University of the Arts London
Steff Humm Shelf-Expression How Creative Labour Practices Reinforce Discrimination and Inequality in Comics Circulation.docx (10.75 kB)

Steff Humm - Shelf-Expression How Creative Labour Practices Reinforce Discrimination and Inequality in Comics Circulation

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posted on 2020-06-29, 16:47 authored by Steff Humm

02/07/2020 14:00 Room 2 #sheccp

The term ‘shelving politics’ refers to the implied meanings and messages created by the location and relational placement of products or artworks for sale, loan or interpretive interaction. For comics, this might include the impression customers form about individual titles, the medium as a whole or wider social issues reflected in content or authorship, based on the way the products are laid out, organised or promoted within a retail environment. The application of Bourdieu’s theory of cultural capital (1986) demonstrates that decisions about shelving may reinforce social inequality through exclusion, othering and canonical hierarchies, as accessibility is policed by the implementation of symbolic capital and consumers are discouraged from browsing beyond their assigned demographics.

Through a simulation of shelving practices, this workshop will engage participants in the various methods of curating and canonising comics, encouraging them to consider how such decisions create messages that impact the potential for intersectional equality and/or discrimination within the wider comics industry. By physically taking part in meaning-making through experiments in different forms of organising comic books for sale, we will work to discover and discuss the nuances of comics circulation and the related consequences for audience development and the production of future comics.



Steff Humm is working towards her PhD in Critical Theory and Cultural Studies at the University of Nottingham. Funded by Midlands4Cities, her thesis is a multi-disciplinary exploration of the construction of value systems in the UK comics industry, with a focus on creative labour practices within the production, circulation and reception of comic books. Creator and editor-in-chief of The Artful—a digital magazine dedicated to in-depth discussions of comics and their wider industry in a social and cultural context—Steff is interested in anything to do with literature, visual culture, and the connections between art and the industries that produce it.

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