Portals into a field: connecting across & through keywords/images in graphic medicine

2022 Graphic Medicine Conference, Chicago

Friday, July 15 | 3pm

Briana Martino and I will moderate a panel at the 2022 Graphic Medicine Conference in Chicago that will showcase a variety of contributions to our Keywords/images in Graphic Medicine book project. This project is a verbal and visual resource into the formal elements, theoretical concepts, practical and pedagogical tools, and health and illness politics of the field of graphic medicine. We are inspired by the work of literary and cultural studies scholar Raymond Williams and his book Keywords: A Vocabulary of Culture and Society, a text that articulates the politics of such a vocabulary. As the keywords framework risks reducing graphic medicine to only one component of the form, we have coined the term keyimages to indicate the significance of images, separate from and in relation to words, in the emergence and enactment of the field of graphic medicine. Keyimages are visual tropes and iconography used by comics artists in their work, as well as aspects of the comics form that help create the vocabulary of graphic medicine. Or, in relation to the theme of this conference, keyimages create a connective tissue between graphic medicine practitioners across disciplines and domains (the arts, healthcare, academia, etc.). Our project demonstrates how graphic medicine/illness comics are symptomatic texts of our time: that is, texts that literally describe symptoms (and struggle with finding a form to describe the affective and physical experience of symptoms), and texts that describe illness as an event that goes beyond any individual’s experience and account of it, reflecting wider cultural categories, including race, gender, class, and sexuality.

Panelists & their keywords/images: 

  • Savita Rani: PERFORMATIVE
  • Kay Sohini: WINDOWS + CLIMATE
  • Emmy Waldman: OCD
  • Brian Fies: CANCER
  • A. David Lewis: CANCER 

Virtual presentations (available on the Graphic Medicine Conference website):

  • benjamin lee hicks: VISIBILITY + CARE
  • Luke Jackson: IVF
  • Kara Pernicano: EMOJI
  • Amritha Radhakrishnan: CHRONIC PAIN
  • Sofia Varino: SOLVING/SOLUTIONS
  • Justin Wigard: UNFLATTENING

EYES keyimage collage includes images from (clockwise from top left): Jaime Cortez, Sexile; Èlodie Durand, Parenthesis; Nick Sousanis, Unflattening; David B. Epileptic; Emil Ferris, My Favorite Thing Is Monsters.

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