For our final Meet the Board post before the upcoming elections, we focus on our current Vice President and incoming President, Elizabeth “Biz” Nijdam. Biz is a Visiting Assistant Professor at Whitman College in Film/Media Studies & German Studies. Her research focuses on graphic medicine and comics on disability, visual culture studies and Art History, East German memory culture.
How long have you been involved with CSS? What brought you to CSS?
I joined the CSS in 2014 at the International Comic Arts Forum (ICAF) conference at Ohio State University, where it was founded, and immediately took on one of the Member-At-Large positions. Having recently turned my focus to comics studies, I wanted to really entrench myself in the field and help define the role of graduate students as CSS grew.
What was the first comic that you remember reading, or the first that really had an impact on you as a reader?
Watchmen. I was never a comics reader as a child and only came to comics during my undergraduate degree at the University of Victoria on Vancouver Island. I was struck by the political nature of the text and, as an art history student, the role of images in constructing its political undertones.
What are you reading now that you think others should look into?
I’m currently reading Vietnamerica: A Family’s Journey by GB Tran and loving it.
What comics scholar has most impacted your current research, and why?
The way Charles Hatfield has written about authenticity in comics has been fundamental in how I think about the role of comics in representing history. His Alternative Comics (2005) opened a lot of theoretical doors for me. Hillary Chute’s work Drawing Disaster (2016) has also been essential in how I think about comics and witnessing as well as Nina Mickwitz’s Documentary Comics (2016). More recently, Maaheen Ahmed and Benoît Crucifix’s edited volume Comics Memory: Archives and Styles (2018) has helped me develop how I think about the role of memory in comics and comics in memory.
Is there any recent shift in the field of comics studies that you are particularly excited about?
I am among several scholars that have started looking at comics’ relationship to the archive and I’m excited to be able to discuss this turn in comics studies with some of the field’s most promising individuals.
Who is the comics writer/artist/scholar that has most influenced the way you think about the field?
Hillary Chute and Kelly Sue DeConnick.
If you could choose one comic writer or artist to meet who would it be and why?
Hillary Chute. So much of her work in comics studies made my work possible. I wrote my dissertation on Anke Feuchtenberger and her role in the evolution of German comics after 1989, which was heavily informed by the way Chute talked about women in comics in Graphic Women (2010). My current project – on the role of comics in representing history – is equally shaped by Chute’s Disaster Drawn. Furthermore, as an important female comics scholar, I think of her as a role model.
What are you currently working on and do you have plans for future projects?
In addition to my current book project “Paneled Pasts: History, Media and Memory in the German Graphic Novel,” I’m starting a smaller project on comics on and for blind or visually impaired individuals.
You can follow “Biz” on twitter @bizabeth.
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