With Russian readers’ increasing acceptance of comics – for decades derogated as a “foreign” and half-literate medium – the amount of graphic narrative work by marginalized groups has grown as well, in particular since Putin’s 2012 return to the presidency. The accessibility (especially for the young), visceral impact and easy dissemination of comics (especially through the internet) has made them an attractive vehicle for voices and imagery otherwise occluded in contemporary life. This talk discusses comics by or about the disabled – themselves a population too long ignored by mainstream Russia. How do young artists like Tayana Faskhutdinova, Lyonya Rodin, Roman Sokolov and Ner-Tamin (Yulia Nikitina) represent the disabled body as site of contention and human dignity? How do their visions coincide with and complicate the rhetoric of disability rights movements in Russia? How do the visual-verbal strategies of comic art communicate the experiences of lives too often lived in the shadows? Finally, how does the 2017 publication of and national press devoted to Vladimir Rudak and Lena Uzhinova’s graphic novel I Am an Elephant signal a new phase in disability representation in Russia?
José Alaniz, associate professor in the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures and the Department of Comparative Literature (adjunct) at the University of Washington, Seattle, has published two books, Komiks: Comic Art in Russia (University Press of Mississippi, 2010)and Death, Disability and the Superhero: The Silver Age and Beyond (UPM, 2014). His articles have appeared in the International Journal of Comic Art, Studies in Russian and Soviet Cinema, The Slavic and East European Journal and such anthologies as Disability in Comic Books and Graphic Narratives (2016) and Russian Children’s Literature and Culture (Routledge, 2007). Since 2011 he has served as Chair of the Executive Committee of the International Comic Arts Forum (ICAF), the leading comics studies conference in the US. His research interests include Death and Dying, Disability Studies, Eco-criticism and Comics Studies. Current book projects include Resurrection: Comics in Post-Soviet Russia and Beautiful Monsters: Disability in Alternative Comics.