About the project
Fostered by global and local feminist movements, the international discourse on gender-based violence (GBV) has reached significant popularity since the first decade of the new millennium (Romito 2005). Notwithstanding the laudable visibility achieved, this mainstreaming has resulted in representations that have often confirmed, instead of questioning, gender stereotypes (Williamson, Mandolini 2017).
This is particularly true if we look at two specific cultural contexts in which feminist discourse on GBV has passed from marginality to visibility. In Italy, where an extensive discussion on femicide has started in 2012 (Laviosa 2015), media portrayals consolidate patriarchal rhetoric (Giomi 2015); in the Lusophone world, an earlier spread of feminist discourse on GBV (Macaully 2000; Azambuja et al. 2013) did not result in better journalistic descriptions of sexist abuse (Gomes Pereira 2009; Neves, Gomes, Martins 2016).
In light of this situation, Italian and Lusophone activists and artists have produced a variety of responses that have challenged the simplistic portrayal of sexist abuse conveyed by mainstream journalistic discourse (Magalhães 2010; Forde 2016; Bettaglio, Mandolini, Ross 2018). Among these, graphic novels on the topic have been published in recent years and feminist collectives have frequently used graphic narratives (GNs) – in particular, superhero comics – for their awareness-raising campaigns against GBV.
In a global context where activists’ goals are mainly discursive (Jenkins et al. 2016) and where storytelling is a strategy commonly employed in feminist counter-discourse construction (Guaraldo 2013), an investigation on the use of GNs to portray sexist abuse is necessary in order to fully understand the potentials of GBV-related social movements practices. However, no systematic research on the topic of GNs against GBV has been carried out so far.
In a global context where activists’ goals are mainly discursive (Jenkins et al. 2016) and where storytelling is a strategy commonly employed in feminist counter-discourse construction (Guaraldo 2013), an investigation on the use of graphic narratives to portray sexist abuse is necessary in order to fully understand the potentials of gender violence-related social movements practices. However, no systematic research on the topic of graphic narratives against sexist abuse has been carried out so far.
This research project aims at investigating the role played by graphic narratives in the popularisation of feminist stances on gendered abuse in Italy and in the Lusophone world. The project, funded by the FCT (Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia), is built around the hypothesis that graphic novels and comics represent a crucial resource in the area of art-activism against sexist violence, given their ability to use the cross-discursive system of words and images to convey complex narrative structures while, at the same time, remaining accessible to a wide audience.
Dr Nicoletta Mandolini is FCT Researcher at CECS (Centro de Estudos de Comunicação e Sociedade) at Universidade do Minho (Portugal), where she is working on the project Sketch Her Story and Make It Popular. Using Graphic Narratives in Italian and Lusophone Feminist Activism Against Gender Violence. She worked as FWO Postdoctoral Researcher at KU Leuven (Belgium) and she owns a PhD from University College Cork (Ireland). Funded by the Irish Research Council, her doctorate project focused on the representation of gender-based violence and feminicide in contemporary Italy. It resulted in the monograph Representations of Lethal Gender-Based Violence in Italy Between Journalism and Literature: Femminicidio Narratives (Routledge 2021). Among other articles on sexist abuse in contemporary Italian literature and media, she co-edited the volume Rappresentare la violenza di genere. Sguardi femministi tra critica, attivismo e scrittura (Mimesis 2018). She is an active member of the CASiLaC (Centre for Advanced Studies in Languages and Cultures) research cluster on Violence, Conflict and Gender, that she co-convened from 2016 until 2019. She is funding member of SnIF (Studying’n’Investigating Fumetti).