Imagining a world beyond binaries - Feminist utopianism and the activist potential of webcomics

Aktiviteetti: Konferenssiesitelmä


The paper analyzes online reader responses to a humoristic science fiction comic The Immortal Nerd (2015–2017) by Finnish comics artist H-P Lehkonen. Being published on Webtoon, globally known platform for digital comics, the English-language comic reached international audiences. The story is set in the future, in the 4000s, when Nokia, a lively teenager living in a space station, gets the opportunity to travel to Earth to study the history of the “old internet” at the university. The overall tone in the comic is humorous but it also introduces a future where wide spectrum of different genders and sexual orientations are not exceptional but rather normal.

Utopias have traditionally been understood as literary fiction that introduces blueprints or dreams of a perfect society or polity. I understand feminist utopian thinking and imagination as concepts that allow to examine how fictional texts, such as comics, create “new conceptual places in which radically different ways of being can be imagined” (Sargisson 1996, 21). Instead of portraying perfect societies, utopianism functions as a critical tool for pointing out the restrictiveness of our existing systems by presenting an alternative.

In the paper, I examine web-comics as a platform for feminist utopianism and as a site for social negotiation about gender and sexuality. By using H-P Lehkonen’s web-comic as a test-case, the paper aims to show how web-comics are part of “participatory culture”, where participants actively interact with each other, and a platform for “collective intelligence”, where participants share their knowledge and potentially learn from each other (see Jenkins 2006, 4, 18–19).
The main questions in the paper are 1) Which visual and verbal features do the readers of comics use as cues for gendering the characters? 2) How do readers socially negotiate the gender of the characters with other readers? 3) How do readers participate in the re-imagining of gender?
Aikajakso11 toukok. 2023
Tapahtuman otsikkoRewired and revamped? Media & trans/national feminisms in Europe and beyond
Tapahtuman tyyppiConference
SijaintiTampere, SuomiNäytä kartalla
Tunnustuksen arvoInternational