Date of Submission

Summer 7-25-2020

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in International Conflict Management (Ph.D. INCM)

Chair/Co-chair

Dr. Anne Richards

Committee Member

Dr. Robbie Lieberman

Committee Member

Dr. Debarati Sen

Abstract

Comics, a type of multimodal narrative, have historically been used as platforms for political discourse. Through a combination of visual, verbal, and spatial devices, comics often explore issues of peace, conflict, and justice “from below,” in ways that reveal the complexities of narrative and identity. In doing so, they have the potential to interrogate grand narratives that often go undisrupted. Humanities scholars have long recognized the value of literary and visual arts in preparing students to engage the salient themes of peace education. However, the medium of comics remains undertheorized in that field, despite the increasing popularity of comics as a mode of storytelling. Aiming to advance comics studies in peace education, this dissertation explores how comics can enrich student understanding of peace and conflict narratives.

Data were gathered from two sections of a general-education peace studies class in which students read and responded to Barbara Yelin’s Irmina, a graphic novel that explores racism, structural violence, and identity during the period of WWII. The dissertation’s theoretical framework was shaped by elements of grounded theory and critical pedagogy, approaches that shaped its analysis and theorization of the writing assignments and semi-structured interviews used to gather data.

Data indicate that the multimodal format of comics helped students think critically about how aesthetics shaped their views of conflict. In addition, the ability to see characters in conflict gave students the opportunity to envision themselves in relation to those characters, in some instances using them as screens on which to project their own alternatives to violence. While students benefited from reading Irmina, there were also limitations to the comics format, especially the degree to which contextual factors of conflict could be explored through it. This dissertation concludes with pedagogical suggestions offered in light of the rhetorical strengths and limitations of comics as a medium in the peace studies classroom.

Available for download on Sunday, July 20, 2025

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