Popular Culture and World Politics 7.0, a mutidisciplinary conference seeking to explore the ways in which pop culture reflects, (re)imagines, and disturbs the production, consumption, interpretation, and understanding of the political world, took place in November at the University of Ottawa. With panels on video games, art, movies and social media (among many others) a fascinating mixture of subjects were discussed.
The following is the abstract from the paper I presented at the conference:
Comics and Propaganda – Animated Responses to Extremist Messaging
Comics, graphic novels and animation have long been recognized for their power to inform and persuade. Governments and political and extremist organisations from far right to extreme left have used these forms as propaganda to further their aims, yet they remained overlooked in international studies. The increasingly sophisticated spread of extremist messaging, particularly jihadi narratives in different formats, has seen an increasing emphasis placed on counter-narrative within countering violent extremism (CVE) policy. Animated works that seek to counter this messaging have been receiving attention. Pakistani children’s series The Burka Avenger won a 2013 Peabody award for its positive messaging in providing a role model for young women, and for promoting ‘justice, peace and education for all.’ Similarly, The 99 has been recognized for its work in the creation of positive role models and story lines with superheroes born of Middle Eastern history, and Islamic archetypes that possess values shared by the entire world. Abdullah X, a series of animated shorts, has been developed specifically with CVE aims in mind. Taking the idea that narratives and identity are key to understandings of ourselves and our place in the world, this paper looks these works and the messages they contain, examining the role the animated form plays in countering extremist messaging, locating the research within the wider use of this form as a propaganda tool and form of soft power.