Humour, subjectivity and world politics

Everyday articulations of identity at the limits of order

By Alister Wedderburn

Humour, subjectivity and world politics


  • eBook

Book Information

  • Format: Hardcover
  • ISBN: 978-1-5261-5069-1
  • Pages: 216
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Price: £80.00
  • Published Date: August 2021
  • BIC Category: Politics, LITERARY CRITICISM / Semiotics & Theory, POLITICAL SCIENCE / International Relations / General, HUMOR / Topic / Political, Society & social sciences / Cultural studies, Society & social sciences / Politics & government, Humour, Society & social sciences / International relations


Questions about the ethical and political boundaries of comedy, satire, or irony have inspired widespread anxiety in recent years, as with the 2015 shootings at the offices of Charlie Hebdo in Paris, or the so called 'locker-room banter' that defined Donald Trump's 2016 election campaign. What, then, can a turn to humour offer International Relations?

Drawing on literature across International Relations, literary theory, cultural studies and sociology, Alister Wedderburn argues that humour plays an underappreciated role in the making and unmaking of political subjectivities. The book recovers a historical understanding of humour as a way of making a claim to political subjectivity in the face of its denial. This function, Wedderburn argues, is embodied by the ambiguous figure of the parasite, a stock character of Greek comic drama. The book interrogates three separate sites where political actors have used humour 'parasitically' in order to make political claims and demands. In so doing, it not only outlines humour's political potential and limitations, but also demonstrates how everyday practices can draw from, feed into, interrupt, and potentially transform global-political relations.

Representing the first monograph-length study on the politics of humour within International Relations, this book makes a timely contribution to debates about the politics of humour, subjectivity and everyday life.


Introduction: taking humour seriously

Part I: Humour, subjectivity and world politics
1 'A way of operating': humour, subjectivity and the everyday
2 The parasite

Part II: Parasitic politics
3 Aesthetic parasitism: cartooning the camp
4 Physical parasitism: ACT UP and the HIV/AIDS pandemic
5 Parodic parasitism: clowning and mass protest

Conclusion: parasitic politics and world politics



Alister Wedderburn is a Lecturer in International Relations at the University of Glasgow

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