Humour in Asian Cultures : Tradition and Context book cover
1st Edition

Humour in Asian Cultures
Tradition and Context

ISBN 9781032009162
Published June 30, 2022 by Routledge
336 Pages 31 B/W Illustrations

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Book Description

This innovative book traces the impact of tradition on modern humour across several Asian countries and their cultures. Using examples from Japan, Korea, Indonesia and Chinese cultures in Mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan, the contributors explore the different cultural rules for creating and sharing humour.

Humour can be a powerful lubricant when correctly interpreted; mis-interpreted, it is likely to cause considerable setbacks. Over time, it has emerged and submerged in different periods and different forms in all these countries but today’s conventions still reflect traditional attitudes to and assumptions about what is appropriate in creating and using humour. Under close examination, Milner Davis and her colleagues show how forms and conventions that differ from those in the west can also be seen to possess elements in common. With examples including Mencian and other classical texts, Balinese traditional verbal humour, Korean and Taiwanese workplace humour, Japanese laughter ceremonies, performances and cartoons, as well as contemporary Chinese-language films and videos, they engage with a wide range of forms and traditions.

This fascinating collection of studies will be of great interest to students and scholars of many Asian cultures, and also to those with a broader interest in humour studies. It highlights the increasing importance of understanding a wider range of cultural values in the present era of globalized communication and the importance of reliable studies of why and how cultures that are geographically related differ in their traditional uses of and assumptions about humour.

Table of Contents

1. Humour and cultural context: Tradition and practice in six Asian cultures 2. Humour as rhetorical discourse in ancient Chinese philosophy: The Works of Mencius 3. Humour in the huaben novellas of the Ming Dynasty: The Guzhang Juechen 鼓掌絕塵 in context 4. Linguistic devices in traditional forms of Balinese humour 5. Pluri-modal poetic performance of banter: The Angama ritual on Ishigaki Island, Japan 6. Themes, cultural context and verbal exchanges in the cartoons of Machiko Hasegawa 7. The Makura of rakugo: Tradition and modernity 8. To joke or not to joke? Politeness, power and the impact of tradition in Korean workplace humour 9. Chinese conversational humour over time: Contemporary practice and tradition in Taiwanese cultures 10. We are real friends: Women constructing friendship via teasing in a Chinese reality TV show 11. My Unfair Lady: Gender, sajiao and humour in a Hong Kong TV series

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Jessica Milner Davis PhD FRSN is an honorary research associate at both the University of Sydney, Australia, and Brunel University London’s Centre for Comedy Studies Research. She is a member of Clare Hall, Cambridge and a Fellow of the Royal Society of New South Wales. She has twice served as president of the International Society for Humor Studies (ISHS) and founded and coordinates the Australasian Humour Studies Network (AHSN: An editorial board member for leading humour research journals and book-series, her most recent books are: Satire and Politics: The Interplay of Heritage and Practice (Palgrave Macmillan, 2017), and Judges, Judging and Humour (with Sharyn Roach Anleu, Palgrave/Springer, 2018). With Jocelyn Chey, she has co-edited two volumes on humour in Chinese life and culture (Hong Kong University Press, 2011 and 2013). Her 2006 book, Understanding Humor in Japan (Wayne State University Press) won the 2008 AATH book-prize for humour research. In 2018, the International Society for Humor Studies presented her with its Lifetime Achievement Award for her interdisciplinary research in humour studies.


 "What amuses people across time, geography, and cultures is never easy to define and thus usually ignored in scholarship. On the heels of her numerous volumes analyzing what entertains us across borders, Milner Davis’ new edited book brings measured insight, illuminating rarely seen worlds of how we enjoy ourselves. She does this with verve and style by digging into areas not generally viewed as centres of entertainment and comedy and by covering a wide range of Asian cultures both past and present to reveal their links."

Barak Kushner, Professor of East Asian History, University of Cambridge

"Humour in Asian Cultures is a rich and diverse collection. These well-researched studies of Balinese, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Taiwanese, and Hong Kong humour traditions are full of revelations, from Granny Mischief to the true meaning of "head like a taro", "eating sugarcane", and "SPL". And perhaps the most sublime joke is that, as a student, its eminent editor first visited Asia on the dime of the CIA."

Christopher Rea, University of British Columbia, author of The Age of Irreverence: A New History of Laughter in China (California UP, 2015)

"To understand the humour of another culture is to grasp its essence and the subtleties of interplay between individuals and communities. This ground-breaking book throws light on the extraordinary range of humour expression in a region of complexity and rapid transformation. Some forms draw on centuries-old cultural heritage, others emerge from the new media scenes and reflect social transitions. From ancient Chinese philosophy and traditional Balinese folk drama to Korean workplace banter and Hong Kong reality TV and much else besides, this volume offers vignettes of humour in various social settings with informed analysis and commentary from acknowledged experts in their fields. The introductory chapter by Jessica Milner Davis places the work in the context of global humour studies, highlighting the interplay between continuity and change.

While much scholarship that claims to be international or cross-cultural is in fact restricted to North America and Europe, this book extends intellectual horizons to include East and South-East Asia. This edited volume will be of interest to Asian Studies and Humour Studies scholars alike, and also has much to offer the general reader who is interested to gain insights into the cultures of these fast-developing regions."

Jocelyn Chey, Visiting Professor, University of Sydney