Calls for Papers

Graphic Medicine

A Special Issue of Biography: An Interdisciplinary Quarterly

Guest Editors: Erin La Cour (Free University of Amsterdam) and Anna Poletti (Utrecht University)

Submit: Abstracts of 300–500 words in length by September 15, 2019 to

In recent years, Graphic Medicine has emerged as an important movement in changing attitudes to patient experience within the practice of Western medicine. Combining insights from life writing and comics studies, Graphic Medicine texts and scholarship evidence the efficacy of life narrative in the medium of comics for opening up new channels of communication between medical staff, patients, their loved ones, and the community; providing alternative sites for community building among patients and their loved ones in regards to specific conditions and their related treatments; and for educating medical practitioners about patient experiences within healthcare systems. Graphic Medicine also provides new opportunities for life narratives to be coaxed, collected, and published for the benefit of the wider community and for the education of medical professionals.

This special issue of Biography will bring comics practitioners and other artists who work within the field of graphic medicine and/or life writing together with scholars of graphic medicine, life writing, and comics to examine the rise of Graphic Medicine as a discourse and practice, and to consider its possible futures, limits, sites of expansion, and the challenges it may face in offering alternative perspectives on the lived experience of health, illness, and healthcare systems, and their attendant discourses.

The guest editors welcome proposals for scholarly articles and comics on any of the following topics:

  • The graphic in Graphic Medicine: Can Graphic Medicine help overcome stigmas regarding the body, affective states, and psychological responses associated with different forms of illness and disability? What are the possible limit cases for telling personal stories of illness, health, and death in Graphic Medicine? What role do images play when Graphic Medicine texts attempt to narrate experiences associated with healthcare—such as specific procedures, side effects, or elements of recovery—that may go against social and cultural norms of “good taste”?
  • Ethics: What ethical questions are raised when artists tell the stories of others in Graphic Medicine? What questions emerge when a patient’s illness story necessarily involves telling the stories of others?
  • Fictionality: Is there a role in Graphic Medicine for fictive stories of patient experience? Why might practitioners turn to invention and fictionality to tell true stories of health and illness? Does fictionality open up different avenues of critique of medical discourses and practices?
  • Mediality and terminology: Must the term “Graphic Medicine” only apply to life narratives about health and illness told in comics? Can personal zines, visual artworks, documentaries, live performances, site-specific installations, blogs, Twitter, and other forms of multimodal or intermedial life writing also be included under the banner of “Graphic Medicine”? How might current theorizing about what Graphic Medicine is and does change if other cultural forms were included in its rubric?
  • Graphic Medicine and disability studies: How do the principles, ideas, and practices of Graphic Medicine intersect with the field of critical disability studies?
  • Graphic Medicine and diversity: Can the focus on the experiences and expectations patients have when interacting with institutions and procedures in Graphic Medicine expand the recognition of and respect for bodily and psychological difference and neurodiversity within the medical establishment? Does this potential for increased recognition of diversity create a tension with the medical discourses that underpin the provision of healthcare and treatment?
  • Graphic Medicine and epistemology: What alternative forms of care and healing does Graphic Medicine need to address? Does it offer a means for communicating the importance and efficacy of non-Western and Indigenous practices?
  • Graphic Medicine and intersectionality: Can Graphic Medicine offer new insights into effects of race, gender, sexuality, ethnicity, class, and age in informing access to the provision of healthcare? How might Graphic Medicine address the discourses that structure the scene of encounter between patient and medical staff and shape how patients’ experiences are interpreted?

We are interested in papers and articles that explore Graphic Medicine from creative practitioner and scholarly perspectives, and which may take the form of original artwork in comics or other text-image combinations, as well as more traditional scholarly formats.

Please submit 350–500-word abstracts or proposals for creative works to Erin La Cour and Anna Poletti by September 15, 2019 to Notifications will be sent by November 15, 2019. Articles of up to 10,000 words or creative works of up to 10 pages in draft form will be due March 1, 2020, and will be workshopped prior to the International AutoBiography Association (IABA) world conference in Turku, Finland, June 9–12, 2020. Biography will reimburse workshop participants for accommodations.


After(Life) Narratives of #MeToo

A Special Issue of Biography: An Interdisciplinary Quarterly

Guest Editors: Rebecca Wanzo (Washington University in St. Louis) and Carol Stabile (University of Oregon)

Submit: Abstracts of 300–500 words in length by November 15, 2019 to

Stories of sexual violence are shaped and constrained both by the unrepresentable nature of trauma and conventions of medium and genre (Judith Herman 1992; Leigh Gilmore 2001; Saidiya Hartman 2007; Ariella Azoulay 2008). Fictive and real accounts of sexual violence across time and media can also sometimes absorb discourses that decenter or undermine support for survivors and affirm identity-based, nationalist, and conservative discourses (Ida B. Wells 1892; Birth of a Nation; Central Park Five; Sarah Projansky 2001). While personally and politically vital, the politics of recognition that narrating stories of sexual violence enact are complicated by the ways they move across various political projects, locations, and media (S. Smith and K. Schaffer).

The #MeToo movement invites us to rethink the constraints of medium and genre in relationship to disclosures. #MeToo has sought to provide a platform for sharing survivor stories, using the quotidian nature of experiences of sexual violence (from harassment to rape) to force assailants and institutions to reckon with the impact of sexual violence. With limited characters, and in a medium notorious for an alleged lack of nuance, the stories of #MeToo gathered into a powerful collective story that moved beyond the platform, creating perhaps the most massive moment of feminist consciousness-raising since Anita Hill.

This special issue of Biography explores storytelling practices emerging after the the 2017 celebrity re-launch of Tarana Burke’s hashtag #MeToo in 2006, narratives shaped by constraints, but also hinting at possible new genres and disruptions: the elliptical disclosure; the power of the celebrity story and its erasures around race, class, and disability, and other identity categories; the tensions between queer and heteronormative narratives; and the difference national context makes. Most of all, we are interested in contributions that invite us to think about how the medium interacts with these disruptions and the extent to which medium may transform storytelling practices and ways of thinking about sexual violence.

We welcome pieces that engage questions such as:

  • How do fragmented narratives, solidarity narrative practices, generic conventions governed by social movements, legal concerns, silences that have historically been integral to disclosure, and shifts in listening practices change the nature of the story?
  • How do contemporary movements against sexual violence engage with previous traditions of nonfictional representations of sexual violence?
  • What difference do media—and mediation—make in telling and listening to stories of sexual violence—and to who gets to speak and who is heard?
  • Do projects like Aishah Shahidah Simmons’ #loveWITHaccountability challenge conventional wisdom about whose stories about sexual violence can be told alongside each other—both the injured and people who were silent in the face of the injury? How might restorative justice approaches be folded into media storytelling practices?
  • What roles do identities play in the presentation and reception of #MeToo? For example, how have the conventions of queer life narrative storytelling interacted with stories of sexual injury within the community? How have working-class women, like those at the Ford Motor plants in Chicago, been able to share their stories? How should we think about the difference between the kind of #MeToo story invited by Tarana Burke and the stories from predominately white women celebrities that made international headlines?
  • Do narratives of sexual violence linked across people, media, and time disrupt our understanding of single stories of individual injury?
  • How do we map the differences in transnational #MeToo storytelling, with convergences and divergences in #IAmNotAfraidtoSpeak, #BalanceTonPorc, #Cuentalo, #AnaKaman, #YoTambien, #Losha, #MosqueMeToo, or #QuellaVolteChe? Where do we begin to write the history of women’s struggles to form solidarity over histories of sexual violence? What are the challenges and obstacles women face in forging solidarities?
  • How might we historicize this kind of storytelling in relationship to work done either before #MeToo (#MeuAmigoSecreto, #WhyLoiter, et al.) or in the years before Twitter existed, when women used latrinalia and other forms of cultural expression to share the names of rapists and harassers among themselves? How do we place memoirs discussing sexual violence in conversation with these contemporary storytelling practices of disclosure?

We also welcome papers that use multiple media or modes of storytelling to generate new ways of thinking about global movements against sexual violence and their histories of solidarity and resistance. Multi-authored work, interviews, and collaborative projects are welcome.

Please submit 350–500-word abstracts to Rebecca Wanzo and Carol Stabile by November 15, 2019 to Notifications will be sent on December 16, 2019. Articles of up to 10,000 words will be due on June 1, 2020. Biography will arrange for contributors to present papers in workshop format at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa in Honolulu in August 2020.

Please share the call for materials widely!


Academic Freedom and Academic Lives

A Cluster for Biography: An Interdisciplinary Quarterly (1/15/2019)

The concept of “academic freedom”—always contested—has been muddied, polarized, and done violence to in recent years. This special cluster of Biography: An Interdisciplinary Quarterly invites contributions from a variety of perspectives that seek to illuminate the politics of academic freedom and censorship in the face of rapidly escalating racist, xenophobic, anti-semitic, Islamophobic, sexist, misogynist political currents. Essays connected to personal experience, or that situate questions of academic freedom within the problem of experience as a category of scholarship and public knowledge, are particularly welcome and encouraged.

The goal of the cluster is to think about academic freedom in university settings as part of the rise of the alt-right and attacks on professors and students who wish to contest white supremacy, xenophobia, sexism and transphobia, among many other problems. Since academic freedom is not an abstract conceptualization of either freedom or of the academy, but a concrete expression of the freedom of scholars to express ideas without censure, this cluster takes as its starting point the connection of academic freedom to ideas of personhood. The problems and promises of academic freedom reveal themselves through the stories of academic lives, of activist lives, of lives lived inside and through political questions about who gets to express ideas in public, and who does not. We particularly invite essays that consider academic freedom within the discourse of testimony, either from the author’s own experience, from the story of particular political struggle involving academic freedom, or from a consideration of auto/biographical accounts of academic freedom, and what has been done, by and to individual professors and students, in its name.

When members of the new alt-right use academic freedom as an explanation for hate speech, who in particular is wounded by those words? When BIPOC academics deploy their scholarship or public work to speak out against racism, sexism, or xenophobia, why is academic freedom not enough to protect them, as academic persons, from censure or public castigation? What is a radical life of the mind worth, if the life of the mind is not protected within the University?

We welcome contributions that connect academic freedom to the representation of or the experience of academic life around the world. In the United States and Canada for example, academic freedom appears to be under attack, as the election of Donald Trump was followed by a series of online attacks on academics—most of them women and people of color, most of them progressive politically—for deploying in their scholarship or social media writings anti-racist, anti-sexist points of view, while “academic freedom” became a rallying-cry for new alt.right, fascist, and semi-fascist forces who invited openly white supremacist and xenophobic speakers to North American university campuses.

In Brazil, newly elected President Jair Bolsonaro has instructed students to videotape professors critical of him, and report them. In India, Prime Minister Modi’s election to Prime Minister was followed by street thugs who pledged allegiance to his BJP Party rampaging through leading university campuses, attempting to intimidate—and expel—students opposed to his government. In Hungary, the Central European University has been forced out of the country after President Orban, using anti-semitic tropes, accused the University of being a front for progressive billionaire George Soros, a Jew. Questions of “academic freedom” and censorship have also hovered around the #metoo movement. In high-profile cases in the United States and Canada, students who have brought credible and substantiated allegations of sexual harassment against faculty have been subject to public recrimination and lawsuits meant to intimidate victims from coming forward.

These are only some examples of attacks on and in the name of academic freedom: contributors are invited to contribute others. Questions that could be addressed include:

      • How are universities in particular susceptible to attacks on researchers and teachers in the name of academic freedom, given escalating currents connected to the alt-right?
      • How and why are individual academic lives under threat in universities around the world in the name of “academic freedom”?
      • How are academic activist lives narrated? How are alt-right lives narrated?
      • Classic ideas about liberalism and freedom underwrite much life writing scholarship. Do current attacks on academic freedom put these ideas to the test?
      • How do these currents affect ideas of academic freedom and censorship?
      • How may individual faculty members best define and deploy academic freedom to avoid discipline and censorship?
      • What is the relationship between universities and states that often seek to target the University as a site for building political power and hegemony?
      • How are students and faculty of color, Muslim and immigrant faculty, Palestinians, women, and LGBTQ faculty and students differently affected by traditional definitions of academic freedom, and attempts at censorship?
      • How and why are faculty and students acting as advocates for particular political points of view—for instance, the support for the international Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions Movement against Israel—especially vulnerable to censorship?
      • What role can academic unions and academic associations play in defining and protecting the rights of faculty and contract instructors?

    We seek abstracts of up to 300 words for a special cluster of Biography addressing these issues. Abstract due-date is January 15, 2019. Abstracts accepted for inclusion will be the basis of finished essays of 5,000 words, due to the editors February 21, 2019. Editing and revision of the essays will take place through April, 2019.

    Please email abstracts and queries to Professor Julie Rak, Department of English and Film Studies, University of Alberta at <> and Professor Bill V. Mullen, American Studies Program, Purdue University at



    Guest Editor: Ebony Coletu, Pennsylvania State University


    CFM Biographic Mediations

    This special issue of Biography explores biographic mediation as a tool to manage political and administrative claims. Biographic mediation refers to any institutional demand for personal disclosure to make decisions about who gets what and why, alongside public critiques and calls to action that feature personal narratives.

    The issue engages the dialectic between bureaucracy and politics, where institutional paperwork and public perception of applicants interact. Whether college essays or job applications, paperwork narrows the scope of eligibility and competition for aid, employment, and inclusion in ways that depend on biographic evaluation. When and how do we engage this genre as a high-stakes form of life writing that can alter the life course? What modes of public storytelling challenge or make visible administrative practices, and what kinds of stories illuminate structural flaws or aims?

    While personal storytelling in public advocacy has long been a strategy for social movements, biographic mediation emphasizes the interactive dynamics between public disclosure and administrative decision-making. This issue addresses multi-level demands for biographic mediation in contests over public policy, employment, and educational access to explore how disclosure has the capacity to reshape identity or to refocus engagement with policy consequences. Contributors may consider how personal disclosure shapes public debates, when self-narrative is restructured according to political opportunity, and how telling the stories of others becomes a standard mode of political argument. For example, how do social movements employ personal narrative to articulate the impact of policy change—and what considerations alter the mode of telling? How does the circulation of life stories, lived difficulties, and even death define a political strategy, and what are the limits and effects of this method?

    Contributors may also consider how bureaucratic protocols use biographic details to distribute and police the boundaries of aid, employment, admission, and citizenship. Using contemporary or historical examples, the collection of essays in this issue will shed light on functional uses of biography—from college admission to policy reform and policing.

    Topics might include but are not restricted to the following:

        • Immigrant rights advocacy and paperwork, especially organizing around undocumented, refugee, and temporary protected status
        • Ban the Box initiatives and subsequent racial profiling of applicants
        • Child sexual abuse survivor narratives, sexual assault reporting protocols, and policy reform
        • Reparations appeals and scholarships for descendants of slaves owned by universities
        • Doxxing in response to political critiques
        • Stories of premature death relative to gun policy and policing
        • Impact litigation and the legal focus of life stories
        • Human rights advocacy and paperwork tragedies
        • Repatriation agreements and application processes
        • Predatory lending and the depoliticization of indebted communities
        • Movement organizing and training in public storytelling

    Selected abstracts will articulate a conceptual contribution that increases awareness of emerging patterns and tactics of governance, reform, and resistance. Theoretical orientation may vary, from critical race/critical ethnic/critical media studies to social movement history, law & society, new approaches to biopolitics/neoliberalism, and alternative models of justice. Preference will be given to work that develops interdisciplinary insights about the functional uses of life writing in bureaucracy and politics. Multi-authored work, interviews, and collaborative projects are welcome.

    Please submit 350–400 word abstracts to Ebony Coletu by December 15 ( Notifications will be sent on January 15. Articles of up to 10,000 words will be due in June 2018. Biography will arrange for contributors to present papers in workshop format at the University of Hawaiʻi in Honolulu, in August 2018.

    This is for a cluster issue entitled “Political Biographies in Literature and Cinema.”

    SUBMISSION DEADLINE: Send 250–500 word abstracts and an abbreviated CV (of all authors) by 15 April 2017 to and

    Biographers have a strong impact on our perception of history. They offer narratives of the lives of political leaders that necessarily defend a thesis of one sort or another, whether they pretend to strive to comprehend how politicians’ individual characters have underpinned their political responses to particular crises, or present an overtly biased portrait of historical figures. Biography scholars Hans Renders and Binne de Haan contend that biography designates “the study of the life of an individual, based on the methods of historical scholarship, with the goal of illuminating what is public, explained and interpreted in part from the perspective of the personal” (Theoretical Discussions of Biography: Approaches from History, Microhistory, and Life Writing, 2). Since the early nineteenth century, journalists have often played the role of political biographers. In the US, for example, reporters writing about figures such as Andrew Jackson and Abraham Lincoln presented themselves as “champions and guardians of American character ideal, attending to the virtues, vices and ‘flaws’ of their subjects” (Shawn J. Parry-Giles, Hillary Clinton in the News, 4). Journalistic reporting has influenced political biography by spotlighting the incongruous gossip that sells newspapers, endowing the media with the power to shape a politician’s public image through calling attention to eye-catching images and sound bite pieces that simplify the political debate into visual clichés and stereotypical phrases. Contributors may question how the individual careers of Donald Trump, Nigel Farage, Boris Johnson, and Narendra Modi conform to conventional models or translate into a new type of political biography.

    This issue of Biography aims to further reflection on the evolution of political biography in a media-saturated context, turning political figures (present and past) into celebrities. It has also become a custom for statesmen to write their own autobiography—and more often in fact to have these ghost-written as first-person biographies of sorts (see Roman Polanski’s 2010 film The Ghost Writer)—during, before, and after their terms of office, thus incorporating their personal path into their political career and vice versa. It is our purpose to question the political content of these literary endeavours undertaken by Richard Nixon, Margaret Thatcher, Nelson Mandela, Barak Obama, etc., to consider how the politicians’ written and oral words have seeped into other media. An increasing number of politicians have written political biographies, and used this genre to ponder their political choices; Labour backbencher Roy Jenkins’s biography of Churchill is a case in point.

    Biographical films (whether fiction or nonfiction) have influenced the generic evolution of biography through promoting a “tabloid culture” that feeds on the private lives of public figures. Considering that political power relies on representation, including visual symbols and rhetorical devices, we aim to foster the analysis of politics and biography as two interweaving strands. Political biofilms should not be analysed as a source of entertainment that discards political analysis; they also build political discourses through specific biographical angles. Some films draw on the hagiographic tradition (e.g. Stephen Spielberg’s Lincoln, 2012) whereas others question the relationship between power and the individual (e.g. Errol Morris’s The Fog of War). Biographical documentaries addressing political characters have much in common with the methods of scholarly research, which are also discernible under hybridized forms in various types of docudrama.

    Contributors will be interested in bringing to light interferences between different sources, analyzing the construction of political discourses through various biographical channels. To what extent do biographies promote or question the biographee’s political values? What are the limitations of prevailing assumptions (popular and/or academic) about biography’s relationship with history? What models of the political subject do biographies of political figures presuppose, and with what consequences? Articles of general relevance, as well as specific case studies of print or film biographies, are welcome in this special number of Biography, An Interdisciplinary Quarterly on political biographies in literature and cinema.

    Potential contributors are asked to submit abstracts of 250–500 words and an abbreviated CV (of all authors) by 15 April 2017 to and We will contact those authors from whom we wish to see full manuscripts by 15 May 2017, and will expect to see those full manuscripts by 1 December 2017.

    These manuscripts should be between 6,000 and 8,000 words in length (including notes and bibliography) and should use MLA style, 8th edition. Please also include all authors’ affiliations, emails, and mail contact information in the submission. We welcome inquiries about prospective submissions.