A new open-access paper on “Graphic Narratives, Trauma and Social Justice” is now available online. This paper is co-authored by Geography and Tourism Studies professor, Dr. Ebru Ustundag.
In this paper, we explore the relevance of graphic novels to understanding and responding to the complex nature of traumatic experiences. We argue that graphic narratives of trauma, which combine visual images and written text, significantly differ from biomedical and legal accounts by presenting the nuances of traumatic experiences that escape the conventions of written testimony. Building on the literature that integrates social justice concerns with visual methods and graphic medicine, we contend that graphic narratives effectively convey the complexities of traumatic experiences, including embodied experiences that are not always apparent, intelligible, or representable in written form, leading to greater social recognition of the dynamics and consequences of trauma. To illustrate this claim, we analyze Una’s Becoming Unbecoming (2015), a graphic novel that explores themes relating to trauma and social justice. Una relies on the graphic medium to explore the interconnections between personal and collective experiences of gender-based violence, and to show how physical embodied experience is central to her own experience of trauma. Graphic narratives like Becoming Unbecoming also offer a space for addressing the emotional, physical and financial costs of survivorship that usually are not available in legal written testimonies, potentially leading to better justice outcomes for trauma survivors in terms of social intelligibility and recognition, and access to social resources for healing.