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Everyday articulations of identity at the limits of order

This book offers a theoretically and empirically rich analysis of humour’s relevance to world politics. Drawing on literature from a range of disciplines including International Relations (IR), literary theory, cultural studies and sociology, its central claim is that humour plays an underappreciated role in the making and unmaking of political subjectivities. As such, humour not only provides an illuminating way into debates about identity and the everyday production and reproduction of order, but also opens up hitherto under- or even unstudied sites where this production and reproduction takes place. With reference to the ancient comic figure of the parasite, the book suggests that humour has historically been understood in relation to anxieties about subjectivity, estrangement and the circumscription and protection of the political sphere. It identifies three distinct spaces where humour has informed, enabled or defined ‘parasitic’ engagements with world politics. In the body of artwork produced by detainees in concentration camps, in lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and others (LGBTQ+) responses to the HIV/AIDS pandemic, and in carnivalesque tactics of contemporary mass protest, one can observe actors engaging through humour in the interrogation, negotiation and contestation of social, political and international relations. Through these detailed studies, the book demonstrates how everyday practices like humour can draw from, feed into, interrupt and potentially transform world politics.

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How a decade of conflict remade the nation

When Britain left the European Union in January 2021, it set out on a new journey. Shorn of empire and now the EU too, Britain’s economy is as national as it has ever been. A decade or so since globalisation seemed inevitable, this is a remarkable reversal. How did this happen?

Britain alone argues that this ‘nationalisation’ – aligning the boundaries of the state with the boundaries of the nation – emerged from the 2008 global financial crisis. The book analyses how austerity and scarcity intensified and created new conflicts over who gets what. This extends to struggle over what the British nation is for, who it represents, and who it values.

Drawing on a range of cultural, economic, and political themes – immigration and the hostile environment, nostalgia and Second World War mythology, race and the ‘left behind’, the clap for carers and furloughing, as well as SuperScrimpers and stand-up comedy – the book traces the complex nationalist path Britain took after the crash, demonstrating how we cannot explain nationalism without reference to the economy, and vice versa.

In analysing the thread that ties the fallout of the crash and austerity, through Brexit, and to the shape of lockdown politics, Britain alone provides an incisive and original history of the last decade of Britain and its relationship to the global economy.

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Alister Wedderburn

consolidate these ideas by demonstrating their origins in some of the earliest surviving accounts of humour as a field of social and political practice. I draw on the mythical-theoretical discourses through which comedy was first established as an object of critical and philosophical concern in order to develop an account of its complex entanglement with questions and anxieties about political modes of being. Revisiting the earliest surviving account of comedy’s origins that we have – the Megarian theory recounted (and dismissed) by Aristotle in the Poetics ( 2006 ) – I

in Humour, subjectivity and world politics
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Alister Wedderburn

formation of subjective identity (e.g. Der Derian and Shapiro, 1989 ; Campbell, 1992 ; Hansen, 2006 ). To engage in humour is therefore to participate in processes of social construction that blur the traditional distinction between doer and deed: humour, in short, is performative. To joke and laugh is not just to make a statement about who one is and how one relates to others: it is also a way of inhabiting the very form of life one is asserting ( Butler, 2010 : 155; Brassett, 2016 : 171). A handful of excellent articles within IR have begun to consider comedy

in Humour, subjectivity and world politics
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Alister Wedderburn

subjective identity and intersubjective relations. Humour is part of a rich and complex field of everyday practice through which subjects make claims about who they are and how they relate to (or differ from) others, and it contributes to the emotional, affective and rhythmic landscapes that give those claims purchase and weight. Drawing on ancient accounts of comedy, I suggested that humour has historically been understood in these terms – and in particular, as a way of making a claim to political subjectivity from a position of political abjection or disgrace. In Greek

in Humour, subjectivity and world politics
Humour, subjectivity and the everyday
Alister Wedderburn

of belonging, and with order’s often violent attempts to maintain control over its own boundaries. These themes will be expanded upon in Chapter 2 with reference to the parasite, a stock character of ancient comedy. Humour, subjectivity and performativity IR’s turn towards the everyday can be understood as part of a wider project to ‘reorient … analysis [away] from [a] concern with the intentional acts of pregiven subjects to[wards] the problematic of subjectivity’ itself ( Campbell, 1992 : 8). Underpinning this broad and diverse literature is an ontological

in Humour, subjectivity and world politics
From starving children to satirical saviours
Rachel Tavernor

, by audiences, for humanitarian communication to be continually changing if it is to ‘work’.  Satirical saviours Since 1985, Comic Relief has been producing telethons that include a juxtaposition of comedy performances alongside emotive pleas to help people living in poverty. Yet, the use of humour in the narratives of global poverty produced by NGOs has a much shorter history

in Global humanitarianism and media culture
Bashir Otukoya

-Irish comedian, provides a prominent example. In a bid to achieve an acceptance of his integration into Irish comedy, often calling himself the ‘black paddy’, he describes himself as ‘the black Conor McGregor’, and aspires to become ‘the black Tommy Tiernan of Ireland’. 32 This is perhaps an admirable thing to say to a white journalist writing for a white-owned media outlet reporting to a predominantly white audience. However, to the black community Fabu-D and others like him (such as the African-Irish Dude) are seen as causing more harm than good, since they grow in

in Immigrants as outsiders in the two Irelands
Theatre as critic and conscience of Celtic Tiger Ireland
Vic Merriman

historical responsibilities to critique the social order and aggressive imperatives not to rock a sinking ship. In 1999, Lynne Parker, artistic director of Rough Magic Theatre Company, decided that ‘after a couple of elegant comedies of manners, the company wanted to respond, viscerally and noisily, to the burgeoning Celtic Tiger, and to remind Ireland where we all came from’ (Parker 2012). Parker described Boomtown! as ‘a big graphic novel; a dark comedic cartoon’ (Parker 2012). The company placed the ‘grosser aspects of the dark underbelly of the Celtic Tiger onstage

in From prosperity to austerity
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Spectres of the past in recent Northern Irish cinema and television

spectres that attend the feast of the region’s new political dispensation, these productions issue a timely reminder that for all the progress that has undoubtedly been made, Northern Ireland remains, in John Hewitt’s indelible phrase, a ‘ghost-haunted land’. 3 ‘A delightful setting for romantic comedy’ The conflict in Northern Ireland would inevitably prove fertile ground for scriptwriters based in Hollywood and beyond. Over the course of the Troubles, the region would be depicted on the silver screen in a

in Northern Ireland a generation after Good Friday