New Exhibit: Zines as Creative Resistance

Walking through the first floor of the Graduate Center Library, you may have noticed a series of bright, colorful booklets within the display cases, bearing unusual titles like Gaylord Phoenix and Womanimalistic. Although differing in size, shape, and subject matter, these are all considered zines: quirky, handmade publications with a low print run, no advertisements, and often a sole creator.

Zines as Creative Resistance explores the political side of zines, and their relationship to the following categories:

Given the diversity of feminist voices, zines are a perfect match for expressive, sometimes hand-scrawled, manifestos, poems, and other outpourings on an incredibly wide range of topics. In the exhibit, we include zines about reclaiming the body (Adventures in Menstruating), asserting one’s claim on stereotypically feminine tasks (Radical Domesticity), and giving voice to the often-silenced experience of abortion (Shout Your Abortion).

Queer and Transgender Identity
From the psychedelic underworld of Edie Fake’s Gaylord Phoenix series, to the more straightforward memoir-style comics of Katie Omberg’s Gay Kid, zines offer a refreshingly open space to explore gender beyond boundaries, and far from an editor’s prying eye.

Race & Zinesters of Color
Zines have long played a role in the formation of social justice movements: the 1926 literary magazine Fire!! is often cited as an early proto-zine, given its shared lineage as an independently produced publication with a small print run, and an ephemeral quality (the first issue was also its last). Works like Letters from the war years share a similar purpose, bringing together “queer/trans POC” perspectives that collectively present a radical challenge to contemporary US nationalism and racism within the anti-war movement, offering ideas for resistance.

The Body
Encapsulated in the growing field of medical narrative, zines have been around for decades as an unmitigated space for expressing that which is beyond expression. Physical pain, states of psychological turbulence, roads towards sobriety: these are just some of the topics covered in various zines. Tributaries explores the specificity of living with the effects of childhood arthritis, in a series of personal reflections; while Jacoby Ballard offers a health-based perspective to gender transition with the support of herbal poultices and tinctures.

Books, libraries, and biblio-related issues are very well covered by this medium. New York City is home to many exciting zine collections housed at Brooklyn College (CUNY’s only zine collection, founded by librarian Alycia Sellie in 2011), Barnard College Library, ABC No Rio, New York University, The New York Public Library, and more.

The exhibit will be on view from September 2017 through January 2018, and is paired with two upcoming events:

Tuesday, October 17th – Zines as Creative Resistance: Panel Discussion
Martin E. Segal Theatre, 6:30-8:30pm

The panel will feature an exciting mix of zinesters, librarians, and zine librarians: Jenna Freedman (Barnard College Zine Library), Erica Cardwell (Zine Educator), Kel Karpinski (Queer Sailors) and Devin N  Morris (3 Dot Zine). Topics for discussion will include the dynamic role of zines in creating community, the ethics of zine librarianship, and the unexpected resurgence of this analog format in a predominantly digital era. This event is co-sponsored by the Women and Gender Studies Masters of Arts Program.

Thursday, November 9th – Zines: a Scholarly and DIY Experience
Room C196.05, 6:30-8:30pm

Zines are a unique medium, including all self-published creations appearing in the form of a printed booklet. This workshop is an Introduction to Zines, and also a discussion of their incredible potential for 1) research, 2) teaching, and 3) boundless creativity. We will look at questions such as: how do you cite a zine, and where do you find them? How can I teach with zines or use them for research? Can a zine be “scholarly”? And finally, we will learn a classic zine parlor trick, a.k.a. how to turn 1 piece of paper into a multi-page mini-zine.

About the Author

Elvis Bakaitis is currently the Head of Reference at the Mina Rees Library. They're also proud to serve on the University LGBTQ Council, and as a board member of CLAGS: The Center for LGBTQ Studies.