8. Comics-based ethnographies and ethno-graphic novels

Veronica Moretti
University of Bologna

Francesco Della Puppa
Ca’ Foscari University of Venice

In the last two decades, the use of comics and graphic novels has been growing in academic research, giving birth to a set of theoretical and methodological approaches included in the so-called “Comics based research” and “Ethno-graphic novel”. These approaches combine text and images to collect, analyse and disseminate research data (Barberis and Grüning, 2021; Kutner et al., 2017) under a construct that may be called “Graphic social science” (Kuipers and Ghedini, 2021; Nalu and Bliss, 2011; Short et al., 2013). 
    Comics and graphic novels are recognised as part of the visual methods (Sassatelli, 2021) and used within community based participatory research, since the juxtaposition of text and images offers multi-faceted research and communication opportunities (Leavy, 2009). Additionally, comics can be applied in new theoretical frameworks (e.g. postmodernism, poststrutturalism, decolonizing theories) and seems to be suitable for new guiding principles, such as participation or co-production (Masciopinto 2019).
    This Panel will be devoted to discussing the role of comics in Ethnography and Qualitive Research, focusing on the benefits and challenges of balancing the creative inspiration with the methodological rigor essential to foster the robustness of qualitative research data. It aims to bring together examples of Comics-based research, Ethnographic novel, and Graphic social science from across the discipline to learn more about opportunities and limitations of this creative method (Nakazawa, 2005). 
    The panel will deepen and broaden the contribution of comics and graphic novel to ethnography and qualitative research, by answering the following – not exhaustive – questions:
– how can the graphic medium help to elicit researcher’s narratives?
– to what extent comics can be incorporate within traditional qualitative techniques?
– what body of knowledge is being created by comics research-based?
– what are the barriers (theoretical and methodological) that the researchers might encounter using comics?

Barberis, Eduardo and Grüning Barbara (2021). “Doing Social Sciences Via Comics and Graphic Novels. An Introduction”. Sociologica, 15(1): 125-142.

Kuipers, Giselinde (2021). “Beauty: Triggering the Sociological Imagination with a Webcomic”. Sociologica, 15(1): 143-162.

Kuttner, Paul, Sousanis, Nick, Weaver-Hightower, Marcus (2017). “How to draw comics the scholarly way: Creating comics-based research in the academy”, in Patricia Leavy, edits, Handbook of Arts-Based Research, New York, Guilford Press. 

Leavy, Patricia (2009). Method meets art: Arts-based research practice. New York, Guilford Publications.

Masciopinto, Michele Claudio Domenico (2019). “Antropologia, ricerca sul campo e comunicazione visiva: il fumetto come strumento e linguaggio della scrittura etnografica”. Cahiers di Scienze Sociali, 11: 126-136.

Morse, Janice (1995). “The significance of saturation”. Qualitative Health Research, 5(2): 147-149 

Nakazawa, Jun (2005). “Development of manga (comic book) literacy in children”, in Shwalb, David, Nakazawa, Jun, Shwalb, Barbara., edits, Applied Developmental Psychology: Theory, Practice, and Research from Japan, Greenwich, Information Age Publishing. 

Nalu, Amber, (2011). “Comics as a cognitive training medium for expert decision making”, Proc. Hum. Fact. Ergon. Soc. Annu. Meet, 55: 2123-27

Sassatelli, Monica (2021). “Show and tell”. Sociologica, 15(1): 311-319.

Short, Jeremy, Randolph-Seng, Brandon, McKenny, Aron (2013). “Graphic presentation: an empirical examination of the graphic novel approach to communicate business concepts”, Bus. Commun. Q, 76: 273-303

Comics based research, Ethno-graphic novel, Visual methods, Graphic social science, Web-comic

Sub-disciplines or cross-disciplinary areas of concern:
Gender studies, migration studies, labour studies, environmental studies, science and technology studies, critical race studies, and medical humanities.

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