Using graphic novels to teach Middle Eastern politics

Posted on Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Thomas Juneau with arms folded in front of a graphic design.
Thomas Juneau, assistant professor with uOttawa's Graduate School of Public and International Affairs.

By Dave Weatherall

Among the 2,500 comic books and graphic novels on the shelves of Morisset’s Media Library are three titles that assistant professor Thomas Juneau uses in his Conflits et processus de paix au Moyen-Orient class—Palestine by Joe Sacco, Exit Wounds by Rutu Modan and Waltz with Bashir by Ari Folman and David Polonsky.

“One of the chief contributions of this new generation of graphic novels to the political science classroom is their brutal and down-to-earth accounts of complex issues, including a strong tone of social critique,” says Juneau, with uOttawa’s Graduate School of Public and International Affairs.

The three books are part of a growing collection of French and English comic books and graphic novels at the Media Library that is taking on greater and greater importance in our increasingly visual culture—including in academia. 

“Not only do graphic novels offer original perspectives but also their mix of text and images invites us to think differently, to observe and to infer,” says Jasmine Bouchard, head of the Media Library, who launched the new collection thanks to a donation from Michel Tordion of 2,000 works. “These titles, as well as new ones, will support course-related instruction and inform general cultural literacy, in a context where visual media like graphic novels are increasingly acclaimed and popular.”

Juneau says he has received positive feedback from his students, even though some may have been skeptical at first.

“One student told me, ‘...as a lens into the conflict, graphic novels provide insight that a textbook or article cannot,’” says Juneau. “By being immersed in the kind of storytelling that graphic novels present, and being forced to confront the ‘frame’ of the narrator, students are also helped to set aside whatever political biases they may hold.”

Visit the Media Library on the first floor of Morisset Library to see the entire comic book and graphic novel collection.

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