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“On Comics and Disability”

Exploring the comics work of three artists, Georgia Webber, ET Russian, and Andrew Godfrey, my essay featured in the December 2015 issue of Wordgathering: A Journal of Disability Poetry and Literature is an investigation of the intersection of comics and disability narratives and portrayals.

There are many crucial disability narratives of medical treatment focusing on technological intervention to help people become more mobile and independent. As well there are many stories that place disability experience in context with medical intervention as the way and only way to make people “healthy” or “normal” or “the same” again, often infantilizing, homogenizing, and rarely focusing on the individual lives of the people being treated. Autobiographical disability comics are powerful because they are the stories people share of their lived experience, their stories of being in the world day to day. Perhaps the artist chooses to include moments of medical intervention, treatment plans, the story of their caregivers, or therapy sessions within that story, but only because it is a part of their lived experience, not a biomedical model that is attempting to normalize bodies. It is curious to me why many are so willing to talk about how to intervene into people’s lives but not actually talk to those people and about the nuances of their lives. These autobiographical comics are opportunity to see differences in bodies and experiences placed into their own context on the terms of that living context. These comics are emphasis on the individual voice speaking for itself, deconstructing a socially manipulated understanding of disabled bodies exposing how, with such stealth, the medical gaze has dominated understandings of “valuable” bodies in literature and society.

Read the full essay here in Wordgathering‘s online issue.

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