CFP 2021 Middle East Studies Association Annual Meeting, Roundtable on "The State of Middle Eastern and North African Humor Studies: Pasts, Presents and Horizons"

Elizabeth Perego's picture
Type: 
Call for Papers
Date: 
February 12, 2021
Location: 
Quebec, Canada
Subject Fields: 
Arabic History / Studies, Cultural History / Studies, Middle East History / Studies, Popular Culture Studies, Social Sciences

Roundtable Title: The State of Middle Eastern and North African Humor Studies: Pasts, Presents and Horizons

Organizer: Elizabeth Perego | Co-organizer: Mostafa Abedinifard

Call for Papers

In the wake of the 2009 Iranian presidential election protests, also called the “Green Movement,” as well as when protests for dignity, sometimes called the “Arab Uprisings,” erupted across many parts of the Middle East and North Africa in 2010-2011, academics, regional observers, and media outlets noticed the flurry of creative expression produced by demonstrators and rioters as the latter took to the streets to demand better economic and political conditions. The use of humor by revolutionaries and/or users on social media, e.g., by starting satiric news programs or channels, at home or in the diaspora particularly caught the attention of scholars and has featured heavily in work on political cultures present during and after these incidents. Yet, efforts to try to understand the significance of contemporary comedy in the region have often failed to account for longer and rich humorous traditions within it, a tradition whose roots, in its modern history, goes back at least to the blossoming/proliferation of comedy, including political satire, in the Middle East and North Africa since the mid-19th century.

Furthermore, scholars working on humor in the region generally produce compositions that focus only on the employ of comedy within certain linguistic, ethnic, or national groups despite the powerful capacity of humor for traversing boundaries and borders. In other words, despite the “global intertextuality” (Semati, 2012) of many such instances of humor, extant studies of them in the MENA region countries often fail to consider possible transregional connections and/or mutual influences among the occurrences and instances of humor in national settings. Emphasis on such connections is especially important given the thriving electronic technologies and their increasing role in the spread of what is called “politicized humorous cellphonelore” (Etaati, 2017).

This roundtable seeks to examine whether the creation or formalization of a broader subfield of Middle East and North Africa humor studies would assist scholars with overcoming some of these lacunae and barriers. It hopes to convene emerging and lead scholars working on humor across geographic and temporal spaces in the Middle East and North Africa to discuss the potential benefits of regional perspectives towards comedy and to consider, among other issues, the following questions:

  • What is the current state of the study of humor and its uses in the Middle East and North Africa, and what may potential future trajectories be for research in this domain?

  • While some scholars have theorized the existence of “Arab political humor,” “Turkish humor,” or “Maghribi sarcasm” (Kishtainy, 1986; Gurel 2015; Berque 1962), can we speak today of a broader, more inclusive typology of “Middle Eastern and North African humor” given the diversity of the region and its global connections?

  • What intellectual fruit could the creation of a viable subfield of Middle Eastern and North African humor studies within wider inquiries of the region yield?

This roundtable aims to showcase different disciplinary approaches to humor while paying special attention to areas for future academic production and collaboration surrounding the topic of humor in Middle East Studies, whether through conference meetings, digital projects, edited volumes, or journal special issues.

If interested in joining this discussion, please send a 300–400-word, single-spaced explanation of your experience with and approach to the study of humor in the Middle East and North Africa along with a brief description of the role that you could play in this roundtable toperegoem@appstate.edu and mostafa.abedinifard@ubc.ca. Please submit statements by February 12th.

Elizabeth Perego’s research examines the intersection of gender, politics, and culture in the modern Maghrib. She recently completed a postdoctoral fellowship at Princeton University’s Department of Near Eastern Studies (TRI) and is finalizing a monograph on the history of political satire in Algeria from the interwar period through early 2000s.

Mostafa Abedinifard’s research on humor focuses on the sociopolitical and disciplinary aspects of ridicule. He has published several articles on gendered humor in contemporary Anglo-American and modern Iranian cultures and has a forthcoming chapter on ridicule in the Qur’an. Over the past months, as Principal Investigator, he has been developing the “MENA Humor: A Digital Docent” project. Mostafa serves as a Consulting Editor at HUMOR: International Journal of Humor Research.

Contact Info: 

If interested in joining this discussion, please send a 300–400-word, single-spaced explanation of your experience with and approach to the study of humor in the Middle East and North Africa along with a brief description of the role that you could play in this roundtable toperegoem@appstate.edu and mostafa.abedinifard@ubc.ca. Please submit statements by February 12th.

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