16 Feb 2018 - 17 Feb 2018 All day SG1 and SG2, Alison Richard Building


Registration for this conference is now closed. The conference's keynote lecture by Sara Kenney will be open to all, free of charge.  



Lukas Engelmann (University of Edinburgh)

Christos Lynteris (University of St Andrews)



The ushering in of the modern epidemiological age was marked not only by the invasion of Europe and America by cholera and other pathogens, but equally by a public commentary on epidemics through the use of caricatures and comic strips. Graphic figures of speech, visual condensations and sketched comparisons provide shortcuts to the 'hardened political metaphors' (Gombrich) at stake in epidemic crises. As such, this popular mode of communication, debate and critique, was soon taken up by epidemic deniers, health critics and by governments and international agencies in public health education campaigns. Since then the use of comics both by journalists, doctors and governments, has only proliferated becoming a key component of what Charles Briggs has recently called the contested field of biocommunicability. Most recently, the US Centers of Disease Control (CDC) launched a vast epidemic preparedness campaign using a two-volume graphic novel specially designed to familiarize the general public with the principles and responsibilities of epidemic control via the story of a zombie pandemic striking America.

Both allowing governments to reach broad and diverse audiences, and critics of governmental policies to effectively undermine dominant outbreak narratives, comics are perhaps the most democratic and creative mode of fixing and destabilising truth as regards epidemic crises like SARS, Ebola or Zika in the twenty-first century. At the same time 'comic epidemics' have risen to be a popular theme in the realm of graphic novels proper, with works like The Walking Dead or the Argentinean best-seller Dengue dwelling upon the graphic narration of imaginary outbreaks to communicate commentaries on social collapse, survival ethics and the human condition at large.

Though often illustrating historical or anthropological works of epidemic disease, the comic figuration of epidemics has remained an analytically unexamined area. 


Keynote speaker: Sara Kenney (Wellcome Trust Engagement Fellow / Wowbagger Productions; Surgeon X comic book series)




Supported by the Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities (CRASSH), and the University of Edinburgh.


Administrative assistance: events@crassh.cam.ac.uk


Unfortunately, we are unable to arrange or book accommodation for registrants. The following websites may be of help:


Day 1 - Friday 16 February
10.00 - 10.30


10.30 - 11.00

Welcome and Introduction

11.00 - 12.30

Panel 1 – Heroes, Villains and Viruses

Discussant: Nicholas Evans (London School of Economics)


Predrag Duric (Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh)

'”Doctor Justice” as an example of epidemic response in comics'


Adam F. Kola (Nicolaus Copernicus University, Toruń, Poland)

'Imagining Typhus: Two Modalities'

12.30 - 13.30


13.30 - 15.00

Panel 2  –  Emotional Inkscapes

Discussant: Abhijit Sarkar (University of St Andrews)


Jacob Steere Williams (College of Charleston)

'Moral Panics, Monarchy, and Victorian Popular Media'


Anna Manicka (National Museum in Warsaw)

'Everything you always wanted to know about the war today'

15.00 - 15.30


15.30 - 17.00

Panel 3 –  Drawing and Shaping Disease

Discussant: Branwyn Poleykett (University of Cambridge)


Cristina Moreno Lozano (Universitat Rovira i Virgili, Tarragona, Spain)

'Superbugs, superheroes, and antimicrobial resistance: Enduring warfare metaphors in comic form'


Luana Casseli & Luca Laboli (l-inkproject.com)

'Doctor G: a graphic medicine project promoting statistical literacy to contrast the epidemic of overdiagnosis and overtreatment'

17.00 - 17.30


17.30 - 18.30



Sara Kenney (Wellcome Trust Engagement Fellow / Wowbagger Productions; Surgeon X comic book series)

'Surgeon X: Scientific problems are never just a problem for science'

Day 2 - Saturday 17 February
9.30 - 11.00

Panel 4 – Health Interventions

Discussant: Lukas Engelmann (University of Edinburgh)


Agnes Arnold-Forster (University of Roehampton)

'The “Cancer Epidemic” in Motion: Educational Animations in Anglo-American Culture'


Christos Lynteris (University of St Andrews)

'Visual Synergy: Comics, Photography and Ratproofing in the USA'

11.00 - 11.30


11.30 - 13.30

Panel 5 – Pathogenic Worlds

Discussant: Christos Lynteris (University of St Andrews)


Sylva Reznik (University of St Andrews)

'Metaphors in the Czech cartoon Mor (Plague)'


Maurits Weerwijk (University of St Andrews)

'Vector and Virus: The Comic Representation of Dengue'


Tim Pilcher (writer/editor, sexdrugsandcomicbooks.blogspot.com)

'The Personification and Vilification of Disease in Graphic Narratives'

13.30 - 14.30


14.30 - 15.30

Final Discussion

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Tel: +44 1223 766886
Email enquiries@crassh.cam.ac.uk