Call for Papers: Comic Empires: The Imperialism of Cartoons, Caricature, and Satirical Art

The Rhodes Colossus: a caricature in Punch, published in December 1892, by Linley Sambourne of Cecil John Rhodes, after he announced plans for a telegraph line and railroad from Cape Town to Cairo.

A group of academics has put out a call for papers for a new study titled Comic Empires: The Imperialism of Cartoons, Caricature, and Satirical Art, which may be collected into a book by Manchester University Press next year.

In recent years, the cultural turn in the history of empire and imperialism has shed much new light on how imperialism and subject populations functioned. Yet despite ample attention being given to the role played by commercial advertising, print capitalism, travel and tourism, and other cultural forms, there has been little analysis of the key function of cartoons, satirical art, and caricature in sustaining, and challenging, imperial systems. Aside from useful surveys by Roy Douglas (Great Nations Still Enchained, published in 1994) and Mark Bryant (Wars of Empire in Cartoons, 2008), there exists no thorough, scholarly, interrogation of the relationship between cartoons and empire.

This is a significant omission, say the new project’s editors, Dr Richard Scully and Dr Andrekos Varnava. It is almost impossible to imagine the ‘New Imperialism’ in Africa without picturing Linley Sambourne’s ‘Rhodes Colossus’ standing astride the continent from Cape to Cairo. Similarly, Thomas Theodor Heine’s famous representation of the different Belgian, French, British, and German methods of colonialism continues to colour our understandings of imperial exploitation, as do numerous similar works by American, Japanese, and cartoonists of other nationalities.

Cartoonists and satirical art also played an important role in the resistance to imperial regimes, argue the editors, and the recovery of their voice has been an important aspect of the postcolonial enterprise.

This new study aims to bring together what is still a disparate field of inquiry, and offer a consolidated approach to understanding the relationship between cartoons and imperialism.

This edited volume aims to explore the importance of cartoons, caricatures and satirical art in the imperial context through a series of case-studies spanning the age of High Imperialism (c.1815-1945) from European and non-European contexts. It will cover important threads of support, resistance and criticism, to imperialism in both metropole and periphery, explore the question of orientalism, and look at colonial development, as well as any other theme relating to empire.

Already committed to the project are the editors of the collection, Dr Richard Scully (University of New England) and Dr Andrekos Varnava (Flinders University, South Australia). The editors are looking to receive proposals on the cartoons, caricature and satirical art emanating from journals published in Europe (including Ottoman Empire), the US and non-Western traditions, such as Japan.

If you’re interested in contributing, please send an abstract (150-200 words) and short professional biography to Dr Richard Scully, University of New England, at:, and Dr Andrekos Varnava, Flinders University, South Australia, at by 28th June 2013.

All those who send in a proposal will be notified of the result by 22 July 2013, and the full book proposal will be sent to Manchester University Press, to be considered as part of the Studies in Imperialism Series at the end of July 2013.

The series editors of Studies in Imperialism at Manchester University Press, Professors John MacKenzie and Andrew Thompson, have expressed an interest in considering such a volume.

Full details here on H-Net: Humanities and Social Science Online

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