Drawing the Human: Law, Comics, Justice - University of the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia

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Drawing the Human: Law, Comics, Justice

Hosted by the School of Law and Criminology 
USC, Queensland, Australia

Drawing the Human: Law, Comics, Justice, seeks to examine the role of comics, graphic novels and graphic art in constituting as well as critiquing law, rights and justice as they relate to and extend beyond the human.

Comics and law are intertwined, not only through the stories which appear in the comics medium, but in the comics form—multifaceted, layered, capturing the human in its imagery and imaginary with the viewer becoming an active participant in the construction and reading of the image. Law too operates through such participatory but also coercive means. Like comics, law is both subjected to interpretation and creates the subjects which read it. Just as the comics artist uses a combination of lines, colour, shading, perspective, framing, grading and grids to articulate the human, and facilitate its human interpretation, law creates and constitutes the human—by an authority constructed through the harmonisation of aesthetics, rhetoric, discourse, image, hierarchy, custom and sovereign power. Both law and comics draw the human, determine its bounds whilst representing and operating through our own shared humanity.

But graphic art also transcends legality, constructing forms of the human which exist in a space beyond and between the frames of law. Court reporters, for example, enliven the space of the judicial chamber, capturing law in action, bringing to life the space of law and allowing the reader to interpret the operation of justice by presenting those who stand trial. These static images become a record of what occurs within this juridically determined space, an aesthetic representation of the human confronted by legality and subjected to its judgment, but also facilitating judgment from the court of public opinion. Graphic art not only constructs the human, but is instantiated as an object of law, justice and power.

Graphic journalism, by contrast, captures the human devalued by law. By deploying a medium so typically defined by fiction to facilitate non-fiction, artists and writers have used comics to tell the true stories of injustice which exist in realms beyond the sight of citizens and the lens of the camera. These artists not only show the way law reduces and devalues the human, but use comics to frustrate and re-orientate our perceptions of humanity and our lived experience of it. Such art not only becomes a representation of injustice, but facilitates the making of it: evidence, exhibit and entertainment. Comics as a medium therefore enables the telling of stories—fictional or factual, fantastic or historical, abstract or real—that force us to re-think our own perceived notions of what is possible and legal, what it means to be human or non-human, speculative realities and possible legalities where the human is represented, re-imagined and re-cast.

The 2019 Graphic Justice Research Alliance Conference calls for papers which examine not only the way in which comics and graphic art present narratives of law and justice, or representations of human rights and their abuses, but the way in which comics in their form and multimodality call into question the law’s drawing of the boundaries of the human as it is challenged by its relation to the animal, the environment and technology. Such questions are of importance today, not just because of the techno-mediation of human interactions and intersubjectivity (which open potential for both the enhancement as well as sidelining of the human by technology), but also because of the situatedness, complicity and responsibility of the human within its broader environment. Papers are invited which cover any topic related broadly to comics, graphic art and law, human rights, justice and crime, but potential themes could include:

  • Capturing the human within comics and law
  • Superheroes, masks and biopolitics
  • Representations of the post-human within graphic art
  • Techne, telos and Tomorrowland across the graphic horizon
  • Comics as legality—the use and abuse of graphic art by sovereign power
  • The law of/as comics—from comics contracts to copyright
  • Law/lore, story and Indigenous art
  • Representations of justice and law/lore in First Nations’ comics
  • Drawing and re-drawing gender, race and sexuality in comics and law
  • Comics’ visual afterlife: adaptation, translation and transmedia
  • The visual re-mediation, extension and constitution of sovereignty
  • Comics as/and criminality
  • Graphic reporting and human rights
  • The form of the comic and the forms of justice

Conference hosts:
Dr Timothy Peters,  Mr Dale Mitchell and Ms Ashley Pearson

Conference contact: tpeters@usc.edu.au 

Paper and Panel Proposals Due Date: 31st August 2019
Proposals should consist of a short abstract (max. 250 words), 3 keywords and a short
biography (100 words). Panel proposals should include a title/theme for the panel, and
abstracts, keywords and biographies for each presenter (up to 4 presenters per panel).


Sonja Schillings
Sonja Schillings

Sonja Schillings is a German researcher in American Studies whose work focuses on the fields of law and culture, and literature and philosophy.

Neal Curtis
Neal Curtis

Neal Curtis is Associate Professor of Media and Communication at the University of Auckland. He is a critical theory, and comics scholar with an interest in technology.

Please click below to register for the conference.

Registration includes, tea, coffee, lunch, morning and afternoon tea on each day.

Registration fees:

  • Full registration - $120
  • HDR / student registration - $80
When and where

Drawing the Human will be held at the University of the Sunshine Coast, Sippy Downs, Queensland, Australia, 28-29 November 2019.

The Sunshine Coast is a fast-growing regional area of South East Queensland approximately 1 hour north of Brisbane; Queensland’s capital and largest city.

How do I get there?

Travel to the Sunshine Coast from Brisbane can be planned on public transport through Translink, South East Queensland’s public transport provider.

See Con-X-ion shuttle bus option from Brisbane airport to the Sunshine Coast 

Alternatively, you can fly directly to the Sunshine Coast. Flights to and from Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, and Auckland are serviced by the Sunshine Coast Airport.

Where should I stay?

USC’s main campus at Sippy Downs is a 15 minute drive from several of Australia’s most renowned beaches and popular tourist destinations at Maroochydore, Alexandra Headlands, and Mooloolaba. Leafy hinterland areas such as Buderim and, further afield, Maleny and Montville, offer bushwalks and fine dining.

Each of these areas offers accommodation at a range of price points, from hotels and resorts to bed and breakfasts. Airbnb listings start at as little as A$50 per night.

But make sure you plan your journey carefully, checking the distance between your accommodation and the campus, particularly if you are planning on using public transport. The Sunshine Coast is a sprawling region and not all areas are close by to the campus.

USC has organised a special accommodation rate for conference delegates at Mantra Mooloolaba Beach. To book call Brenden Whittred on +61 7 3083 0266 or email brenden.whittred@fcmtravel.com.au.

See local bus timetables (bus 615 from Mooloolaba River Esp to USC and from USC to Mooloolaba, River Esp)