Is there a widely accessible yet conceptually rigorous way to convey anthropological insights into the lived complexities and bioethical dilemmas that attend managing chronic illness in two vastly different contexts: the contemporary Arab world, and the United States? As it turns out, there is: comics. At the time we began to explore this question, we had both been excited by the pedagogical potentials of this genre in our medical anthropological teaching (Hamdy 2014, Nye 2015). Like other scholars working in the growing field of what Ian Williams has termed “graphic medicine,” we found that the combination of text and image in graphic memoirs such as Hyperbole and a Half or Mom’s Cancer can powerfully convey the visceral, temporal, and social dimensions of illness, while the levity of the genre makes it easier to engage with difficult topics such as suicidal depression or cancer. We began to consider that the graphic form might also make it possible to succinctly and effectively visualize medical anthropological concepts such as “structural violence,” “biotechnical embrace,” or “political etiologies.”
Motivated by the conceptual and pedagogical potentials of comics, we began the process of crafting a collaborative narrative-based graphic adaptation of our original field research (process illustrated here by Hamdy’s daughter in fig. 1). This has led to a richly collaborative multi-dimensional project developed with the guidance of award-winning cartoonist and editor Paul Karasik and illustrated by Rhode Island School of Design students Sarula Bao and Caroline Brewer. We are thrilled to announce that the resulting project, Lissa (Still Time): a graphic medical ethnography of friendship, loss, and revolution, is now forthcoming with University of Toronto Press’s ethnoGRAPHIC series edited by Anne Brackenbury.
The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.