Who We Are Is What Makes Us Laugh: Humour as Discourse on Identity and Hegemony
There exists a sociocultural function to humour that is geared towards maintaining order through a subversion (or inversion) of the more serious, structured status quo, and while there is a pragmatic side to the dispensation of humour across any given society, humour can also serve a fundamentally ontological function in determining and representing a group’s identity. Though notions of social organization and culture exist and are perpetuated primarily within a group’s literary canon, as espoused for example in the privileging of genres such as the epic or the novel as loci of national identity, this paper argues that such identities can be just as effectively – if not better – constructed through popular representations in humour, especially in satirical content found in “ephemeral” mediums such as comic strips. Such representations in turn can be mobilized to complement or even dismantle the status quo and offer alternative paradigms of understanding national identities and cultural affiliations.
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