Regional Research Area
Thematic Research Area
Elizabeth “Biz” Nijdam is an Assistant Professor of Teaching in the Department of Central, Eastern, and Northern European Studies at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada, where she lives, works, and learns on the traditional, ancestral and unceded territories of Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh Nations.
Before joining the faculty at UBC and returning home to Vancouver, she taught at Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington (2018-2019) and completed a Postdoctoral Fellowship at the Freie Universität in Berlin (2017-2018). She graduated from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor in 2017.
Biz’s research and teaching examine the representation of history in comics, comics and new media on forced migration, intersections between Indigenous studies and German, European, and migration studies, and feminist methodologies in the graphic arts.
At UBC, she leads the Narratives Research Group in the UBC Centre for Migration Studies and founded and co-leads the recently established Comic Studies Research Cluster in UBC’s Public Humanities Hub. Biz is also the Equity Chair for German Studies Canada and sits on the Executive Committee of the International Comic Arts Forum and the Executive Board of the Comics Studies Society.
She is currently completing her book manuscript, Graphic Historiography: Teaching History & Memory through Comics and Graphic Novels (Ohio State University Press), which she began as a SSHRC postdoctoral fellow at the University of Waterloo (2019-2021).
For all advising inquiries for the undergraduate German program, please email Biz at email@example.com
Teaching and Outreach
For information on Biz’s teaching, see her Course Website here.
Biz is a Co-Organizer of Arts Multilingual Week, UBC Vancouver, the first of which took place from October 31st to November 4th, 2022.
Arts Multilingual Week 2022 featured 19 events and over 950 students, scholars, and community members reflecting on multilingualism as a practice, discussing career opportunities for multilingual graduates, and performing multilingualism through artistic means and has generated measurable excitement for language learning at UBC. In addition to Lightning Talks on Multilingual Pedagogies and various events on multilingualism in teaching, research, and community practice, Arts Multilingual Week also featured conversations on Indigenous languages and the Indigenous Atlas of Canada, Indigenizing language programs, a virtual American Sign Language (ASL) workshop, an introduction to DeafBlind Pro-tactile Communication, and a presentation on the Deaf community and the marginalization of signed languages by local celebrity and UBC instructor Nigel Howard.
The highlight of this week of programming was student-centred events: an exhibition of untranslatable words and idioms, a Speech Contest on “What Multilingualism means to me…” and a Multilingual Poetry Slam.
The next Arts Multilingual Week will take place in March 2024.
Biz’s research focuses on how new media and popular culture provide important entry points for engaging with complex discourses of human experience, illuminating systems of oppression, and interrogating issues of identity, gender, and sexuality.
Biz’s current projects include: “Games for Decolonization,” which explores how video games and board games can function as essential tools for unsettling settler colonialism (in partnership with Indigenous board game experts Pe Metawe Consulting); a number of public-facing community-based initiatives that engage comic art in knowledge mobilization; and “The New Media Aesthetics of Migration,” which explores the dissemination of information on forced migration in the media and the remediation of migrant journeys through digital technologies. (The culmination of this work was the “New Media Aesthetics of Migration” symposium in April 2021.)
Biz is also a collaborator in the SSHRC Partnership Grant “Visual Storytelling and Graphic Art in Genocide and Human Rights Education,” which pairs survivors of genocide with graphic artists who transform their stories into graphic novellas. Building off the SSHRC-funded pilot project “Narrative Art & Visual Storytelling in Holocaust & Human Rights Education,” this seven-year project brings together survivors, artists, scholars, and students to create educational resources for the study of genocide by adapting witness testimony into comic art. The pilot project, But I Live (2022), focused on the testimony of Holocaust survivors. The next stage looks at genocide and human rights issues globally. Biz and Shannon Leddy (Métis, Education) are co-leading the Turtle Island Cluster, which focuses on Residential School survivor stories, and are currently applying for funding to expand this project to include survivance stories of the Greenlandic Inuit (Kalaallit / Tunumiit / Inughuit) and the Sámi people of the Circumpolar North.
Biz’s book project, Graphic Historiography: Teaching History & Memory through Comics and Graphic Novels (Ohio State University Press, 2024) examines how graphic literature has become an important form for the representation of the East German experience since 1989, which in turn affords instructors new opportunities to teach the writing of that history through its thematization in comics form. Each chapter approaches one form of memory culture (museum exhibition practice, documentary film, photography, archival processes, etc.) to assess what graphic narratives bring to these discourses and how comics on history can be deployed in undergraduate teaching to illuminate tensions in the writing and representation of history.
Biz’s next book project, Feminist Comics: Politics at the Intersection of Art and Methodology (under contract with Routledge), looks at the comics of German graphic novelist Anke Feuchtenberger, Canadian comics artists Julie Doucet and Fiona Smyth, and Swedish cartoonist Liv Strömquist through the lens of feminist art historical discourse, identifying common strategies in this body of graphic literature through the conventions of 20th and 21st century feminist art. Situating the political interventions made by Feuchtenberger, Doucet, Smyth, and Strömquist in the context of other innovations in feminist art, the project sets their work of feminist cartoonists and illustrators in dialogue with feminist movements in other media, ultimately demonstrating their position in the larger category of feminist artistic production and feminist art history.
2022: “Playing Against Real Time: Queer(ing) Temporalities in Bury me, my Love (2017),” Game Studies 22.1 (March 2022): n.p.
2022: “Recentering Indigenous Epistemologies through Digital Games: Sámi Perspectives on Nature in Rievssat (2018),” Games and Culture. Special Issue: Indigenous Games (2022), pp. 1-15. https://doi.org/10.1177/15554120211068086
2022: “Sami Digital Storytelling: Survivance and Revitalization in Indigenous Digital Games,” New Media & Society, September 3 (2021), pp. 1-24, https://doi.org/10.1177/14614448211038902
2022: “The Smartphone Aesthetics of Mobility in Kate Evans’ Threads and Reinhard Kleist’s An Olympic Dream,” Crossings: Journal of Migration & Culture 12. 2 (October 2021): pp. 513-534.
2022: “Banning ‘Maus’ only exposes the significance of this searing graphic novel about the Holocaust,” The Conversation, February 8th, 2022, approx. 15 000 reads
2022: “From Posters to Panels and Panels to Posters: Fluidity of Form in Feuchtenberger’s Comics and Graphic Art,” invited chapter in Geschichte des Comics. Studien zu Epochen, Ländern und Einzelwerken, edited by Bernd Dolle-Weinkauff, Ch. A. Bachmann Verlag.
2021: “Tying Up Loose Ends: The Fabric of Panel Borders in Kate Evans’ Threads.” Inks: The Journal of the Comics Studies Society, special issue: “Migration in Twenty-First-Century Documentary Comics,” 5.2 (summer 2021): 79-99.
2021: “’What’s in a name?’: Anke Feuchtenberger’s Roses and the Mythic Methodologies of her Feminist Comics Art,” invited chapter in Comic art and feminism in the Baltic Sea region: Transnational perspectives, edited by Kristy Beers Fägersten, Anna Nordenstam, Margareta Wallin Wictorin, and Leena Romu, Routledge.
2021: “Comics Studies in German Studies” (co-authored with Olivia Albiero), DDGC Blog.
2021: “How Comics Shed Light into Refugee Border Crossing Experiences,” The Conversation, June 15th, 2021 (for World Refugee Day), approx. 2000 reads.
2020: “The Social Justice Work of German Comics and Graphic Literature,” Seminar: A Journal of Germanic Studies, special issue: “German Comics and Graphic Novels,” 56.4.
2020: “Editors’ Notes” (co-authored with Charlotte Schallié), Seminar: A Journal of Germanic Studies, special issue: “German Comics and Graphic Novels,” 56.4.
2020: “Towards a Graphic Historicity: Representing the East German Past in the German Graphic Novel,” invited chapter in Comics of the New Europe: Intersections and Reflections, edited by Martha Kuhlman and Jose Alaniz, European Graphic Novels series, University of Leuven Press.
Biz was recently awarded a Diversity and Inclusion Grant in German Studies from the Waterloo Centre for German Studies for the second time for her project “Games for Decolonization.” This project has also been awarded a Seed Grant and Faculty Fellowship from the UBC Public Humanities Hub and a SoTL Seed Grant from CTLT.
Her first award of this grant was for her project to develop educational tools and curricular content that engage Indigenous methodologies and activate Indigenous systems of knowledge in German studies teaching and research. Beyond finding intersections between German studies and Indigenous studies, Biz’s work aims to support UBC’s German Program in meeting the goals of UBC’s Indigenous Strategic Plan, seeking to model how German studies might also respond to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action.
In 2022, Biz’s GSMT 121: German Fairy Tales and Popular Culture (in English) won the 2022 Innovate German Award for its integration of social-justice-oriented methodologies and Indigenous storytelling traditions.
Biz has been the recipient of multiple SSHRC grants, including a SSHRC Doctoral Fellowship (2015) and a SSHRC Postdoctoral Fellowship (2019-2021).