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Coral Díaz Cano
University of La Laguna
Vol. 7 (2018), Articles
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This paper provides a study of vulnerability in Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki’s Skim (2008), a graphic novel about Kimberly Keiko Cameron (known as Skim), a Japanese Canadian teenage girl interested in Wicca and struggling through high school. By analysing selected panels and scenes, I explore the multiple ways in which control is exerted over the othered individuals in this graphic novel, that ultimately leads to the production of vulnerability. My research draws on a selection of theoretical concepts by authors like Judith Butler and Michel Foucault, such as linguistic injury or surveillance and disciplinary institutions, all of which are proven useful to the articulation of the strategies of representation favoured by Tamaki and Tamaki. I begin with an analysis of racial remarks in Skim in order to show how they work in (in)visible ways in the narrative. Secondly, I consider how Skim faces institutional control and oppression, as her high school operates as an institution of invisible surveillance that creates obedient subjects and that contributes to the further stigmatization of vulnerable characters. Thirdly, I research the mental illness of the protagonist, which is closely linked to surveillance and also works to stigmatize her. Lastly, I explore how the analysis of injurious language in Skim proves that language functions as a tool of hegemonic power to create valid subjects while silencing othered subjects that cannot fit in the domain of the speakable. Throughout, I argue that comics, as a hybrid medium composed by the visual and the verbal, have the capacity to represent the vulnerability of the non-normative subject.

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