Urban Comics : Infrastructure and the Global City in Contemporary Graphic Narratives book cover
1st Edition

Urban Comics
Infrastructure and the Global City in Contemporary Graphic Narratives

ISBN 9780367660635
Published September 30, 2020 by Routledge
288 Pages

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Book Description

Urban Comics: Infrastructure and the Global City in Contemporary Graphic Narratives makes an important and timely contribution both to comics studies and urban studies, offering a decolonisation and reconfiguration of both of these already interdisciplinary fields. With chapter-length discussions of comics from cities such as Cairo, Cape Town, New Orleans, Delhi and Beirut, this book shows how artistic collectives and urban social movements working across the global South are producing some of the most exciting and formally innovative graphic narratives of the contemporary moment.

Throughout, the author reads an expansive range of graphic narratives through the vocabulary of urban studies to argue that these formal innovations should be thought of as a kind of infrastructure. This ‘infrastructural form’ allows urban comics to reveal that the built environments of our cities are not static, banal, or depoliticised, but rather highly charged material spaces that allow some forms of social life to exist while also prohibiting others. Built from a formal infrastructure of grids, gutters and panels, and capable of volumetric, multi-scalar perspectives, this book shows how urban comics are able to represent, repair and even rebuild contemporary global cities toward more socially just and sustainable ends.

Operating at the intersection of comics studies and urban studies, and offering large global surveys alongside close textual and visual analyses, this book explores and opens up the fascinating relationship between comics and graphic narratives, on the one hand, and cities and urban spaces, on the other.

Table of Contents


Introduction. Urban Comics: Infrastructure and the Global City in Contemporary Graphic Narratives

Introduction: The Camp and the City

Form and Infrastructure

Infrastructural Form

Comics Collectives as Networked Urban Social Movements

The Image of the Global City

New York, New York: A Brief History of Comics and the City

Five Southern City Case Studies

Chapter 1. Drawing Public Space: Revolutionary Visual Cultures and the Right to the City in Cairo

Introduction: Revolutionary Visual Cultures and Gendered Public Spaces

Egyptian ‘Comix’, Online and Offline

Urban Cairo in Text and Image

Vision and Visibility in Magdy El Shafee’s Metro (2008)

Volume and Verticality in Deena Mohamed’s Qahera, the Webcomic, Not the City (2013-2015) Building Comics, Building Cities

Chapter 2. Image-Making in the Global City: Eco-Speculative Fictions and Urban Social Movements in Cape Town

Introduction: South African Cartoons, Comix and Co-mixed Visual Cultures

Privatisation, Segregation and Image-Making in the Global City

Afrofuturism, Solarpunk and Water Politics

Flooding the Cape Town ‘Utopia’

Turning to Townships: Urban Social Movements in Cape Town

Chapter 3. Graphic Katrina: Disaster Capitalism and Tourism Gentrification in New Orleans

Introduction: ‘There’s No Such Thing As A Natural Disaster’

Voyeurism and Voluntourism in the ‘Drowned City’

Vertical Perspectives in Josh Neufeld’s A.D. New Orleans After the Deluge (2009)

Comics and Zines in New Orleans: Gentrifying Forms, DIY Cities

Autographics, Art and Activism in Erin Wilson’s Snowbird (2013)

Chapter 4. Comics, Collectives, Collaborations: Engineering Pedestrian and Public Spaces in Delhi

Introduction: The City-as-Circuitboard

‘Engineering’ Comics: Orijit Sen and the Pao Collective

World Class Delhi: Politics in the City ‘Inside-Out’

Pedestrianism and Penmanship in Sarnath Banerjee’s Graphic Narratives

Histories of the Neoliberal Present in Vishwajyoti Ghosh’s Delhi Calm (2010)

Gendering the Right to the City: Women’s Maps, Women’s Lines

Chapter 5. Comics as Infrastructure: Public Space and Post-war Reconstruction in Beirut

Introduction: Post-war Reconstruction in the Neoliberal Era

Weaponised Infrastructure in Wartime Beirut

Rebuilding the City in Zeina Abirached’s Graphic Memoirs

Lamia Ziadé’s Bye Bye Babylon: The City as Witness

Urban Warfare and Civilian Life in Text and Image

New Geographies of Beirut: Samandal as Urban Social Movement

Conclusion. Bordered Forms, Bordered Worlds


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Dominic Davies is a Lecturer in English at City, University of London. In 2018 he finished a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellowship at the University of Oxford, where he also completed his DPhil and established the TORCH Network, ‘Comics and Graphic Novels: The Politics of Form’. He is the author of Imperial Infrastructure and Spatial Resistance in Colonial Literature, 1880-1930 (2017), along with a number of articles and book chapters exploring the relationship between urban infrastructure, the built environment and artistic and literary cultures. He is the co-editor of Fighting Words: Fifteen Books that Shaped the Postcolonial World (2017) and Planned Violence: Post/Colonial Urban Infrastructure, Literature & Culture (2018). He is also the editor of a collection of essays and comics entitled Documenting Trauma in Comics: Traumatic Pasts, Embodied Histories & Graphic Reportage (2019).


"An outstanding book about the relevance of comics in contemporary urban struggles." --Jörn Ahrens, University of Giessen, Germany