Zines are not easy to define.  They have been described as ‘noncommercial, nonprofessional, small-circulation magazines which their creators produce, publish, and distribute by themselves’ (Duncombe, 2008).   Zines (pronounced to rhyme with ‘beans’)  have an important history as part of an underground alternative counter-culture.

Because they are often created, circulated and read by people who feel disaffected from mainstream society, zines can be a rich source of grassroots knowledge about marginalised experiences, conditions and identities. For example, there is a strong tradition of feminist zines through which women have expressed their agency and resistance.

Zines exemplify the feminist slogan,

The personal is political

and C. Wright Mills’ sociological dictum of turning

private troubles into public issues.

That task is increasingly important, in a mental health context, where the diagnosis, treatment and services for ‘mental illness’ can be overly individualised and privatised.

Zines come in many styles and formats:

Queer zines

art zines

music zines

grrrl zines

poetry zines

political zines

personal health zines


Personal health zines (‘PerZines’) uniquely and creatively illustrate how a range of health conditions are lived with, challenged and understood. They can have important therapeutic functions – supporting self-care, reducing isolation and promoting connection.


This project is concerned with one particular cross-cutting category of zines – what we refer to as 

illustration showing categories of madzines