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The Legacy of American Slavery: Contesting Blackness and Re-envisioning Nationhood in Kindred: A Graphic Novel Adaptation

Author:

Tatiana Konrad

University of Vienna, AT
About Tatiana
Tatiana Konrad is a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of English and American Studies, University of Vienna, Austria. She is the author of Docu-Fictions of War: U.S. Interventionism in Film and Literature (University of Nebraska Press, 2019), the editor of Cold War II: Hollywood’s Renewed Obsession with Russia (University Press of Mississippi, 2020) and Transportation and the Culture of Climate Change: Accelerating Ride to Global Crisis (West Virginia University Press, 2020), and a coeditor of Cultures of War in Graphic Novels: Violence, Trauma, and Memory (Rutgers University Press, 2018).
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Abstract

This article analyses Damian Duffy and John Jennings’ adaptation of Octavia E. Butler’s novel Kindred (1979), Kindred: A Graphic Novel Adaptation (2017). It focuses on the graphic novel’s explorations of the American past and present to examine the legacy of slavery today. Touching upon issues of interracial relationships, biracial children, and sexual abuse, the graphic novel discusses the complexity of being Black in the U.S., from the times of slavery to the present day, and demonstrates how generations of Americans are bonded together through the tragic history of slavery – a history through which racism has challenged the American nation and continues to do so. The article specifically focuses on how the graphic novel explores the relationship between the perpetrators and victims of slavery, the immediate and long-lasting effects thereof, as well as the responsibility borne by both the perpetrator and the passive observer (or the ‘implicated subject’, to borrow Michael Rothberg’s term) in the formation of institutionalised oppression. The graphic novel functions on various layers: making perpetrators and victims visible (in the antebellum temporal context), complicating and deconstructing the perpetrator-victim binary in the contemporary context, and exploring implication through time. This article examines the potential of the graphic novel as a genre (in particular, its visual and verbal aspects) and of the motif of time travel to address the difficult legacy of slavery, the question of implication across time, and systemic/institutional racism.

How to Cite: Konrad, T., 2022. The Legacy of American Slavery: Contesting Blackness and Re-envisioning Nationhood in Kindred: A Graphic Novel Adaptation. Journal of Perpetrator Research, 4(2), p.None. DOI: http://doi.org/10.21039/jpr.4.2.110
Published on 10 Sep 2022.
Peer Reviewed

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