Title: Slow Violence and Slow Journalism: Drawing Indigenous Transgenerational Trauma and Bond-Making in Joe Sacco’s Paying the Land (2020)
Abstract: The concept of slow violence, introduced by Rob Nixon, combines his work in postcolonial studies and environmental literature (2011). It denotes environmental degradation, which often takes place over long periods of time or generations, as if invisibly, and affects primarily the impoverished people. Nixon has recently situated slow violence more broadly in the Anthropocene and as the part of the interdisciplinary environmental humanities connecting the study of science and technology with the communication studies (2018). In contrast “slowness” of slow journalism has positive connotations. Introduced to differentiate it from instantaneous journalism, slow journalism has been theorized as an academic term by Megan Le Masurier, who characterized it as a self-reflexive practice emphasizing the values of reciprocity and responsibility (2016). Slow journalism can be employed not only by writers but also by visual artists. For example, Maltese American cartoonist, Joe Sacco, who has specialized in rendering the military conflicts in the slow comics journalism for many years, in his most recent book-length graphic narrative, Paying the Land (2020),portrays the indigenous Dene people of Canadian Northwest Territories as the victims of the less spectacular process of extended resource extraction. The economic exploitation and disposal of toxic waste have been accompanied by other colonial practices leading to transgenerational trauma. Sacco’s detailed, monochromatic drawings, frequent unframed panels and relatively long oral narratives not only convey slow violence but also reveal diverse opinions of its survivors. Without idealizing the indigenous people, Sacco depicts both those who are in favour of drawing profits from resource extraction as well local social justice activists, community leaders and ordinary people opposing it. This nuanced, layered account also problematizes Sacco’s position as a white Western man who, however, distances himself from the neocolonial master narratives and the mainstream media outlets. This evocative example of slow journalism also shows its benefits such as (re-)creating bonds within the indigenous community and its self-reflexive guests, which are rendered in the non-traditional space of information production in the alternative comics.
Bio: Dr. Elżbieta Klimek-Dominiak is Assistant Professor in the Institute of English Studies and the director of the Research Center for Gender Studies at the University of Wrocław. She has published on the intersections of gender, race, class, and environment in life writing, contemporary auto/biographical comics, postmodern fiction in Biography: An Interdisciplinary Quarterly, European Journal for American Studies, Autobiografia: Literatura, Kultura, Media, Polish Journal for American Studies, Miscellanea Posttotalitariana Wratislaviensia, Anglica Wratislaviensia, and co-edited with Dominika Ferens and Justyna Kociatkiewicz Traveling Subjects: American Journeys in Space and Time. She has also contributed chaptersto Routledge Experimental Life Writing (Forthcoming) and Spectrum of Emotions: From Love to Grief (Peter Lang, 2016).Her current project focuses on transcultural trauma narratives in contemporary life writing, comics and films. She collaborates with School for Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies at York University, Canada, by organizing conferences, hosting and giving guest lectures and preparing joint publications.