Research Seminar: Media and Cultural Studies, Newcastle University
Negotiating rhetoric and polysemy in the analysis of racist humour
Simon Weaver, Sociology and Communications, Brunel University
Wed May 2nd, 4pm
Lecture Theatre 2.16, Armstrong Building, Newcastle University
Numerous examples in recent years have highlighted how debates on the meaning of humorous and satirical ‘race’ and ethnic representation are increasingly prevalent in the public sphere. Examples such as Ali G and the Danish Prophet Muhammad cartoons have garnered much academic interest and can be argued to have serious consequences as forms of representation that affect ethnic minority groups. In this talk I will outline my theoretical and methodological approach for analysing ‘race’, ethnic and racist humour. Drawing on the social theory of Zygmunt Bauman, and examining the linguistic structures of humour, I have argued that, as a form of language similar to metaphor, humour is both unstable and unpredictable, and structurally prone to act rhetorically; that is, to be convincing. I will highlight some of the differences between modern, late modern and fluid or postmodern forms of ‘race’ humour, and how identifying the polysemy of humour complicates identifying its rhetoric.