Deakin University’s Development-Humanitarian Research Group was pleased to host Dr Gemma Sou, who presented her research on climate change and disasters, visual storytelling, and her new comic ‘Living with Climate Change’.
Researchers of climate change (and many other topics too) are increasingly asked to become better at visual storytelling. Visual storytelling has an intuitive appeal that can make sense of the world in ways that are more accessible than hefty IPCC reports or academic articles that are locked behind steep paywalls.
Dr Sou draws on her own experience to discuss how the combination of geographical research on climate change, the ‘technology’ of comics and postcolonialism opens exciting opportunities to think geographically about climate change and to challenge colonial imaginaries about peoples and places experiencing climate change. Understanding and responding to the changing climate will require recognising and engaging multiple, diverse experiences of agency, a process that attention to comics can help facilitate.
In 2020 Gemma Sou began a Vice Chancellor’s Fellowship at RMIT University. In September she will return to her position as a Lecturer in the Humanitarian and Conflict Response Institute at the University of Manchester. Gemma draws on postcolonial discourse to explore human-environment relations. Her work has explored, everyday lived experiences of disasters, aid partnership micropolitics, private refugee sponsorship, the media representation of disasters, and creative research translation. Most of her work has focused on South America and the Caribbean region.
In 2019, Gemma created a comic, ‘After Maria: Everyday recovery from disaster’ based on her ethnographic research that explored Puerto Rican families’ recovery from Hurricane Maria, which devastated the Caribbean island in 2017. In July 2022 she will launch a second comic, ‘Everyday life with Climate Change’, – a collaboration between Dr Gina Ziervogel (University of Cape Town), Dr Adeeba Risha (BRAC Bangladesh), the illustrator Cat Sims (London) and the Geography Teachers Association of Victoria. This second comic threads together and visualises their qualitative research about how low-income families experience and adapt to climate change in Bangladesh, South Africa, Bolivia, Puerto Rico and Barbuda.
Note: A version of this talk was given as the Wiley Keynote Lecture at the Institute of Australian Geographers 2022
Image description: The protagonists of the comic based on research about everyday life with climate change. Left to Right: Mauge from Bolivia, Elna from South Africa, Luisa from Puerto Rico, and Rohima from Bangladesh. Illustrated by Cat Sims