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One of the founding fathers of anthropology, Bronislaw Malinowski, once referred to anthropology as the “science of the sense of humor” (1966: vii). Yet not many anthropologists have seriously engaged with humour as an important research theme, despite the recognition that humour is important to anthropologists in at least two ways. First, humour is central to the practice of anthropological research: for the method of participant observation, humour is an important strategy (Driessen 2015). It is a key way of getting access to our research population and building rapport and can act as a heuristic tool to gain insight into peoples’ emotions (van Roekel 2013). We might therefore consider humour essential for anthropologists. This compels us to think about the role humour plays in our fieldwork and what our data would look like without it.

Second, humour is also a research topic in and of itself; it provides insight into local norms, paradoxes, taboos, et cetera, as well as in social inequalities and power relations. Giselinde Kuipers (2011), for example, does not study the ‘Danish cartoon crisis’ from a perspective of free speech, but instead questions why cartoons sparked the crisis. How is humour used in strategic ways to assert dominance and influence power relations? How can humour act as a political tool in the struggle over core values in society? Humour is also used for more progressive purposes. It can be a key feature of revolutionary contexts, as is illustrated by studies on the role of humour in the Arab Spring (Anagondahalli and Khamis 2014; Colla 2013; Makar 2011). Humour may also provide a strategy to cope with a repressive regime, for example in the former Soviet Union (Boyer and Yurchak 2010), or in Eritrean politics (Bernal 2013).

Etnofoor invites authors that engage with these issues, either from a methodological perspective or in the form of an ethnographic case study, to submit an abstract of no more than 200 words to before October 30th, 2015. The deadline for authors of accepted abstracts to submit their full paper for consideration is February 15th, 2016.


Anagondahalli, Deepa and Sahar Khamis. 2014. Mubarak Framed! Humor and Political Activism before and during the Egyptian Revolution. Arab Media & Society 19 (Fall 2014).
Bernal, Victoria. 2013. Please forget democracy and justice: Eritrean politics and the powers of humor. American Ethnologist 40(2): 300- 309.
Boyer, Dominic, and Alexei Yurchak. 2010. American Stiob: Or, What LateSocialist Aesthetics of Parody Reveal about Contemporary Political Culture in the West. Cultural Anthropology 25(2): 179-221.
Colla, Elliott. 2013. In Praise of Insults: Slogan Genres, Slogan Repertoires and Innovation. Review of Middle East Studies 47(1): 37-48.
Driessen, Henk. 2015. Humour, Anthropology of. International Encyclopedia of the Social & Behavioral Sciences. International Encyclopedia of the Social & Behavioral Sciences, 416-419. Elsevier.
Kuipers, Giselinde. 2011. The politics of humour in the public sphere: Cartoons, power and modernity in the first transnational humour scandal. European Journal of Cultural Studies 14(1): 63-80.
Makar, Farida. 2011. ‘Let Them Have Some Fun’: Political and Artistic Forms of Expression in the Egyptian Revolution. Mediterranean Politics 16(2): 307-312.
Malinowski, Bronislaw. 1966. Introduction. In: J. Lips (ed.), The Savage Hits Back. New Hyde Park: University Books. Pp. vii-ix.
van Roekel, Eva. 2013. Accessing Emotions through Humour in the Contemporary Argentinian Transitional Justice Trajectory. The Unfamiliar 3(1): 24-33.


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