A few years back I started thinking about the relationship between popular culture and contextual and public theologies. Firstly, how popular culture might serve as a site for doing contextual theology and, secondly, how popular culture might provide avenue for for public theological engagement. My initial thinking in this area can be found in the writing listed below, as well as how I’ve been using popular culture to teach ethics, Christian spirituality, contextual and public theology over the past 10-15 years:
- Garner, Stephen. “Morningside for Life!: Contextual Theology Meets Animated Television in Bro’town.” Studies in World Christianity 17, no. 2 (2011): 156-74.
- ———. “Public Theology through Popular Culture.” In The Bible, Justice and Public Theology, edited by David J. Neville, 174-89. Sheffield: Sheffield Phoenix Press, 2014.
- ———. “Sacred Texts in a Secular World: Teaching Sacred Texts in a Pluralistic, Multi-Faith, Modern University Campus.” The ANZTLA eJournal, no. 10 (2013): 33-46.
After that initial foray into those areas, my research and writing concentrated on my theology and technology project and it is only recently that I’ve started to have time to think again about my religion, media and popular culture project. One of the things I’ll be doing in that is to look at how the medium of graphic novels and comics provide resources for narrating human experiences, for engendering social change, and reflecting upon societal and public goods.
The base material for this, graphic novels and comics, represent an increasing medium for telling these kinds of stories and engaging with the world around us. Within that medium all kinds of genres occur, leading to diverse and rich accounts and imagery to explore. I’m hoping this will be a long-term project sketching both the broad landscape of the medium, as well as being able to hone in on particular issues or topic in more depth. Some of this engagement will be religious and theological, implicitly and explicitly, but it will necessarily be with a range of conversation partners and other disciplines.
I leave you with a selection of comics and graphic novels that form part of the body of material I’ll be looking at (and it’s only the tip of the iceberg).