So I read an article this week called “Interdisciplinary, or, The Condition of Comics Studies” by Charles Hatfield. It is an article where Hatfield argues that “comics studies has no disciplinary status in the traditional sense, that is, no clear, cohesive, and self-contained disciplinary identity.” In fact, “comics study has to be at the intersection of various disciplines (art, literature, communication, etc.) and, two, because this multidisciplinary nature represents, in principle, a challenge to the very idea of disciplinarity.” I feel like that was a very profound series of statements to make. Especially for a black creative as myself.
It reminds me of my child hood when I first became interested in competitive sports. At 11 years old and having just moved from Sacramento to the suburb of El Dorado Hills, my father sat me down (like most black parents did their black kids), and explained to me that my value in the eyes of others isn’t from being good at one thing, it is from being good at multiple things if not everything that I do. My value is in my versatility. In other words, people will give me respect in whatever field I chose if I am a Jack of all trades and a master of every one of them. I have to be at the intersection of being a good dancer, a sports star, a smart student, and a dependable teammate and friend. That has been true in my life, and true in the comics’ industry as a whole. Not only do you have to be a good artist, but also a good writer, colorist, marketer, and business person. A jack of all trades and a master of every one of them. He says that “comics studies will bring together various disciplines and methodologies in a workspace that is at least multidisciplinary if not truly interdisciplinary.”
Hatfield notes through a multitude of source material that teamwork, both externally and internally, with multiple disciplines is what sets inter disciplinarily apart from disciplines in general. It makes for a more well-rounded and wholesome approach to problem solving. With regards to comics, he says that this notion is formed around “social knowledge” – “a shared construing of objects events, interests and purposes that not only links them but also makes them what they are: an objectified social need.” In other words, the purpose is supposed to connect the private with the public and the “singular with the recurrent.” The private with the public, huh? Or how about I say making the exclusive more inclusive. A perfect example is Luke Cage on Netflix. It gives people that never been or heard of the Harlem Culture a glimpse of the culture for what it is. No whitewashing included. For black creators, it is a wide open field for use to tell our stories to a main stream audience because the Comic Industry and Comics Studies field invites it as an intersectional body of art, culture, history, etc. That in turn will open more doors in other creative industries. As he alludes to the “most forward thinking comics, “he describes it as an exaggeration and intensification of comics’ visual elements that destabilize literature that is determined to harness visual elements. Where words can only do so much that you need pictures to say and accentuate point more.
Lastly, He goes back to interdiciplinarity and categorizes it into 4 areas based on Lisa R. Lattuca’s research:
· Informed Disciplinarity – disciplinary teaching and disciplinary research that reach out occasionally to other fields, borrowing methods, theories, concepts, or other disciplinary components in order to address questions that are nonetheless native to the scholar-teacher’s home discipline.
· Synthetic disciplinarity – contributions or roles of the individual disciplines are still identifiable, though the questions posed are not seen as native to a single field.
· Transdiciplinarity – research and teachings that pose questions that reach across disciplines in hopes of rediscovering underlying structures or relationships and thus developing and overarching synthesis.
· Conceptual Disciplinartity – having no disciplinary home, and are not organized so as to privilege particular disciplinary perspectives.
As I research more and more on what I can do in this field, I see many elements that I can apply to inspiring people that look like me and want to do the same things I do. I am glad to be on this journey and will continue to share my knowledge with you all.
Create and Conquer!