Managing difference through graphic cancer narratives
A common refrain in cancer disparities research states that while cancer mortality rates have dramatically decreased over the past decade, these gains have not accrued evenly across populations. Yet, there is little surprise in the findings of difference in cancer mortality rates. Cancer has always been about difference; difference in cells, in a body, between bodies, in access to resources, knowledge, and medical care. Graphic novels that have cancer narratives at their center, such as Mom’s Cancer, Alicia en el mundor real, or Cancer Made Me a Shallower Person, provide insights into the processes by which difference is revealed and biomedical citizens and selves are (re)made. This process is keenly observed through the specter of cancer and its unresolvable entanglement with biomedicine. Through the analysis of graphic novels of cancer, this paper examines the co-production of metaphors and practices of disparity and difference. The multiplicity of cultural meanings associated with these narratives have important and yet sometimes confounding implications for understanding cancer disparities. By examining the intersections of metaphors, activism, and biomedicalization in graphic novels we can gain insight into the simultaneous creation and erasure of cancer as difference. The entanglement with biomedicine leads to a proliferation of spheres through which one can not only come to know cancer as difference and marginalization but also know themselves as biomedicalized citizens.