Conference: Laughing in an Emergency: Humour in Contemporary Art

Chrisoula Lionis's picture
Call for Papers
August 26, 2019 to October 30, 2019
United Kingdom
Subject Fields: 
Art, Art History & Visual Studies, Colonial and Post-Colonial History / Studies, Cultural History / Studies, Fine Arts, Humanities



Where: University of Manchester

When: 17 - 18 April, 2020

In the wake of the Charlie Hebdo attacks in 2015, humour has been regarded as serious, incendiary, and potentially fatal, business. A curious phenomenon has simultaneously occurred in contemporary art, as artists located around the world have turned to humorous aesthetic strategies in order to document and re-assess global politics, experiences of humanitarian crisis and collective trauma. This shift in art practice is evident across a broad spectrum of both geography and forms of ‘crisis’, from military occupation in the Palestinian Territories, the struggle for indigenous sovereignty in Australia, to economic crisis and austerity in Greece.

In spite of this turn, and although the politics of humour has attracted recent attention, leading scholars across the social sciences and humanities continually lament the lack of scholarly analysis on the subject. The need for a more sustained understanding of the role of humour in the face of crisis and humanitarian emergency is particularly pertinent when assessing contemporary art and visual culture. This is because, despite both the emphasis on trauma and crisis (which has remained a scholarly pre-occupation since the 1990s), visual culture theory has failed to adequately investigate why humour becomes pronounced in practice in times of emergency. Further, if the 21st century is characterized by the experience of perpetual crisis, then discourse has neglected to provide in-depth analysis of how humour offers a new understanding of this political context, whilst also suggesting how we might deal with such crises.

The Laughing in an Emergency Conference will be hosted on the 17th and 18th of April 2020 at the University of Manchester and will seek to address the now overdue field of enquiry. In addition to international keynotes from artists including RICHARD BELL (Australia), and STEFANOS TSIVOPOULOS (Greece/US), we welcome proposals from scholars and practitioners addressing the interface of humour and contemporary art from diverse theoretical and methodological perspectives. Topics to be addressed include, but are not restricted to, contemporary art and the following following:

  • Humour and Crisis
  • Humour and the Global South
  • Humour and Identity
  • Humour and Gender
  • Humour and Resistance
  • Humour and the Museum
  • Humour and Authenticity
  • Humour and Contemporaneity
  • Humour and the Art Market
  • HHumour and Cultural Resilience

We invite proposals for individual papers of approximately 20 minutes (allowing an extra ten minute for question/discussion time). Proposals should include a title, an abstract of approximately 300-350 words and a brief biography. Please send proposals to by October 30th 2019. Responses will be provided by November 30th 2019.

Conference attendance is free of charge. Any queries regarding the event should be directed to Dr Chrisoula Lionis -

The conference is part of the LIAE: Contemporary Art and Cultural Resilience project funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Grant Agreement No.799087

Contact Info: 

Dr Chrisoula Lionis

Marie Sklodowska-Curie Fellow
Principal Investigator, Horizon2020 Project Laughing in an Emergency
School of Arts, Languages, and Cultures
The University of Manchester   
Manchester, United Kingdom