The Rhetoric of Health and Medicine journal is now welcoming submissions for a new digital, open access column dedicated to the intersection of Graphic Medicine and the Rhetoric of Health and Medicine (RHM)! In advance of the first column, I chatted with column editors, Dr. Catherine Gouge and Dr. Blake Scott to learn more about their vision for the column. Read more below!
AR: What drew you to the idea of a graphic RHM column for an academic journal? More specifically, for Blake as a founding editor, was this always part of the plan for RHM or did you come to this idea recently?
CG: Blake and I have both been involved with the broader Graphic Medicine community for a while and found it really engaging and rewarding. We started meeting up to share our drawings this past year and looking into ways of creating opportunities for others to explore the possibilities of the graphic form for those interested more specifically in the Rhetoric of Health and Medicine.
My own interest in graphic medicine stems from my lifelong interest in the comic form and graphic novels. I have been incorporating mini-zines and jam comics into my writing instruction and workshops for the past 10 years or so. I find that most people, even those who don’t think of themselves as visual artists, end up enjoying these unique opportunities for invention, visual thinking, and re-visioning.
BS: My interest in Graphic Medicine (including as a form of and tool for research) grew while working on a couple of collaborative, interdisciplinary research projects involving comics for healthcare workers–one set to combat provider-enacted stigma experienced by people living with HIV, and the other to augment peer support for mental health injuries among acute care nurses.
The RHM editorial team has always welcomed innovative forms of research, and we previously discussed encouraging regular submissions that include comics, but the idea for this “Graphic RHM” column came out of my and Catherine’s recent brainstorming (inspired partly by Jenell Johnson’s work).
AR: What are some of your favorite examples of comics relating to health and medicine? What types of submissions are you hoping to see for RHM?
CG: There are so many I love for a variety of different reasons. It’s hard to pick favorites, but here are some of mine: Invisible Differences: A Story of Aspergers, Adulting, and a Life in Full Color by Mademoiselle Caroline and Julie Dachez; Roz Chast’s Can’t We Talk about Something More Pleasant?; Nate Powell’s Swallow Me Whole; LISSA: A Story About Medical Promise, Friendship and Revolution by Sherine Hamdy, Coleman Nye, Sarula Bao, and Caroline Brewer; COVID Chronicles eds. Kendra Boileau and Rich Johnson; and KC Councilor’s Between You and Me: Transitional Comics.
Several books by BIPOC artists are also sometimes included in catalogs of graphic medicine texts because they address issues of individual and systemic health (or lack thereof): Some of my favorites are Thi Bui’s The Best We Could Do, Ebony Flowers’ Hot Comb, George Takei’s They Called Us Enemy, and the March series by John Lewis.
BS: Probably because of my experiences with my mom, I’m drawn to caregiving comics such as Brian Fies’ Mom’s Cancer and Sarah Leavitt’s Tangles. I find Marcus Weaver-Hightower’s research comics fascinating. More recently, I’ve been especially interested in comics that capture healthcare workers’ and other caregivers’ experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic, including those collected on the Graphic Medicine website (https://www.graphicmedicine.org/covid-19-comics-by-about-caregivers/).
Both: We hope to see a wide range of submission types and expect that much of our first wave of submissions might be about the rhetor’s experiences as a patient, caregiver, and/or researchers (here we are reminded of this early RHM piece). We especially encourage collaborative, interdisciplinary comics and comics that take on issues of equity and justice in health and medicine. We are looking to our submitters to help us imagine new issues and forms!
AR: How might the new column increase RHM’s visibility as a field? What new audiences do you imagine the column invoking or addressing?
CG: Since releasing the CFP, we have had interest from several aspiring contributors to the column who come from outside of the RHM community. They are finding their way to RHM (the journal and area of interest both) now because they saw the CFP or have communicated with us and can see how their interests in diagnosis, health literacy, patient communication, and other experiences of health and medicine are things we think about in RHM. That’s been exciting to see, and I expect we’ll see more cross and interdisciplinary conversations and collaborations as a result.
BS: I agree, and I hope such conversations and collaborations will help our field become more inclusive, in terms of who finds it hospitable to their work, what the field addresses as exigent health and medical issues, and how we understand the rhetorical dimensions of health and medicine. Given that some of the queries we’ve already received are about pragmatic comics for caregivers and/or patients, I think the column could make our field’s work more visible in healthcare forums and contexts.
AR: How and when can folks submit to the “Graphic RHM” column?
Both: Rather than a special issue, “Graphic RHM” is a regular, ongoing digital column. We accept submissions on a rolling basis and will begin publishing early next year. We are happy to have pre-submission conversations with folks and encourage folks who don’t identify as rhetoricians to check out the RHM journal’s “Focus and Scope” first, but with the assumption that our field has a fairly broad understanding of health and medicine’s rhetorical dimensions. For now, you can email submissions to GraphicRHM@gmail.com.
Finally, as we develop a resource site for beginning comic artists in RHM, we are eager to hear what kinds of resources folks might find helpful, so please email us ideas for that as well!