Displacement, Permeable Boundaries and Cultural Frontiers in Comics
: A Case Study on Mexican Cultural Icons

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


The general objective of this research is to propose a critical approach to ambiguous or unstable concepts of national and cultural identity. The particular objective is to study the ways in which these concepts are visually articulated in comics. The research focuses on a number of comic books created in the first decade of the 21st century and published between 2000- 2011. All of them draw on what I define as “Mexican cultural icons.”

In my analysis I deconstruct the dynamism —a multidirectional interaction— that can be found in these comic books. I argue that comics’ icons that represent concepts of national and cultural identity commonly go through a process that I refer to as “iconic displacement”, that is to say a removal from the position they are usually presented and, in some cases, a replacement by another icon that seems to fulfil the same communicative goal.

When an icon of national or cultural identity is combined with a foreigner’s point of view, the dividing lines between the two domains turn into what I call “permeable boundaries”; these are porous limits that can be partially trespassed creating indeterminate zones that I refer to as “cultural frontiers.”

Cultural frontiers could be as diverse as: reverse situations where time and space are altered, characters swapping roles, objects taken out of their original context or the use of code-switching. My specific study focuses on cases of iconic displacement as they are employed in comics that deal with “Mexican cultural icons” represented by non-Mexican contemporary authors. My aim is to demonstrate the many ways in which this visual literacy contributes to give shape and to configure the iconic language of the unstable world of leaky realities that we live in.
Date of Award2013
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • King's College London
SupervisorLuis Rebaza-Soraluz (Supervisor)

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