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Workshop 31st May 2024, University of Amsterdam, location tba Organizers: Spiros Chairetis (Marilena Laskaridis Visiting Research Fellow, University of Amsterdam) and Maria Boletsi (Endowed Professor of Modern Greek Studies, University of Amsterdam)

Humor and its Political Affordances Today: From Nostalgia to Cancel Cultures


31st May 2024, University of Amsterdam, location tba


Organizers: Spiros Chairetis (Marilena Laskaridis Visiting Research Fellow, University of Amsterdam) and Maria Boletsi (Endowed Professor of Modern Greek Studies, University of Amsterdam)

In recent years, a series of events have thrust humor into the spotlight of social discussions. For instance, in 2019, Shane Gillis, an American comedian and radio personality, faced dismissal from Saturday Night Live due to public outcry regarding his prior use of homophobic slurs during a podcast. In 2020, Netflix removed The Mighty Boosh and The League of Gentlemen from its platform due to concerns about blackface, while several stand-up comedians have publicly contended that the culture of "wokeness" is committed to extinguishing humor. 

At the same time, the COVID-19 pandemic acted as a catalyst for a nostalgic return to old and familiar forms of humor. Since the pandemic, as countries worldwide implemented varying curfew measures and encountered diverse challenges, there appeared to be a significant shift towards humor, disseminated through television reruns and revisiting of beloved comedies and sitcoms. This phenomenon has sparked numerous newspaper articles and opinion pieces, exploring both the allure of familiar content and the limitations of older material. 

Technology has also played a significant role in the circulation of humor through various online forms. Memes featuring witty lines from popular actresses and actors proliferate on platforms like Instagram and Facebook, creating a shared language among individuals with similar tastes and ideological leanings. Moreover, comedic scenes from movies are reinterpreted, and entire comedy shows are transformed into merchandise, including coffee mugs, cards, and other ephemera. 

The study of humor encompasses an interdisciplinary field that delves into its ideology, functions, and effects. Over decades, scholars from disciplines such as philosophy, linguistics, anthropology, and media have contributed to a substantial body of work, dissecting various aspects of humor. These include its ideological underpinnings, aesthetic qualities, formal structures, role in identity construction, as well as the representation of particular groups of people within comedic texts. While humor has been approached through diverse lenses, there is a tendency by scholars to put emphasis in their analysis on the meaning of jokes or view humor as inherently transgressive and/or ambiguous. In their introductory article for the special issue titled 'The Politics and Aesthetics of Humour in an Age of Comic Controversy,' Ivo Nieuwenhuis and Dick Zijp take a more nuanced approach and conceptualize humor “in the plural, as a set of cultural and aesthetic conventions, styles, and genres which vary with cultural and historical context” (2022:6). Departing from celebratory interpretations of humor, Nieuwenhuis and Zijp advocate for a serious and meticulous examination of humor as “a set of cultural practices embedded in social hierarchies and power relations” (2022:7). Taking cue from these scholars, in this workshop, we aim to explore facets of humor both within their originary contexts and in the contexts in which they are (re)interpreted.

In scholarly endeavors aimed at developing a common framework to grasp facets of contemporary humor, case studies from the United States and Britain have been prevailing within the field. This workshop is especially keen on shifting away from this Anglo-centric approach to also delve into perspectives and understandings of humor from Europe and other parts of the world, in which humor has been underexplored. In this event, we invite scholars in Cultural Studies, Film, Television, and the Visual Arts, Media Studies, Memory Studies, Gender and Queer Studies, Fat Studies, Anthropology, among others, who integrate the political aspects of humor in their work, to participate. Possible topics and approaches include, but are not limited to: 

  • The styles and conventions of humor
  • The power dynamics of humor
  • Humoring the 'Other'
  • Feminist and queer perspectives on humor
  • Humor and fan/online communities
  • Humor in internet memes
  • Humor and stardom
  • Humor and audience reception
  • Re(reading) humor in older comedy texts
  • The pedagogy of humor

If you are interested in participating as a speaker at this workshop, please send a title, a brief description of your proposed topic (approximately 200-300 words), and a short biographical note to by April 7th. The organizers will review the submissions and notify the applicants of their decision by April 15th.

Each speaker will be allocated 15 minutes for their presentation, followed immediately by a comprehensive discussion. This format ensures that each paper receives individual and thorough consideration following its presentation.   

For any inquiries, please direct them to the workshop organizers, Spiros Chairetis ( and Maria Boletsi (