CFP: Crisis Lines – Coloniality, Modernity, Comics

June 9-10, 2021
Online (Zoom)
Convenors: Dominic Davies (City, University of London), Haya Alfarhan (King’s College London)
Stichtag: 09.04.2021

Colonial modernity has materially reshaped our world through the force of the line. Epitomized in the modern cartographic map, the colonial line is deployed as a  technology of delimitation and enclosure, often in relation to land, but also to seas and to skies. It is drawn across territories, fragmenting communities and framing populations, and prioritising occupation and ownership over habitation and presence. It authorizes borders, inscribing with pens and walls and satellites an imperial !visuality” (to use the nineteenth-century term expertly scrutinised by Nicholas Mirzoeff) onto the surface of the earth. Beginning in the slave plantation and settler colony, evolving through the heights of European imperialism, and calcifying into the military-media complex of our screen-oriented age, visuality has combined the lines of maps with other information-lines – treaties, bureaucracies, infrastructures, code – to contrive colonial modernity into a self-evident and indisputable reality.

However, while the colonial line extends into the present moment by controlling the very crises it has advertently created, it is not the only genre of line. As Tim Ingold has shown, lines can also trace modes and chart histories of resistance. There are hand-drawn lines, sketch lines, story lines, wayfaring lines; lines that carry counter-histories, that index the sway of rebellions lost and revolutions overturned. These lines orient positionalities and denote relationalities, both situating us on and habituating us into the world. As a gesture of encounter, they take place against structures of power, a ground from which “the right to look” might be claimed. This is not only an ocular but also an acoustic ground, an atmosphere that slips through and away from the frame, or as Tina Campt suggests, a frequency into which we might tune to better apprehend the affects and impacts of the image. “When the painted image is not a copy but the result of a dialogue,” John Berger writes, “the painted thing speaks if we listen.”

This conference invites papers that contend with the ways in which these lines are manifested and contested in comics, graphic novels, photo essays, zines, picture books, and other combinations of image and text. Amidst the intensifying crisis of colonialist and capitalist endeavour, we are searching for contributions that consider the constructive role of lines, their utility as technologies and tools of analysis and resistance, and as bridges between conceptual and concrete worlds. We are looking for lines that sketch new futures, methods, and modes of engagement, and that collaborate against modernity’s cartographic vision. Lines unravel but they can also contain; they disentangle but they can also build. In the architect’s hand, the line is a weapon that concretizes into steel and cement; in the painter’s, the line dissolves the subject-object distinction that undergirds modern thought. We welcome submissionsthat consider how lines operate on the page and through multiple dimensions of hearing, feeling, and sight, shaping and reshaping our perception of reality itself.

Papers might respond to the following issues or themes:

  • hand-drawn lines and the material of the page
  • peripheral realism and realist/modernist lines
  • genealogical lines (blood, kinship, affiliation
  • climate crisis and the entangled lines of the Anthropocene
  • racial lines and anti-racist movements
  • lines of sight and the distribution of the sensible
  • lines of movement, stasis, and flight
  • colonialism and empire in/as crisis (partitions, occupations, legacies)
  • Indigenous cosmologies, cultures, and ways of being
  • political and artistic representation (photography, portraiture, sketches)
  • „the migrant “crisis” and the global border regime
  • acoustic atmospheres, sound waves, sonic lines
  • architectural lines, blueprints for future worlds
  • neoliberal lines (managerialism, bureaucracy, deadlines)

300 word abstracts for 20 minute papers should be submitted to Dom Davies ( and Haya Alfarhan ( before midnight on Friday 9 April 2021. We particularly welcome papers that bridge pages with problems, and lines with lives. Our aim is to begin with drawings and to draw out from them new discussions and communities. We aim to be back in touch with speakers by mid-April.

A note on format

The conference will use an experimental panel-responder-roundtable format. There will be three parallel sessions, with a panel of two papers in each stream. A respondent will sit on each panel and offer a 10-15 minute response to panelists’ papers. Panelists will then be given the opportunity to respond to the respondents, with plenty of time allocated for a wider Q&A. The conference will conclude with a Roundtable session, in which respondents will re-convene for a final discussion of central and emerging themes.

N.B. This format means that panelists will be required to submit written drafts or detailed outlines of their papers to their respondents by Monday 24 May 2021. Please bear this deadline in mind when submitting an abstract for this conference.

Confirmed respondents: Professor Tim Ingold; Professor Hillary Chute; Professor Frederick Luis Aldama; Professor Candida Rifkind