The Dark Side of Humour: Politics of Ridicule in the Digital Age

Humour and the comic are central to social life, yet laughter is not always pleasant and decent. While humour is often seen in a positive light, our appreciation of humour as a cultural asset tends to hide the fact that the more sinister uses of humour can create a social arena for expressions of hatred, violence and scorn. Our research project examines this negative undergrowth of modern and contemporary humour, explores the social, media and discursive contexts in which it emerges and traces its various effects on the victims of scorn and derision. Looking at the intersection of humour and social control in contemporary society, we will explore the ways in which humorous interactions function as hierarchizing, disciplining and othering devices that aim at excluding and marginalizing specific individuals, groups and discourses. We are especially interested in the politics of ridicule and how derision works towards cultural exclusion while at the same time pretending to be harmless. We will show that humour can be experienced as violence by marginalized groups and individuals, and examine the cultural and discursive tensions in which this is most evident.

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