“I was an Eye-witness”: The Framing of Human Rights in Joe Sacco’s Safe Area Goražde

Aldish Edroos

M. Phil Student, Department of English, Jadavpur University, West Bengal, India.


Volume 11, Number 1, 2019 I Full Text PDF

DOI: 10.21659/rupkatha.v11n1.02


Graphic narratives use the comics medium to enmesh and bring forth an existing culture of visual aesthetics, and representation into popular culture. Safe Area Goražde, a graphic narrative by the Maltese-American graphic journalist Joe Sacco is a collection of witness narratives from the 1992 Bosnian war. The text establishes a three-way dialogue amongst the state-sanctioned history of the geopolitical conflict, the representation of the subjects within the framework of a human rights discourse, and the affective accounts of trauma of the subjects as relayed to Sacco. This paper presents Safe Area Goražde as a graphic human rights narrative that problematises the categories of victimhood and historiography as established by existing political discourse. The visual culture of the medium enables Sacco to engage with these discourses in a complex manner not only without mitigating the importance of individual trauma, but also by facilitating a productive and safe space to negotiate memory through various textual techniques. Sacco places witness accounts of the Goraždans along with official state histories, and human rights discourses enabling the reader to receive all three narratives together. The reader is thus made aware of the systematic discursive, and physical erasure of the humanity of the Bosniaks, and their relegation into an ahistorical realm. The interaction between the frames, the gutters, the readers’ active participation in the narrative, and the author’s narrative itself assists Sacco in his task of constructing a diligent history of the subaltern. The paper argues for a need to see human rights frames and historical categories through interventions like Safe Area Goražde in order to examine them, rethink them, and engage meaningfully in the act of critique.

Keywords: Joe Sacco, Safe Area Goražde, graphic narrative, human rights, frames.