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Do the kinds of political joke that get circulated in a polity depend on the structure - page 14 / 46





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Douglas Ayling

serving to speak about aspects of the social structure which require attention26 and working

to reduce cognitive dissonance across “realms of experience”27.

Finally, the sixth possible understanding of political jokes as put forward by Oring

is that they carve out a space for the self – what James Scott would call an “alternate moral


  • which provides a brief respite from the otherwise ever-present psychological

penetration of the regime. In Domination and the Arts of Resistance: Hidden Transcripts,

Scott explores and elaborates the strategies available to the weak and which together can

constitute what he posits as an infrapolitics which may escape censure or documentation.

Of this infrapolitics he remarks, “Under the conditions of tyranny and persecution in which

most historical subjects live, it is political life”29. This would construe political joking in

such contexts as a process of re-making the self. Is it to negate the fusing of public and

private – which Mabel Berezin remarks as the defining poetics of Italian fascism – that

political joking is performed?30

We may add to this other theories, including Tannen’s linguistic supplement that

jokes are also used to “foster solidarity and trust between the interlocutors by pointing to

26 27 28 Mary Douglas, Implicit Meanings: Essays in Anthropology (New York: Routledge, 1975), p.154 ib., p.95 James C. Scott, The Moral Economy of the Peasant: Rebellion and Subsistence in Southeast Asia (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1976), p.240; cited by Oring (2004); available at: <http://www.looksmartfamilytree.com/p/articles/mi_qa3732/is_200407/ai_n14687876> James C. Scott, Domination and the Arts of Resistance: Hidden Transcripts (New Haven: Yale, 1990) p.201 Mabel Berezin, Making the Fascist Self: The Political Culture of Interwar Italy (Ithaca, Cornell University Press, 1997) 29 30

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