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Kairos and Comics: Reading Human Rights Intercontextually in Joe Sacco’s Graphic Narratives

From: College Literature
Volume 40, Number 3, Summer 2013
pp. 138-155 | 10.1353/lit.2013.0032



Although the graphic narrative genre is increasingly being utilized to represent human rights atrocities in complex ways, scholarship on this topic tends to focus on the analysis of issues of historical representation. Therefore, this essay contributes to this conversation a nuanced understanding of contextual reading practices in human rights discourse by analyzing Joe Sacco’s Palestine (2001) and Footnotes in Gaza (2009) through the rhetorical concept of kairos and current theories of comics narratology. If kairos draws attention to the layered historical contexts operating within Sacco’s graphic narratives as they stake claims for human rights in Palestine and comics studies scholarship focuses on the spatio-temporal dynamics of the graphic narrative form, then together these critical approaches can disrupt the linear notions of time and bounded spaces involved in the denial of Palestinians’ rights to property, land, and return. Such an approach draws attention to the urgency of Sacco’s human rights project even while he questions its efficacy.

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