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Movement and Mobility: Representing Trauma through Transnationalism and Trauma: Graphic NarrativesGraphic and Geographic Movements in Stanford Graphic Novel Project’s From Busan to San Francisco and Mark Kalesniko’s Mail Order Bride By Stella Oh Introduction The growing popularity of contemporary graphic narratives that focus on women and trauma suggests an increasing acceptance and support of discussions on gendered violence. In her book Graphic Women: Life Narrative and Contemporary Comics, Hillary Chute argues that the “rich visual-verbal form of comics” is an ideal way to “represent trauma productively and ethically” (Chute 3). She analyzes the works of several female authors who narrate stories of trauma through the medium of the graphic narrative. Chute suggests that these female authors who recount their traumatic experiences “return to events to literally re-view them, and in so doing, they productively point to the female subject as both an object of looking and a creator of looking and sight” (Chute 2). From Busan to San Francisco (2012), a collective graphic narrative produced by twenty-one students at Stanford’s Graphic Novel Project, and Mail Order Bride (2001) by Canadian writer Mark Kalesniko both perform similar acts of revisiting traumatic events. From Busan to San Francisco and Mail Order Bride narrate the stories of young women from South Korea who are trafficked as sex workers and mail-order brides to US and Canada respectively. Both graphic narratives shed light on the industry of human trafficking which represents the third largest criminal enterprise in the world with an estimated 700,000 individuals, mostly women and children who are trafficked each year. While both works address topics dealing with the trade and traffic of South Korean women to countries in the West, they also diverge and differ. The collaborative process of undergraduate students who composed From Busan to San Francisco differs greatly from Kalesniko’s single-authored Mail Order Bride. In an interview with John Seven, Adam Johnson who heads the Stanford Graphic Novel Project along with Tom Kealy and Dan Archer, stated that students in the class base the graphic novel project on a true story that deals with issues of social justice. Students then research the story

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Abstract

The formal and stylistic movements found within the comic architecture of From Busan to San Francisco and Mail Order Bride interrogate the ways in which the visual and textual narrative can represent the emotional landscape of trauma and displacement through comics language. Engaging in a visual and textual critique of the global economy that trades in feminine identities, these graphic narratives interrogate the mobility and visibility of those who are trafficked. In these works, transnationalism is artistically embedded in consumptive practices of reading and seeing that reinforce or challenge Orientalist cultural assumptions about the Asian female body. Geographical movements of protagonists from South Korea to US and Canada as well as graphical movements of panel arrangements provide a form of ethical optics that allow us to reconsider narratives of trauma and commodification.

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