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Dissenting Graphic Illustration in Eastern Europe

  • School: School of Art & Design
  • Starting: 2023 / 2024
  • Funding: UK student / EU student (non-UK) / International student (non-EU) / Self-funded


Graphic illustration may include contemporary forms of illustration such as graphic novels, zines, comics, artist books, reportage illustration, posters, and graphic journalism; it may also include older forms of graphic works such as block prints, chapbooks, and periodical illustrations.

This project will for the first time give a comprehensive overview of contemporary dissenting illustration in at least TWO of East European nation states, which may include, but are not restricted to, Russia and Ukraine. We welcome proposals to explore other East European cultures.

There is a rich history of dissident culture within the nations that make up the former Soviet Union, and more broadly in Eastern Europe, as citizens have found ways to explore alternative forms of music, distribute and read inaccessible/forbidden literature, or explore a wider range of aesthetic styles. Moreover, since 2014 visual culture has become an important arena for the expression of discontent and the exploration of the renegotiation of national identities. The proposed project will investigate the intersections between graphic illustration, dissident citizenship, activism, underground and exile cultures, public and civic space, and political oppression in the East European political and civic space. With a historical/ longitudinal foundation, it will focus on contemporary illustrated/graphic narrative fiction and non-fiction. Points of focus may include, for example: from Ukraine, works by groups such as Inker magazine and the UA Comix Assembly; from Russia, the work of dissident artist-in-exile Viktoria Lomasko.

The emphasis will be on narrative illustration which may include printed books, comics, reportage pieces, web and digital works. Such works permit sustained analysis of visual tropes of storytelling, including tracing the circulation of images of dissent and oppositionality, the use of satire and pastiche, contested publication histories, and audience impact. In the current context of Russia’s war on Ukraine, the project will also contribute to building deeper public and expert understanding about the historical and contemporary specificities of diverse Eastern European cultures.

The project is 100% written. Candidates should note that the close analysis of images (illustrations, photos, and graphic art material) will be required. Reading knowledge of at least one East European language (desirably, at least two) is a pre-requisite to access and analyse primary texts.

The successful applicant will be supervised by Dr Carol Adlam, Associate Professor in Illustration, graphic novelist and specialist in illustrated graphic literatures, whose expertise includes the history of nineteenth-century art and graphic satire in Russia; and Dr Isabel Story, Senior Lecturer in Illustration, specialist in graphic protest in twentieth-century Russia, Latin-America (Cuba), and the GDR.

Enquiries may be directed to or

The successful applicant will join one of the country’s leading art and design schools which has been influencing, inspiring, and innovating for over 175 years. The school has a vibrant, forward-looking and expanding research community where collaboration and interdisciplinarity are embraced and encouraged. PhD candidates would have access to a number of highly relevant research groups mainly, though not exclusively, based within the Artistic Research Centre and the Design Research Centre. As UNESCO City of Literature, Nottingham is a vibrant and exciting city considered to be one of the leading centres of the Creative Industries in the UK.

As part of the application process, applicants are asked to produce an original 2,000-word research proposal which outlines their research project. Under clear headings or subheadings, the research proposal needs to contain the following information: provisional title, the topic or area to be investigated, the problem or hypothesis to be tested, the methods and techniques to be used in the research, a provisional timetable for the project indicating anticipated activities, the relationship of the proposed research to the published literature and to current research in the field, an indication of the contribution to knowledge that the thesis is anticipated to make, details of previous work in the proposed field, and a bibliography of sources already consulted or identified as of relevance to your proposal. Further guidelines on how to apply can be found from Nottingham Trent University’s Doctoral School:

Prospective applicants should note that this is a self-funded PhD opportunity. Applicants are also encouraged to apply for external funding.


  • Gannon, Rachel, and Mireille Faunchon (2021). Illustration Research Methods (Bloomsbury).
  • Igort. The Ukrainian and Russian Notebooks (Gallery 13, 2016)
  • Inker magazine
  • Komyakov, Oleksandr. Tato
  • Krug, Nora. Diaries of War: Two Visual Accounts from Ukraine and Russia (TenSpeed Graphic, 2023)
  • Lomasko, Viktoria. Other Russias
  • Peremoga: Victory for Ukraine
  • Valuyskyi-Sharygin, Oleksiy, et al. The first 39 Days of War (UA Comix Assembly)

Entry qualifications

Entrants must have a Bachelors and a Masters Degree in a subject area relevant to the PhD research.

How to apply

This opportunity is for self-funded PhD students. Applicants are encouraged to apply for external funding and we will support this process if required.

Fees and funding

This opportunity is for self-funded PhD students. Applicants are encouraged to apply for external funding and we will support this process if and when required.

Find out about fees and funding for PhD projects.

Guidance and support

Find out about guidance and support for PhD students.

Still need help?

Dr Carol Adlam