[Blueboard] Kritika Kultura Lecture Series

Department of English doe at admu.edu.ph
Tue Jul 10 17:00:18 PHT 2012

KRITIKA KULTURA, A Refereed E-Journal of Language, Literary/Cultural Studies
                        Department of English
                     Ateneo de Manila University




      NERISSA S. BALCE, State University of New York at Stony Brook
   Assistant Professor, Department of Asian and Asian American Studies

"Laughter Against the State: Political Humor in the U.S. and the Philippines"

                      July 20, 2012, 4:30-6pm
                        NGF Conference Room
                       G/F de la Costa Hall

About the Lecture:

Humor, like violence, has been used for and against the state. In  
recent memory, the photographs of tortured Iraqis by U.S. soldiers in  
Abu Ghraib prison remind us of the relationship between humor and the  
racial violence of war. Schuyler W. Henderson argues that "the comic  
dimensions of torture," as seen in the photographs, are essential and  
instrumental for perpetuating racial violence. He notes that by  
creating "comic portraits of their prisoners" through the photographs,  
the American soldiers disregard and inflict suffering "beginning at  
the level of the smile." The "smile of the torturer" embodies humor as  
an expression of state violence if we consider the "state" as an  
institution that is a "legitimate monopolizer of the means of  
violence" and a legal institution that wages wars. In the case of the  
Abu Ghraib photographs, the images are visual signs of the power of  
the state and the violence of race just as lynching photographs from  
the late nineteenth and early twentieth century are iconic images of  
the regime of Jim Crow. But as in many cultures, humor has also been  
used to criticize the state or official power. Mikhail Bakhtin's study  
of French medieval folk culture in his work, Rabelais and His World  
(1968), highlights the subversive form and function of the language of  
laughter. If the torturer's smile, in contemporary American artifacts  
of race such as the Abu Ghraib photographs, is a sign of  
dehumanization, acts of laughter by those who are oppressed are  
indices of humanity and an affront to power.

For this presentation, we will examine the politics of humor in memes  
that circulated in social media in the fall of 2011. We will analyze  
theories of humor at work in two different but interrelated cases:  
memes on American police brutality during the Occupy Wall Street  
protests and memes on Gloria Arroyo's controversial neck brace during  
her corruption trial. A central question we will ask is whether humor  
offers more than laughter or should we take humor seriously in the  
face of police brutality and government corruption? In brief, does  
humor matter?


Nerissa S. Balce is an assistant professor of Asian American studies  
at the State University of New York at Stony Brook's Department of  
Asian and Asian American Studies. She was born and raised in Manila.  
She received a B.A. in Literature and an M.A. in Philippine Studies  
from De La Salle University, Manila. She took doctoral studies at U.C.  
Berkeley where she received a Ph.D. in Ethnic Studies. Before teaching  
at SUNY Stony Brook, she taught at the University of Oregon's Ethnic  
Studies Program as a post-doctoral fellow, and at the University of  
Massachusetts-Amherst as an assistant professor of comparative  
literature. She is currently completing her book manuscript on  
Filipino colonial images after 1898 and starting a new project on  
humor and state violence in American and Filipino culture.

Department of English
School of Humanities
Ateneo de Manila University
Katipunan Avenue, Loyola Heights,
Quezon City 1108
Tel. no.: 426-6001 local 5310/5311
Telefax: 426-6201

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