Exhibition: Cartooning the USA and UK

Each year the annual conference of the Association for the Study of Ethnicity and Nationalism (ASEN) has an exhibition exploring aspects of the conference theme. Ruby Moore, a post-graduate student at Cardiff University, writes about her experience working on this years exhibition – ‘Cartooning the UK and USA: Representations of Immigration Policy and Power’.

2018: the year weve set to exit the European Union and the second year of Trumps presidency (and yet still no wall). With so much talk of borders it seems only fitting that ASENs annual conference is on The New Nationalism: Populism, Authoritarianism, and Anti-globalisation.

I found out about the conference in September 2017 when one of my Masters modules, Project Management, advertised an opportunity to work with the ASEN to create an exhibit at the conference. Studying an MA in English Literature, its hardly surprisingly that I’m interested in the consumption of narratives and the moment I heard about this exhibition I wanted to look at the ways people consume information aboutthese very themes from mass media.

I quickly decided that, if I was given the opportunity to work with this conference, I wanted to look at editorial cartoons of political figures and policies. Cartoons are easily consumed snapshots of information readily available to the masses and I thought looking at them would shed some light on how we present politics to the population.

After riffling through several ideas for what to look at specifically, I decided that, what with the current refugee crisis being at an all-time high; talks of Trumps Mexican border wall still around; and the recent Brexit referendum, that immigration should be my focus. So I started devoting my life to google searches and online newspaper archives. The choice of images was almost limitless. Almost every newspaper (and magazine too) has their own cartoonist and many of them publish a cartoon every day. It didn’t take long to realise I would have to pick a time frame to source images from.

But that wasn’t hard. Immigration is a public concern right now. As such, I decided to source my images from the start of 2015 until the end of November 2017 (and I would have loved to keep sourcing images until the end of 2017 but the internal deadline from my university made this particularly difficult).

So what am I presenting in March? A collection of political cartoons that look at Trump, America and attitudes towards immigration, and, Brexit and the UK politicians and the publics stance towards immigration. I am interested in narratives; in the way we present and consume them; and in the things we can assume about society from them. Thus, I have decided to split my images into three sections: internal depictions of Brexit and the UK immigration stance (i.e. from UK sources); internal depictions of Trump and the American immigration stance; and external depictions of both. I’m interested in the ways in which we perceive ourselves and others perceive us and I hope you’ll be interested in my findings too.

Ruby Moore, MA: English Literature, Cardiff University