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Comics and Agency – Actors, Publics, Participation

22.04.2020 13:03 | Anonymous member (Administrator)

October 8-10, 2020

University of Tuebingen, Germany

Deadline: May 31, 2020

15th Annual Conference of the German Society for Comics Studies (ComFor)

ComFor’s 15th annual conference aims to intensify a dialogue between the various disciplinary approaches to the medium of comics and related popular narrative images (including manga, graphic novels or cartoons) by focusing on the concept of medial, mediated, and mediating agency. Building on perspectives from actor-network theory and subsequent approaches to a possible actor-media theory, the conference aims to reconstruct the complexities of distributed agency within historical and contemporary cultures of comics.

An “actor” is here understood as any entity that becomes recognizable as the catalyst or cause of interrelated, complex chains of action, transformation, or reconfiguration. According to “new materialist” approaches, agency can not only be attributed to “natural” persons, but also to “things” as heterogeneous as materialities, devices, inscriptions, or programs within complex configurations or assemblages. The ComFor conference is going to focus primarily on the interrelations between (groups of) individual, collective, and institutional or corporate actors.

From this point of view, many classifications that are fundamental for the world of comics, such as the distinction between producers and consumers, authors and readers, appear as mere effects of a particular distribution of agency within historically evolving media configurations. Agency is thus at stake when recipients resist hegemonic meanings and readings of multimodal texts in order to assume opposing positions. In the same manner, “authorship” could be understood as the attribution of agency of and between various medial instances and roles such as writers, artists, colorists, letterers, or editors, as well as with regard to commercial rights holders such as publishing houses or conglomerates and reviewers or fans. From this point of view, aspects of comics‘ production (authorship and institutionalization) can be related to aspects of comics’ reception (appropriation and discursivation) as well as to aspects of comics’ circulation (participation and canonization), including their potential for transmedialization and making contributions to the formation of the public sphere.

Against this backdrop, potential topics for contributions may include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • (De)construction of authorship
  • Production-oriented research
  • Fan discourses and review mechanisms
  • Issues of cultural participation
  • Canonization and the in/exclusion from continuities
  • Control over transmedia franchises, storyworlds, and characters
  • Influences of changing techniques and technologies on practices of production, distribution, and reception
  • Impacts of economical forces on comic cultures
  • Question about the formation of various public spheres of/by comics

Conference papers will be accepted in either English or German and should not exceed 20 minutes. We plan to publish selected contributions in an edited volume. Participants are not required to be members of ComFor. Contributions from non-members welcome!

Beyond the discussion of each year’s special topic, ComFor aims to further co-operation and dialogue in all areas of comics research. The 15th Annual Conference in Tuebingen will therefore continue the tradition of an open workshop format that allows researchers to present and gather feedback on on-going projects within comics studies in all stages of development, and without any thematic restrictions. We thus warmly invite colleagues in all phases of academic careers to discuss any projects on which they are currently working. The open workshop presentations are limited to a maximum of 15 minutes. Please send an abstract of approx. 500 words plus a short biography (as a word and pdf file) in English or German no later than 31 May 2020 to

Please indicate whether your submission is intended for the main conference or the open workshop.



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