post-traumatic memory, autobiography, and subversive femininity. She is the author of The Graphic Lives of Fathers (Palgrave Macmillan, 2020).