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Facing the Arab ‘Other’?: Jerusalem in Jewish women’s comics

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Jerusalem is the frontline and a microcosm of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In recent years, comic artists have turned their attention to the Middle East, including the ‘Holy City’. Scholars, however, have yet to study how comics engage with life in Jerusalem, in particular the relationships between Arabs and Jews. In this article, I will take on this critical oversight and explore how Mira Friedman’s ‘Independence Day’ (2008), Sarah Glidden’s How to Understand Israel in 60 Days or Less (2010) and Miriam Libicki’s Jobnik!: An American Girl’s Adventures in the Israeli Army (2008) engage with the complicated social situation. The philosopher, Emmanuel Lévinas, has argued that face-to-face encounters are the basis for recognizing the Other as human and for feeling responsibility towards him or her.1 In this article I show that we rarely see the Other’s face in the corpus of the Jewish comic artists I discuss here. Instead, the Arab presence is brought into the texts by way of urban elements such as the Dome of the Rock, media remediations or indistinct, distant figures. This highlights that comics are closely tied into the current situation between Israelis and Palestinians, where fear and separation rule to a level where the Arab Other – whether Christian or Muslim – of the Jews of Jerusalem is almost invisible.
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Keywords: Emmanuel Lévinas; Israeli-Palestinian conflict; Jerusalem; Mira Friedman; Miriam Libicki; Sarah Glidden; comics

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of Edinburgh

Publication date: December 1, 2015

More about this publication?
  • Studies in Comics aims to describe the nature of comics, to identify the medium as a distinct art form, and to address the medium's formal properties. The emerging field of comics studies is a model for interdisciplinary research and in this spirit this journal welcomes all approaches. This journal is international in scope and provides an inclusive space in which researchers from all backgrounds can present new thinking on comics to a global audience. The journal will promote the close analysis of the comics page/text using a variety of methodologies. Its specific goal, however, is to expand the relationship between comics and theory and to articulate a "theory of comics". The journal also includes reviews of new comics, criticism, and exhibitions, and a dedicated online space for cutting-edge and emergent creative work.

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