I’ve just returned from the American Anthropological Association’s annual conference in Washington D.C. This is one of – if not the - largest conferences in anthropology anywhere in the world, with thousands of archaeologists and cultural, linguistic, visual and medical anthropologists attending from all across the world.
I was invited to give a poster presentation as part of a session entitled: Graphic Medicine: A new potential for medical anthropology, organised by Juliet McMullin and Dana Walrath – both published medical anthropologists and anthropology professors, and enthusiastic supporters of graphic medicine. I first met them both at the Comics & Medicine conference in Brighton in 2013. At the time, Dana Walrath was working on her book Aliceheimers, a graphic novel about her mother’s dementia and family connections to Armenia.
My poster was about the process of capturing the narrative of personal experience by using comics (you can read the whole poster here, on my own blog). It talked about the decisions I had made on ways to do the artwork in One of Those People, and the way that has shaped the story. The session was a great success. Not only did I receive a huge number of compliments on the artwork and the project in general – which helps to convince me that the decisions Liesl and I have made about our approach are definitely working – but I got to talk to a lot of people in great depth about the use of graphic narrative as a tool in medical anthropology. If the discussions I had were any indication, it’s not just a tool that medical anthropologists are willing to use – it’s a tool that addresses long-standing issues in anthropology about the presentation and recording of anthropological information.
This coming July, Juliet is organising the Comics & Medicine conference at University of California Riverside. I’m not sure I’m going to be able to attend (it clashes with another conference), but I know Liesl is going to give another “lightning presentation” update on how our book is coming along. Hopefully, this AAA session and Juliet’s involvement in the 2015 conference will attract many more medical and visual anthropologists. The feedback from the session – plus the discussion on Twitter – has suggested that this could develop into an important anthropological tool.