This morning I sat down to write an update prior to Slayage 2018, the biannual international convention of the Whedon Studies Association, at which I will be delivering a keynote and which is rapidly approaching at a panic-inducing pace.
I realized the last draft post I’d saved was an announcement for the Calls for Papers for two NeMLA sessions I (co)organized….. last year, in 2017. And looking further back, much to my chagrin, I realized that the last time I updated this site BEFORE that was about a year ago, when I was announcing my panels for NeMLA 2016!
If you taste something funny, just might be ’cause I let this site go stale.
My excuse for the delay in updates is none too juicy, either. I’ve been too busy living life–or, I should say, too exhausted from living a busy life–to be writing about it. I admire those who can lead busy, engaged lives and write daily, or even weekly, updates. But I’m not one of them. Not yet, anyway. My whole life I’ve been a side-writer, daily doing something else and occasionally writing in frantic, late-night bits of impassioned panic. While it has its own kind of magic, writing that way is physically and emotionally draining, and that’s something I want to change.
So, with that in mind, c’mon, Mare, write! (right?)
Since this was originally meant to be an early 2017 update on my professional projects, I’ll preserve the language from back then.
Here’s what’s happening in my corner of the world:
Race in Whedon book
At long last, the edited anthology I’ve been working on has been published, and it’s won an award for Best Book in Whedon studies! Joss Whedon and Race: Critical Essays contains 15 essays on of race, ethnic identity, and Otherness in the works of Joss Whedon, and is available for purchase here. My co-editor (the wonderful Dr. Lowery A. Woodall III) and I are grateful for the hard work years-long efforts of all of our contributors, and for everything this process has taught us about coordinating copyright agreements, communicating requests for revision, clarifying our own vision for the book, and contributing to the vibrant scholarly community that is the Whedon Studies Association.
Official back-of-the-book blurb:
Joss Whedon is known for exploring philosophical and political questions through socially progressive narratives in his films, television shows and comics. Whedon’s works offer critique of racial stereotypes, sometimes repudiating them, sometimes reinforcing them (sometimes both at once). Joss Whedon and Race: Critical Essays explores his representations of racial power dynamics between individuals and institutions and how the Whedonverse constructs race, ethnicity, and nationality relationships.
If you follow me on social media, you’ll surely have seen by now the slew of photos/videos I posted from something called EuroSlayage. The Slayage 2016 conference, held in Kingston-on-Thames, UK, proved to be yet another momentous occasion for me, a real highlight of my life, as I saw old friends and made new ones, got to co-present with one of my academic idols (the amazing Lorna Jowett), and was given the honor of receiving a second Mr. Pointy Award for an essay published in 2015.
This essay forms the basis for one of my two aforementioned NeMLA 2017 panels.
Call For Papers!
Negative Space, Narrative Subjugation
Ms. Marvel Chapter for “Can The SubAltern Be A Superhero?” (anthology edited by Rafael Cordero and Derek McGrath)
I’m really excited for this book project. My work so far has included conducting close readings of Books 1-11 and scouring fansites and message boards for evidence as to how these texts were received and understood.
If you’re interested, the abstract follows below.
Negative Space, Narrative Subjugation, and Paradoxical Representations of Empowerment in Ms. Marvel
What happens when the disempowered acquire superpowers? The question resonates throughout Ms. Marvel, as Kamala Khan, nerdy, daydreaming high-school student, imagines herself within superhero stories in order to escape discrimination at school and overbearing parents at home. When she suddenly acquires her own super powers, she negotiates their acquisition as a metaphor for political empowerment. At first, the fact that a teenage Muslim-American girl engages and navigates Western models of superhero empowerment seems a subversive and politically radical enterprise. Given the Marvel canon’s overwhelming focus on superpowered characters who already inhabit privileged bodies (straight/white/cis men), Kamala initially seems a revolutionary character. However, when viewed through Post-Colonialism and Critical Visuality Studies frameworks, the politics of Ms. Marvel’s visual composition reveals a paradox of representational empowerment. As Kamala Khan engages Western constructs of visual superhero narratives, certain subversive elements are mitigated by the teleological white supremacy of these constructs; for instance, when her powers first emerge, Kamala becomes a white, blond woman, and Kamala’s first quest involves her rescuing a popular classmate who embodies white privilege (thereby reinforcing a status quo which marginalizes Kamala’s non-superpowered identity).
This chapter explores the possibilities and the problematic politics of visual composition and narrative empowerment by considering how Ms. Marvel features the marriage of aesthetics and ethics through negative space and narrative subjugation to inform and deepen our understandings of racial representation in media’s affect on the real world. Building on critical visuality theorists Richard Dyer, Nicholas Mirzoeff and Scott McLoud to conduct a historically-contextualized visual explication of specific key panels (abetted by Post-Colonialists Guyatri Spivack and Chandra Mohanty), I ultimately argue that the extant issues of Ms. Marvel demonstrates a paradox wherein engagement of Western constructs of narrative empowerment reinforce the very institutionalized inequalities they elsewhere successfully destabilize.