Joe Sutliff Sanders and Andrea Aramburu-Villavisencio discuss their forthcoming CRASSH conference Comics and the Global South which will take place at the Faculty of Education on 6 & 7 July 2022.
It’s not often you get an opportunity to decolonise a lofty institution from three different angles at once. That is exactly, however, what Comics and the Global South intends to do.
First, there’s the absurdity of talking about comic books at the University of Cambridge, long dedicated to cataloguing, admiring, and producing the best art in every venue of high culture, from novels to portraits, poems to sonatas, plays to pavilions. This conference brings comic books – long a medium that spoke to reluctant readers, immigrants, and the working class – to the heart of an institution that has been associated with high art for centuries.
The comics around which the conference is organised, too, exist outside the small set of Anglophone and Francophone ‘graphic novels’ that the Western literary world has embraced. Our conference will make space at the centre of the conversation for artists, traditions, and works that take for granted assumptions about visual art and storytelling that have not been codified by Western knowledge.
Finally, the conference is conceived as a place for the Global South to speak to the Global South. Rather than an opportunity to import the South into a space in which the West can study and judge, this conference aims to be a venue for the scholars, students, and producers of comics in the Global South to narrate themselves in relation to other Southern traditions.
The goals of the conference are lofty, even if the materials we study are decidedly not. Our hybrid conference will take up physical space at the University of Cambridge even as it facilitates access to the conversation for people around the world. We hope for a deeply decolonial impact that will last for years to come.