We live in polarized times. The election of Donald Trump as the next President of the United States has laid bare deep divisions in American society. These same division can be found in Europe, and are exploited by populist politicians that successfully operate in many European countries.
By their nature, editorial cartoons give one particular perspective on what is happening in the world. By showing a range of perspectives we hope to avoid getting entrenched on one side of any given debate.
The comics we publish give us the chance to do fact-based explorations from various angles. In recent years, we have done numerous comic collaborations with university professors. Comics are an excellent tool to make complex subject matter understandable and accessible, without losing sight of the relevant facts.
One of the first of these ‘academic’ comics we ever did was the story of South Sudan, from independence in 2012, to civil war within just three years. This eventually became a series of comics:
The comics are drawn by Kenyan comic artist Victor Ndula and written by Alex de Waal, a world-renowned expert on South Sudan. They are considered to be such a good and succinct explanation of the situation in South Sudan that they are now part of the standard briefing pack at USAID for anyone working on Africa.
We are currently working on more comics as part of our partnership with the London School of Economics, this time focusing on justice in Angola.
More recently, we published Europe’s Refugee Crisis: A Perfect Storm, a comic collaboration with a profession of migration law that explains how Europe is largely responsible for its own refugee crisis.
Today, we’ve published a comic/animation that seeks to explain how polarization works and what we can do to reverse this process. The comic, drawn by Pedro X. Molina from Nicaragua, is based on the model of polarization by philosopher Bart Brandsma.
This academic approach to comics isn’t only novel, we believe it necessary. Ironically, in a time when information is more abundant than ever, facts can sometimes be hard to find. Our social media timelines present us with what we want to hear (even if it’s fake), and Google enables us to find support for any of our convictions, no matter how far-fetched. The least we can do is to make sure that the comics we publish are thoroughly researched and based on fact, not fiction.
The two most recent comics are produced for Times of Migration, a new platform with a focus on refugees and migration. Times of Migration takes a fact-based approach to its subject matter; in the often highly charged debate about migration, it is more important than ever to have all the facts.