Humour as an epistemic practice of the political present
Something weird is happening in politics. Satirical parties, comedic journalism and memeification are gaining more and more traction; the slippages between parody and sincerity, play and earnestness, real and fake, ridicule and seriousness have proliferated at a dizzying rate. Global entanglements, new technologies, and the surge in populist politics are producing a cacophony of intricate cognitive, social, and economic dissonances bordering on the absurd. The underlying hypothesis of NoJoke is that these dissonances, and the comical reactions they produce, have become formative phenomena of the political present; they have seeped into the social fabric and into the ways in which people appropriate their lifeworlds and make sense of themselves and others as political actors.
The practice of humour, NoJoke argues, can help us to make sense of the political present; it offers a unique methodology of discovery, a specific education by attention with regards to dissonances that elude conventional academic methods. Bringing together insights from the anthropology of politics and the political, from studies on humour, satire and laughter, and from anthropological advances in ontology, epistemology and methodology, NoJoke will conduct research with humour and humourists, and not merely on them, and establish a radically new approach to the study of the political present. Through a long-term comparative study with caricaturists, comedians, writers of satire, satirical politicians and comedic journalists in five subprojects, it will follow three objectives: (1) to explore the intrusion of humour and humourists into the field of politics; (2) to articulate a theory of humour as an epistemic practice – a mode of perception, creation and anticipation – in and of the political present; (3) to launch an alternative practice of academic knowledge production by converting the heuristic of punchlines into a practice of theory.
NoJoke will do research with humour and humourists, not merely on humour and humourists. All team members learn from and apply humorous practices and conduct research respectively with caricatures and cartoonists, with comic performances and performers, with satire and satirical authors, with satirical politicians, comedic journalists and satirical activists. This will facilitate not only a permanent shift between practice and theory and challenge the obsolete hierarchy of researcher, informant and research object, but will also lead to “education by attention“ (Ingold 2014) of all team members with regards to undercurrents and dissonances in the political present that elude conventional academic methods. Exploring the epistemic potential of humour, NoJoke will thus generate a unique methodology for research into the political present and launch an alternative practice of academic knowledge production by converting the heuristic of punchlines into a practice of theory. A combination of academic output formats (e.g., journal articles, monographs) with unconventional formats like festivals, an online compilation of caricatures, satirical texts and performances as well as a podcast will make NoJoke’s results accessible to the public.