Date of Completion


Document Type

Honors College Thesis


UVM Global Studies

Thesis Type

Honors College

First Advisor

John Waldron

Second Advisor

Teresa Mares

Third Advisor

Ignacio López-Vicuña


comics, testimonial, latin america, migrant, testimonio, graphic novel


This paper compares comics and the testimonial novel in order to analyze how both genres bring marginalized voices to light. It builds on existing theories of testimony, representation, and subalternity to explore both testimonials and ethnographic comics and analyzes how marginal subaltern subjects speak and are translated by an amanuensis. This project demonstrates how both types of texts feature silences, breaks, and empty spaces that require the participation of the reader in the creation of meaning. The "structures of feeling" that stem from reader participation allow for new communities to emerge. The time period studied in this paper begins in 1960 with the publication of Miguel Barnet's seminal testimonial novel Biography of a Runaway Slave, followed by the 1983 publication of I, Rigoberta Menchú, and extends to the present day and the ongoing production of migrant comics. The study looks at the collaborative storytelling project undertaken by partners of the Vermont Open Door Clinic to create comics based on the experiences of the nearly 1200 Latin American migrants here in Vermont. Through an in-depth analysis of comics panels based on the stories of both Mexican and Guatemalan migrants, the paper explores how these largely unseen, unheard migrants are given a voice through the text of the comics and how the comics serve to narrate the loss and trauma inherent in migration. By combining comics theory and traditional subaltern theory the paper shows how comics can shed new light on decades-old discussions regarding the testimonial. The structure of comics, which combines words and images as well as gutters, or blank framing spaces, creates powerful new ways to discuss memory, history, and the act of migration.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.