Comics in exceptional times

What: Comics in exceptional times
When: 26 July – 2 August 2020
Where: Anywhere/Online

We invite scholars, students, artists, and other professionals working with comics to the fourth symposium of the network Comics and Society: Research, Art, and Cultural Politics (2019-2021), organised exceptionally in a remote form. This could mean several individual online/local gatherings, workshops, discussions, art works and the like, called Traces, that will replace the traditional NSU Summer Session in the last week of July.

Theme of the symposium: Comics in exceptional times

In our previous sessions in Aarhus, Roosta and Södertörn our study circle has raised discussion about the materiality of comics, participation and communities in comics, as well as comics and feminism. At the moment the whole world is affected by a pandemic unlike anything we’ve experienced before, and we have a new and unprecedented chance to look at all of these topics from another perspective. As a consequence of the Covid-19, as well as to prevent its rapid contagion, many countries have taken up such extreme measures as closing their borders and restricting the movement of their citizens. As we all find ourselves in an exceptional situation, for some the sudden societal change means a worsening of an already precarious position. The pandemic has also affected the field of comics and comics scholarship in various ways as many comics festivals, art exhibitions, conferences and workshops have been canceled. In the light of this, the aim of the remote summer session is to provide new meaningful ways of meeting, communicating, and working with others.

Possible questions to be explored include, but are not limited to: 
How has the pandemic affected communities around comics? What kind of changes has social and/or physical distancing caused in the field of comics? Is it possible that the current situation changes the material aspects related to making and publishing comics permanently? What about the livelihood of comics artists, comics scholars and others connected to the production and research of comics, how has the pandemic affected that? What is the role of comics in these exceptional times? There is a growing number of comics made around the subject of the virus itself as well as the isolation its prevention has led to and the political processes caused by it. How do comics deal with these issues? What is the importance of comics in the distribution of information and as a means of societal analysis in exceptional times such as these?

The adjusted format: Traces
Usually the NSU Summer Session gathers all nine NSU study circles to the same location for a week of collaboration, exchange of ideas and getting to know new people from different fields of study. This year, however, the Summer Session will take place in an adjusted format due to the Covid-19 pandemic. As physical meetings of large groups in the summer will most likely be restricted, NSU has come up with a proposal of an alternative format for the summer activities. The proposal for the participants this year is to create Traces (please see below for more detailed description). We invite and encourage scholars, students, artists as well as other practitioners working with comics to suggest online or small local gatherings (if it is possible by the end of July) that produce a Trace which can be shared with the larger community.

What is a Trace?
A Trace is defined as the outcome of our circle’s activities in the Summer Session 2020. These activities can include for example online comics workshops, local meetings, online panel discussions, a reading or a performance, presenting a piece of art or shared activity, a shareable zine, comics exhibition or any kind of collaboration. It is also possible to contribute with a more traditional academic paper or panel. There are several grants available for individuals or groups organising the production of a Trace. 

The requirements for each Trace are:

  • produced by a single individual or group of participants
  • sharable and open to all during the Summer Session
  • fits to NSU’s overall goals and aims
  • non-commercial 
  • comes with some promotion material comparable to an invite, to be disseminated before the Summer Session (an image and 200-500 words)
  • the main language is English or a Nordic or Baltic language
  • the producer/maker of the Trace is a member of NSU (i.e. pays the membership fee of 10/25€ ) and participates in the democratic forums of the NSU (for example by becoming a delegate during the General Assembly) during the Summer Session
  • the producer provides a brief report of the Trace to their coordinator (form to be provided by NSU, including amount of participants, goals, etc.) after the Trace has been produced.

To submit a proposal of a Trace, please send it via email to the circle coordinators Laura Antola (lahean[at] and Aura Nikkilä (amnikk[a] by 31 May, 2020

  • A written proposal (max. 300 words). This should include a title and a short description of the topic, its format and its outcome.
  • A short bio (max. 200 words).

Accepted applicants will be informed by e-mail and a preliminary programme will be announced in mid-June at There you will also find more information about NSU and can sign up for the newsletter. 

You are also welcome to participate without creating a Trace. Please apply by the same deadline by sending the coordinators a short bio if you’d like to join as a participant.


Our circle has altogether six grants (7000 DKK each) available for individuals or groups organising the production of a Trace in collaboration with the other participants. In case we receive a large number of exciting proposals for the Traces, we will consider a possibility to split the grants in slightly smaller amounts, to encourage a greater diversity of projects. 

As always, NSU is particularly interested in supporting people who are at the outskirts of the Nordic region – the Baltic and West-Nordic communities – as well as those with special needs. Please inform us if your application of a Trace grant falls under the regional support or if the pandemic has had particular financial consequences to you.

Please note that there is only a limited amount of grants available. If you are offered a grant to produce a Trace, you will need to respond by email to accept the grant, otherwise it will be offered to the next person on the list.

The participants will need to pay the Nordic Summer University’s annual membership fee. The membership fee facilitates the existence of the Nordic Summer University, which is a volunteer-based organisation. There are two optional choices: 

Annual membership fee of 25 € (regular). 

Annual membership fee of 10 € (those with low income).

The Nordic Summer University (NSU) is a Nordic network for research and interdisciplinary studies. NSU is a nomadic, academic institution, which organises workshop-seminars across disciplinary and national borders. Since it was established in 1950, Nordic Summer University has organised forums for cultural and intellectual debate in the Nordic and Baltic region, involving students, academics, politicians, and intellectuals from this region and beyond.

Decisions about the content and the organisational form of the NSU lay with its participants. The backbone of the activities in the NSU consists of its thematic study circles. In the study circles researchers, students and professionals from different backgrounds collaborate in scholarly investigations distributed regularly in summer and winter symposia during a three-year period. For more information: