Saturday, 10 September 2016

Humour, Comedy & Laughter - obscenities, paradoxes, insights & the renewal of life

Recently published by Berghahn Books, Oxford.

My chapter, number 4, is titled Comic Strips and the Making of the American Identity. A journey of race and gender prejudice in the culture of comics.

You can find out more at

Tuesday, 15 September 2015

Arthur Louis - Knocking on Heaven's Door

My friend Arthur passed away. He was one of the kindest, sensitive and gentle people I have known. In many ways he was held back in life by an uncommonly benign sentiment. He was also a considerable talent. Always close to, but never quite at the top.

The Serials: From Harlem to Dickens & Trollope

This is the title of my forthcoming posting on the V&A website.

Bringing the culture of the comic books in close harmony with the mutual grammar of cinema, proving how blurred the line dividing the two can be. It is also a response to a request from J.B. of the NAL wanting me to be more of an art historian and less of a social historian. Coincidentally the same request came from the Learning Department at the V&A.

Confessions of Collector – Misdemeanours of a Comic Book Addiction

The Color of Bone - a glimpse of what's to come in this anthropological fiction

A four-part anthropological fiction
Ian Rakoff
The Color of Bone

In a pre-colonial era our antecedents held equality and dignity above individualism. These values were passed on through tradition and custom interpreted by a sangoma − the keeper of the bones. This esteemed personage was the embodiment of a belief in ubuntu.

The southern lands of the continent were vast. People and animals migrated and roamed extensively. This early part of humanity, the Nguni, did not impose any permanence on the land unlike the people north of the Limpopo who built homes with stones to last countless generations.

To be continued... 

Comics & the Making of the American Identity

It ends with a definition of the American identity, it's somewhere between Donald Duck and Muhammad Ali. And, this, more or less, is how I make my entree to academic publishing. Nuff said.
“An interesting and unique read… Each scholarly contribution makes a creative effort to cross the traditional boundaries of anthropological theories and methods with other closely related disciplines. It is an excellent example of anthropological cross-disciplinary engagement with psychology, philosophy, aesthetics, film, and theater and music theory.” · Jana Kopelentova Rehak, University of Maryland, Baltimore County

Anthropological writings on humour are not very numerous or extensive, but they do contain a great deal of insight into the diverse mental and social processes that underlie joking and laughter. On the basis of a wide range of ethnographic and textual materials, the chapters examine the cognitive, social, and moral aspects of humour and its potential to bring about a sense of amity and mutual understanding, even among different and possibly hostile people. Unfortunately, though, cartoons, jokes, and parodies can cause irremediable distress and offence. Nevertheless, contributors’ cross-cultural evidence confirms that the positive aspects of humour far outweigh the danger of deepening divisions and fuelling hostilities.

Lidia Dina Sciama is former Director of the International Gender Studies Centre (formerly the Centre for Cross-Cultural Research on Women), University of Oxford, where she is currently a Research Associate. She is the author of A Venetian Island: Environment, History and Change in Burano (Berghahn 2003).

Series: Volume 8, Social Identities

Saturday, 8 August 2015

Ice cold blog post

My latest comics anecdotes are up on the V&A website; more on black cowboys, and a deadly deep freeze! The iconic Captain Marvel story that's inspired for many years, Captain Easy, Uncle Tom and much more...

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Western Comics and Black Cowboys blogpost at the V & A

My latest blog post on the V & A website is now live. Here's the opening paragraph:

Despite the insidious racism, like a lot of people then, I was hooked on Westerns, one of the great comics genres that have received little attention over the years. My collecting addiction was hugely fuelled by my account at (where else?) the American bank Wells Fargo. An account with Wells Fargo came with a cheque book printed with Western scenes.  Those cheques corralled a great many Western comics, and I often went after odd and offbeat items in search of good art, rough justice and a wealth of idiosyncratic frontier dialogue wrapped up in fast moving narrative.

Western Adventures was a splendidly wild comic, but one I can’t reread or show about much because it’s a ‘high-baked item’. Sadly, it was left alongside a radiator for decades, and the poor-quality paper crumbles a bit more every time a page is turned.
But just look at the vibrant Cross-Draw Kid for example – he leaps, rolls, spins and almost flies like Superman in his no-nonsense pursuit of justice against “The Skull”:

Looking ahead; who was the John Ford of comics? To be continued...