Comics of Babel: Exploring the Power of Multilingual Graphic Fictions (Panel)


Special Session
Multiethnic and Indigenous

Robyn Johnson (University of California - Riverside)
rjoh@****.com (Log-in to reveal)

The story of the Tower of Babel claims that God punished man for attempting to build a tower that could reach the heavens by making it so the world spoke many languages, destroying communication and understanding. While we continue to struggle with communication, we have made progress in bridging the gaps. One of the most powerful advancement has been in creation and support of multilingual graphic fictions. Minority authors, especially North American Indigenous ones, have begun publishing more texts which interweave English and their native languages in revitalization efforts. Not only does this exhibit the continuing importance of minority languages, but it also impresses upon reader the power of these languages, adding culture, context, and heritage to the visual stories. This panel seeks to explore the ways in which multilingual graphic fictions empower authors and readers as they simultaneously help bridge the gap created by the worlds’ many babbles.

The story of the Tower of Babel claims that God punished man for attempting to build a tower that could reach the heavens by making it so the world spoke many languages, destroying communication and understanding. While we continue to struggle with communication, even with people of our same language, we have made progress in bridging the gaps. One of the most powerful advancement has been in creation and support of multilingual graphic fictions. Minority authors, especially North American Indigenous ones, have begun publishing more texts which interweave English and their native languages in revitalization efforts. Not only does this exhibit the continuing importance of minority languages, but it also impresses upon reader the power of these languages as they add culture, context, and heritage to the visual stories. This panel seeks to explore the ways in which multilingual graphic fictions empower authors and readers as they simultaneously help bridge the gap created by the worlds’ many babbles. Graphic fictions, whether comics, graphic novels, manga, and so on, are the most popular form of literature, bringing in about $1.05 billion in the U.S. and Canada alone in 2018. Their ability to influence their followers is immense as can be seen in the massive international Comic Cons and Indian Comic Cons. As their popularity continues to maintain and even increase, the need to study the innovative and powerful technique used by minority authors increases as well. These works speak across generational and now linguistic lines, creating a location that allows for serious discuss and analysis of the power of language.