Humor, Power and Politics (Aix-Marseille)

Call for symposium papers

Humor, power and politics

Aix-Marseille University, Schuman Campus

October 19-20, 2023

At the heart of the humor debates that sometimes bedevil our liberal societies is the question of the existence of the sacred—and the impunity of those who mock and ridicule it. “Can we laugh at everything? “. Yes, answer the supporters of uncompromising freedom of expression. “Nothing is sacred. […] No idea, no statement, no belief should escape criticism, mockery, irony, humor, parody, caricature, falsification,” argues the essayist Raoul Vaneigem (2015: 28). “Yes, but not with anyone,” the humorist Pierre Desproges once answered more cautiously in his indictment of Jean-Marie le Pen. lucid dreams[1].

It is the relationship between humor, power, and politics, and thus the humorist’s relation to the dominant, to norms, institutions, good taste, good practices, etc. This is despite the general meaning of the term humor being defined as “a form of witticism that draws attention to the unpleasant or unusual aspects of reality” (Computerized French Language Treasury, sv) – would suggest a certain distance from more political and social aspects. From a linguistic point of view, the ambiguity between sarcasm and pleasantries is that humor, and often associated laughter, creates complicity between interlocutors, allowing the speaker to disconnect and speak. neutralizing a comment that might be perceived as aggressive (“but no, I was joking”; “it was just for fun!”). The polyphonic reading of humor in discourse analysis allows us to show how humor results from the co-occurrence of several voices within the same speech, explaining the separation of the humorist (Priego-Valverde 2003; Rabatel 2013).

Despite this form of exclusion, humor is harmless: making deals with some also means excluding others, a weapon often used in political contests (Charaudeau 2013). One of the oldest theories of humor is superiority (also called antagonism or irony), advocated by Aristotle to Billig (2005): he considers humor to be a form of aggression (self-mockery) against the target, who may be the speaker personally. ), an interlocutor or even a third person.

Also, the term general humor should not mislead about the multifunctional and multifaceted nature of the phenomena it covers. Many related concepts (comedy, satire, irony, entertainment, etc.) form a “lexical galaxy” (Chabanne 2002) and raise numerous questions of etiquette (see Attardo 2020: 7‑14). It is this research that today intends to question the plural forms of humor taken by the “politically incorrect” (Prak-Derrington & Dias, in press).

We intend to emphasize the role of humor in public discourse and the organization of life in society (in the broad sense of politics), on the one hand, and the role of humor on the other hand, by clearly linking humor with the concepts of power and politics. , the power relations it creates between communication partners, whether individuals or groups. In the period of serious crisis (democratic, ecological, geopolitical) we are currently going through, the need cries more than ever “to stop the moment of play, the mortal suffering of the world” (Charaudeau 2006: 22).

As for public discourse, we know that humor definitely has certain genres (joke, stand-up, one-man/woman show, etc.), but humor is far from limited to these spaces. . Therefore, we will pay particular attention to cases where humor becomes an unstructured discursive strategy. Humorous strategies are particularly effective in attracting attention and concealing the persuasive intent of the same utterances (Soulages 2006). In this sense, we can be interested in different fields (politics, economy, culture, advertising, didactics, etc.) or new communication formats such as digital social networks (viral humorous content, memes, etc.).

In these various contexts, the use of humor tends to suspend cooperative principles such as sincerity, relevance, clarity, and quantification (so-called dishonest communication, Raskin 1984). Therefore, we will be interested in how humor reconfigures the balance of power between the people involved, whether they produce or are the target of humor (Marcel humor and humor about Marseille, see Gasquet-Cyrus 2004; Gasquet-Cyrus & Planchenault 2019). We may be interested in humor as a weapon of resistance (e.g. Camarade & Goepper 2019; Rodrigues & Collinson 2015) or in its ability to reinforce group culture or isolate a group: for example, we talk about youth humor (Coupland 2004) or women as opposed to men humor (Kotthof 1996; Holmes et al. 2001; Greengross 2020), but sociolinguistic research on this topic needs to be deepened (see Attardo 2020: 309). And in general, we can consider that humor contributes to the construction of the image of male and female speakers (see Priego-Valverde 2007, on self-mockery).

Proposals for communication may refer to one or more of the mentioned aspects without exception. A contrasting Franco-German perspective is also welcome, as are reflections on other linguistic and cultural domains. Today’s result will be published after examination. Interested persons are invited to submit a proposal for a contribution of approximately 300-500 words in French, as well as a brief biographical note. March 1, 2023.

Location : Aix-Marseille University, Schuman Campus, Multimedia Center – 29, avenue Robert Schuman, Aix-en-Provence.

History : 19 and 20 October 2023.

contacts :;;

Elements of bibliography

Ader Basile (2015), “Gender Laws of Humorous Discourse”, in: Patrick Charaudeau (ed), Humor and political commitmentLimoges, Lambert-Lucas, 183-196.

Attardo Salvatore (2020), The Linguistics of Humor: An IntroductionOxford, NY: Oxford University Press.

Michael Billig (2005), Laughter and irony: Toward a social critique of humorLondon, Thousand Oaks, New Delhi: SAGE.

Chabanne Jean-Charles (2002), Comics: an anthology and accompanying readingParis: Gallimard.

Companion Hélène and Goepper Sibylle (2019), Words of the GDRToulouse: Southern University Press.

Charaudeau Patrick (2006), “Categories for Humor? », Communication Issues 10, 19-41.

Charaudeau Patrick (2013), “The Fierce Weapon of Mockery and Irony in the 2012 Presidential Debate”, Language and society 146, 35-47.

Charaudeau Patrick (ed) (2015), Humor and political commitmentLimoges: Lambert-Lucas.

Coupland Nicholas (2004), “Age in social and sociolinguistic theory”, in JF Nussbaum & J. Coupland (eds.), H .and Handbook of Communication and Aging ResearchNew York: Routledge, 89-110.

Gasquet-Cyrus Mederick (2004), Practices and representations of verbal humor. A sociolinguistic study of the Marseille case (doctoral thesis), University of Aix-Marseille I, Marseille.

Sigmund Freud (1905), Humor and its relation to the unconscious, trans. From the German by D. Messier, Paris, Gallimard, 1988. (Der Witz und seine Beziehung zum Unbewussten, Leipzig und Wien: Franz Deuticke.

Sigmund Freud (1927), “Der Humor”, in: Collected Works, Bd. 14, 383-89. (Erstveröffentlichung: Almanach der Psychoanalyse 1928, Wien 1927, 9-16).

Gasquet-Cyrus Médéric & Planchenault Gaëlle (2019), “The art of playing with a Marseille accent on TV or putting on an accent in a club”, Glottopol, 31, 113-132.

Greengross Clay (ed.) (2020), Humor: An International Journal of Humor Studies : “Sex and Gender Differences in Humor”, Volume 33 (2).

Holmes Janet, Marra Meredith & Burns Louise (2001), “Women’s Humor in the Workplace: A Quantitative Analysis”, Australian Journal of Communication28(1), 83-108.

Susanne Kaul (ed.) (2012), Politics and Ethics der Komik, Paderborn, Fink.

Kotthoff Helga (ed.) (1996), Das Gelächter der Geschlechter: Gesprächen von Frauen und Männernden Humor und Macht, Konstanz: UVK.

Leca-Mercier Florence and Paillet Anne-Marie (2018), Sense of humor: style, genres, contexts. Louvain-la-Neuve: Academia-l’Harmattan.

Prak-Derrington Emmanuelle & Dias Dominique (eds.) (in press), It is not politically correct, speech and language 13.2.

Priego-Valverde Beatrice (2003), Humor in familiar conversation: A linguistic description and analysisParis: Harmattan.

Priego-Valverde Béatrice (2007), “Self-deprecating humor in conversations: a brief survey of a complex phenomenon usually taken for granted”, in: D. Popa & S. Attardo (eds.), New Approaches to the Linguistics of Humor, Romania: Editura Academica Galati.

Rabatel Alain (2013), “Humor and understatement (vs. ironic and overstatement)”, Grammatical information 137, 36-42.

Raskin Victor (1984), Semantic Mechanisms of HumorDordrecht: Springer.

Rodrigues Suzana B. & Collinson David L. (1995), “’Having Fun’? : Humor as Resistance in Brazil”, Organization Studies 16, No. 5: 739-68.

Samson Gunhild (2002), “Der politische Wit in der DDR und seine Verstehensbedingungen”, in: René Métrich & Jean Petit (eds.) Didaskalis. Mixes in honor of Yves Bertrand’s seventieth birthday. New Library of German Notebooks: Nancy, 461-479.

Soulages Jean-Claude (2006), “Comedic Strategies in Advertising Discourse”, Communication problems 10, 103-118.

Vaneigem Raul (2015), Nothing is sacred, anything can be said: reflections on freedom of expressionParis: Discovery.

Uwe Wirth (ed.) (2017), Funny. An interdisciplinary handbookMetzler, Stuttgart.

[1] INA archive, 28.09.1982,

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