Geography has recently undergone a creative return whereby influences from the humanities inspire the production, analysis, and incorporation of creative works in geographical research (de Leeuw & Hawkins, 2017). With their ever-growing popularity in the humanities, graphic novels are one example of a creative work gaining epistemological momentum in geography. Graphic novels have proven attractive to geographers for their ability to represent knowledges that challenge dominant social structures and discourses. In this thesis, I conduct visual, textual, and discourse analyses of three graphic memoirs by women that challenge pathological mental health discourses: Lighter Than My Shadow by Katie Green, Inside Out: Portrait of an Eating Disorder by Nadia Shivack, and My Depression by Elizabeth Swados. Using an interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary research approach, I build on the literatures from the geohumanities, feminist geographies, graphic medicine, and health geographies to argue that subjective and embodied representations of women in graphic novels subvert dominant mental health narratives promoting pathology, ableism, and invisibilization. I analyze the graphic novels to support three key claims: 1) graphic novels can contribute to, and contest dominant mental health discourses, 2) graphic novels can operate as a means to contest universalized pathographies by representing marginalized experiences, and 3) graphic novels can challenge the limits of Cartesian dualism in mental health practice that exclude women’s experiences. With these ideas at the fore, the implication of this research is to offer healthcare providers, patients, and the general public alternative ways of understanding mental health. This research also serves to advocate for the merits of using graphic novels to provide options for access to health care and health equity.
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