1st Edition

The Rhetoric of Racist Humour
US, UK and Global Race Joking

ISBN 9781138624665
Published June 13, 2018 by Routledge
224 Pages

USD $52.95

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Book Description

In today's multicultural and multireligious societies, humour and comedy often become the focus of controversy over alleged racist or offensive content, as shown, for instance, by the intense debate of Sacha Baron Cohen's characters Ali G and Borat, and the Prophet Muhammad cartoons published in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten. Despite these intense debates, commentary on humour in the academy lacks a clear way of connecting the serious and the humorous, and a clear way of accounting for the serious impact of comic language. The absence of a developed 'serious' vocabulary with which to judge the humorous tends to encourage polarized debates, which fail to account for the paradoxes of humour. This book draws on the social theory of Zygmunt Baumann to examine the linguistic structure of humour, arguing that, as a form of language similar to metaphor, it is both unstable and unpredictable, and structurally prone to act rhetorically; that is, to be convincing. Deconstructing the dominant form of racism aimed at black people in the US, and that aimed at Asians in the UK, The Rhetoric of Racist Humour shows how racist humour expresses and supports racial stereotypes in the US and UK, while also exploring the forms of resistance presented by the humour of Black and Asian comedians to such stereotypes. An engaging exploration of modern, late modern and fluid or postmodern forms of humour, this book will be of interest to sociologists and scholars of cultural and media studies, as well as those working in the fields of race and ethnicity, humour and cultural theory.

Table of Contents

Contents: Introduction: humour and critique; The rhetoric of humour; Humour and order-building; Embodied racism and US internet joking; Cultural racism and British stand-up comedy; Reverse discourse in Black comic performance; Reverse discourse in Asian comic performance; Liquid racism and the ambiguities of Ali G; Liquid racism and the Danish Prophet Muhammad cartoon; Conclusion - the future of race joking; Bibliography; Appendix; Index.

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Simon Weaver is Research Associate in the Department of Health Sciences at the University of Leicester, UK


'Weaver's study contributes valuably to the understanding of racist humour, distinctly improving upon familiar previous perspectives, whether 'apologetic' or simplistically critical. The result is a sustained and interesting treatment, in which a series of creative theoretical adaptations illuminate the analysis of particular comic episodes, genres and performers.' Gregor McLennan, University of Bristol, UK 'Simon Weaver attends closely to the discursive forms in which racist humour is expressed and through this develops an insightful critique of its rhetorical power. His book considerably expands the explanatory potential of humour studies, and will become a landmark study in this field.' Michael Pickering, Loughborough University, UK 'An important text for any discussion of race and humor, The Rhetoric of Racist Humour examines the ways in which racist humour acts as racist rhetoric, has communicative impact, is persuasive, and can affect impressions of truth and ambivalence in serious, non- humorous ways. The book builds upon the fundamental premise that a discursive frame that does not follow the rules of the serious can nevertheless have a significant impact on the serious discourse of racism... Weaver’s book is an important one for the burgeoning field of humor studies...' E3W Review of Books 'Simon Weaver has written an interesting and wide-ranging book on the subject of joking about groups which have been described in racial terms... Weaver’s great strength lies in his ability to see that many uses of humour that touch on race are multi-layered and that racial images are played with in ways that are utterly inconsistent, contradictory and rapidly shifting, as if the comedian were shaking a kaleidoscope. It enables Weaver to provide a subtle analysis of the ’Liquid Racism and the Ambiguity of Ali G’, and also the acts of such outstanding British comedians as Shazia Mirza and Omid Djalili. Weaver’s work is a big advance on earlier simp