University of the Arts London
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Golnar Nabizadeh - Building confident life stories: Bereavement and Comics Praxis

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Version 2 2020-06-29, 13:01
Version 1 2020-06-29, 09:15
posted on 2020-06-29, 13:01 authored by Golnar Nabizadeh

Crises of varying magnitudes punctuate our everyday lives, most recently exemplified by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, but also evident in the impact of the Anthropocene on the environment, mass human displacements, human rights abuses, economic inequity and collapse, among other disasters. The arts, including comics, represent, reconfigure, imagine, and understand the potential impact of crises on individuals, communities, and the broader socio-political landscape. Comics have proven to be a highly fertile and productive medium for exploring crisis and trauma in the way that they externalise these issues through their form and function. The combination of image and text supports creative and exploratory responses to physical and mental health issues (Squier & Marks 2014; Williams 2012). The social impact of drawing as a form of art therapy has been widely documented (Hardy 2013), as has the use of comics as art therapy (Mulholland 2004; Williams 2011), in play therapy (Rubin et al 2006) as well as in zines (Houpt et al 2016). This presentation analyses the role of praxis in relation to crises of personal loss and bereavement through a case study entitled ‘Developing confident life stories about child bereavement: normalising and supporting bereavement experiences through storytelling and comics’. A joint research project between the Universities of Dundee and Strathclyde and conducted between 2018 – 2019, this initiative used an original, iterative methodology to communicate the impact of bereavement on young people aged 12–18 years, working with groups of young people to construct and represent their insights on bereavement in comics. The project was designed to investigate the claim that creating and reading comics helps generate confident life stories, and that the latter is a key component in building resilience (Bosticco & Thompson 2005). The primary project output – an original comic – was powerful, and the discussion will highlight its content and impact.


Scottish Universities Insight Institute



Dr Golnar Nabizadeh is Lecturer in Comics Studies at the University of Dundee where she teaches on the Masters in Comics & Graphic Novels, as well as undergraduate modules on film and literature. Her research interests are graphic justice, critical theory, trauma and memory studies. She has published on the work of Alison Bechdel, Marjane Satrapi, Shaun Tan, and the Australian online comic “At Work in Our Detention Centres: A Guard’s Story”, among others. Her monograph, entitled Representation and Memory in Graphic Novels (2019) is available from Routledge .She has worked on several educational and public information comics projects, notably 'Archives and Memory' (2018) and 'When People Die: Stories from Young People' (2019).