CFP: Bedephilia since the 1960s – sub-culture and shared culture

International MEDIABD conference
Auditorium du musée, Cité Internationale de la Bande Dessinée et de l’Image, Angoulême
June 26 - 28, 2019
Stichtag: 04.11.2018

Bédéphilie, a term with no accurate equivalent in English except the little-used bedephilia, is still under-documented in comic art studies. Cultural history has started looking into the main types of “philias”—about jazz, film, and comics—that appeared in the 20th century (Ory, 2012). The word bédéphilie is problematic in itself. Not only is it absent from mainstream French dictionaries (although they acknowledge the noun/adjective “bédéphile”) but its definition is threefold: the narrowest meaning refers to the practices of amateurs/connoisseurs/fans (Gabilliet, 2016) and ties into fan studies; a wider acceptation refers to the various social, economic, cultural, etc. mechanisms which have turned comics into an object of cultural practices that have become widespread in the public in the last half-century; the final, broadest sense refers to the value system(s) that shape aesthetic value judgments on comics (Baudry, 2012).

Some close notions have already undergone at least preliminary scrutiny: the “classics” (Georgeard, 2011), the canon (Morgan, 2011), the “golden age” (Gabilliet, 2017). Sylvain Lesage has analyzed the impact upon cultural practices of the shift from pamphlets to books in the French comics industry in the second half of the 20th century (Lesage, 2018). In the field of North American scholarship, the topics that have mostly attracted attention so far are the fandom, through the ethnographic observation of fans (Pustz, 2000; Bolling & Smith, 2014) and the history of the 1950s and 1960s early fanzines and cons (Schelly, 1999). More recently Bart Beaty and Benjamin Woo looked into the simultaneous and sometimes contradictory value systems that underlie contemporary fan practices (Beaty & Woo, 2016).

The goal of this conference is to conduct diachronic and synchronic probes into the various mechanisms and processes that have:

  • transformed comics into an object of lay and scholarly interest, knowledge, and analysis since the second half of the 20th century;
  • enabled comics to break free from the ideological, economic, aesthetic constraints that made it a cultural commodity for children, “young” readers, and the individuals supposedly endowed with low cultural capital.

The conference will focus less on the legitimization of comics per se, which is still uncompleted to this day (Boltanski, 1975; Maigret, 1994; Heinich, 2017), than on the diverse mechanisms that actuate legitimizing processes.

Rather than reevaluating the short-, medium-, and long-term impacts of the Sixties’ comics fandom activists, our starting point will be to regard them, with all due respect, as the trees that still conceal a forest of analytical angles:

  • readers, especially from the perspective of practices that transcend « reading » in its literal meaning;
  • comics creators and publishers as producers of legitimation discourses about their chosen medium;
  • mainstream cultural actors, such as newspapers, radio, television, before and after the advent of the Web;
  • educators as agents of the penetration of comics into schools and K-12 curricula since the 1960s;
  • libraries and librarians;
  • publishing as formatting and re-formatting contents (from floppies to paperbacks to hardbacks, the reprinting of « classics », etc.);
  • legitimizing comics by featuring them in other media (film, novel);
  • public actors that include comics in the range of cultural practices likely to attract wide audiences into museums, conventions, fairs, roundtable panels, etc.;
  • private economic actors : bookstores, auction houses, art galleries;
  • webcomics bedephilia;
  • transnational flows of comics and cross-cultural discourses of appreciation (French philia of US comics, Anglo-American philia of BD, etc.).

We will also welcome proposals addressing bédéphilie practices and mechanisms as determined by age (« Comics aren’t for kids anymore… »), gender, cultural identities, etc.

We also look forward to receiving submissions dealing with non-Francophone cultural areas.

Papers will be delivered in either French or English.
Please submit proposals in English or French (including the author’s name/title, institutional affiliation, e-mail address, presentation title and 300-word abstract, along with 100-word bio) to:

  • Jean-Paul Gabilliet
  • Nicolas Labarre

Deadline for submissions: October 14, 2018.
Please email all questions to Jean-Paul Gabilliet

The conference is part of the MEDIABD research project (2017-2020) funded by Conseil Général de Nouvelle-Aquitaine. It is co-organized by CLIMAS (Université Bordeaux Montaigne), MICA (Université Bordeaux Montaigne), L3i (Université de La Rochelle), the Cité Internationale de la Bande Dessinée et de l’Image, and the Ecole Européenne Supérieure de l’Image.

Works cited

  • Baudry, Julien (2012), « Saint-Ogan et les grands enfants : la place de l’oeuvre d’Alain Saint-Ogan dans le discours historique de la SOCERLID », Comicalités [En ligne], URL :
  • Beaty, Bart & Woo, Benjamin (2016), The Greatest Comic Book of All Time: Symbolic Capital and the Field of American Comic Books (NY : Palgrave/Macmillan).
  • Boltanski, Luc (1975), « La constitution du champ de la bande dessinée », Actes de la recherche en sciences sociales,1975, 1.1, p. 37-59.
  • Bolling, Ben & Smith, Matthew J., ed. (2014), It Happens at Comic-Con: Ethnographic Essays on a Pop Culture Phenomenon (Jefferson, NC : McFarland).
  • Gabilliet, Jean-Paul (2016), « Reading facsimile reproductions of original artwork: the comics fan as connoisseur », Image [&] Narrative : Online Magazine of the Visual Narrative 17.4, 2016.
  • —- (2017), « “Âge d’or de la bd” et “golden age of comics” : comparaison des notions fondatrices de la bédéphilie en France et aux Etats-Unis », Le Temps des médias. Revue d’histoire 27 (Automne-Hiver 2016/2017), p. 139-151.
  • Georgeard, Frank-Michel (2011), « Le classique en bande dessinée », Comicalités [En ligne], 6/07/2011, URL :
  • Heinich, Nathalie (2017), « L’artification de la bande dessinée », Le Débat 195, p. 5-9. Lesage, Sylvain (2018), Publier la bande dessinée : Les éditeurs franco-belges et l’album,
    1950-1990 (Lyon : Presses de l’ENSSIB).
  • Maigret, Eric (1994), « La reconnaissance en demi-teinte de la bande dessinée », Réseaux, 1994, 12.67, p. 113-140.
    Morgan, Harry (2011), « Y a-t-il un canon des littératures dessinées ? », Comicalités [En ligne], 5/10/2011, URL :
  • Ory, Pascal (2012), « Pour une enquête pluridisciplinaire sur l’histoire de la légitimation artistique », Sociétés & Représentations, 2/2012 (n° 34), p. 149-151.
  • Pustz, Matthew J. (2000), Comic Book Culture: Fanboys and True Believers (Jackson, MS : University Press of Mississippi, 2000)
    Schelly, Bill (1999), The Golden Age of Comic Fandom revised edition (Seattle : Hamster Press).

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