Humour, subjectivity and world politics

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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