This AHRC-funded research project, which runs until early 2024, explores the relationship between race, particularly blackness and indigeneity, and comics production in Latin America. Ever since early depictions of race in caricatures dating from the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, the region’s comics have been marked by varied representations of race and discourses that speak to a long history of identities and social relations shaped in and through racial mixture.
Sometimes, these comics are simplistic, stereotypical and display racist representations of cultural difference. Sometimes they are more considered, exploring the complexities of race in ways that deploy the comic form as a way of constructing anti-racist visual discourses.
Despite legislative advances addressing structural inequalities and growing awareness that racism is a widespread social problem, Latin America is still shaped by long-standing racial hierarchies, often obscured by celebrations of the region’s mestizaje (race mixture).
The relationship between comics and race demands attention both because of those racial tensions and also because, since the early 2000s, Latin America is currently undergoing a comics renaissance, facilitated by growing recognition and engagement with comics. Though there is still no comics industry as such, there are a significant number of independent publishing houses dedicated to comics and a vast digital landscape of social media pages that pay testament to a hugely diverse field of production.
For that reason, now is the perfect moment to unpack how comics in the region have treated issues of racial difference in all its diverse manifestations, and how the comics world, which remains predominantly white, might seek out ways to be less inscribed by racial inequalities.
The project will undertake two main tasks:
- To look at the history of race in Latin American comics, whether print or digital, from the nineteenth century to the present;
- Explore how race inflects the work of contemporary artists and comics working practices.
The project will focus on comics in three Latin American countries that have different racial profiles and politics, and different histories of comic’s production, namely Argentina, Colombia and Peru.