Graphic Historiography: Comics and/on the Writing of History
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A webinar as part of the History and Heritage research theme at the School of Modern Languages with guest speaker Dr Elizabeth “Biz” Nijdam (University of British Columbia).
In 2009, for the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, three graphic novels were published narrating histories of the German Democratic Republic (GDR): Simon Schwartz’s drüben!, Claire Lenkova’s Grenzgebiete, and Flix’s (Felix Görmann) Da war mal was… (2009). Directed at the generation of young adults who witnessed the collapse of the GDR but were too young to understand the complexity of their country’s divide, these comics recounted the experience of living in East Germany through the eyes of the children that grew up there. However, as more graphic novels thematizing GDR history began to appear, what started as a commemoration of the fall of the Berlin Wall in 2009 quickly turned into a trend in the representation of East German experience.
Among these fiction and nonfiction comics on East German history, there is a subgroup of graphic novels that explicitly seeks to engage with more traditional forms of narrating history, such as documentary photography, archival collections, and museum exhibition. These graphic historiographies not only adopt some of the strategies of these institutional forms of memory culture, but they also comment on the way in which history and memory is shaped through them.
This presentation looks at two comics on East German history as case studies to demonstrate how graphic historiography reveals the essential processes of the writing of history while intervening in debates about historical truth and authenticity.
Elizabeth "Biz" Nijdam is a settler-scholar and Lecturer in the Department of Central, Eastern, and Northern European Studies at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada, where she lives and works on the traditional, ancestral and unceded territories of Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh Nations. She is currently completing her book manuscript Graphic Historiography: East German Memory Discourses in Comics and Graphic Novels (Ohio State University Press). Biz’s research and teaching includes the representation of history in comics, comics and new media on forced migration, exploring intersections between Indigenous studies and German and European studies, and feminist methodologies in the graphic arts. Biz also sits on the Executive Committee of the International Comic Arts Forum and the Executive Board of the Comics Studies Society.
Event format & recording
The event will take place online as a Zoom webinar and will be recorded for publication after the event.
The event will be delivered in the medium of English. You are welcome to ask questions in the medium of Welsh during the Q&A session. If you intend to do this, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org by Wednesday 11 May to request simultaneous translation. Please note that 10% or more of those planning to attend will need to request this provision in order for it to be sourced and will be subject to resource availability.
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