2022-23 Mellon Sawyer Seminar

This seminar will bring diverse individuals, institutions, and organizations together to critically explore the overarching theme of “Racial Reckoning and Social Justice through Comics,” through a series of events designed to address racial and ethnic representation in global popular culture as both a historical legacy and ongoing concern, with the latter emphasis allowing us to explore and celebrate the vital work of diverse contemporary creators from around the world who are revising past injustices to make emphatically anti-racist comics.

In addition to a year-long intensive seminar with local participants, the Sawyer Seminar will feature a series of public presentations by prominent visiting creators and scholars, a film series, workshops, podcasts, and other public events, all of which will critically engage questions of racial representation in the popular international formats of comics. Mellon Sawyer Seminar funding will also support an in-residence post-doctoral fellow and the dissertation research of two affiliated UI graduate students.

“Racial Reckoning and Social Justice Through Comics” will be the third Mellon Sawyer Seminar hosted at the University of Iowa, and will build upon the strong foundations for comics studies at the University of Iowa established a decade ago when the co-directors brought major comics scholars, publishers, and artists to Iowa City for a series of events and exhibitions as part of the Obermann Humanities Symposium “Comics, Creativity, and Culture.” This Seminar is also designed to directly engage with ongoing discussions and initiatives around social justice, diversity, equity, and inclusion on campus, in Iowa City, and beyond. A full list of visitors and events is forthcoming.

Read the press release


Corey Creekmur

Corey Creekmur

Cinematic Arts, English, and Gender, Women’s & Sexuality Studies, CLAS

Corey Creekmur is the founding and general editor of the award-winning Comics Culture book series for Rutgers University Press, and is currently Second Vice President of the Comics Studies Society (leading to the role of President in 2023), which he helped launch. His publications include essays on race and underground comics.

Ana Merino

Spanish & Portuguese, CLAS

Ana Merino is a scholar and creative writer with an extensive background in comics criticism and the curation of comics exhibits: her publications on comics include El cómic hispánico (2003), Chris Ware: La secuencia circular (2005), and Diez ensayos para pensar el cómic (2017). For many years, she was closely affiliated with the International Comic Arts Forum (ICAF) and the Center for Cartoon Studies.

Rachel Williams

Rachel Williams

Gender, Women’s & Sexuality Studies and Art & Art History, CLAS

Rachel Williams teaches courses on the making of comics and is the author-artist of two recent works of graphic nonfiction, Elegy for Mary Turner: An Illustrated Account of a Lynching (Verso, 2021) and Run Home if You Don’t Want to be Killed: The Detroit Uprising of 1943 (Duke University Press, 2021), both centered on historical cases of racial injustice.

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