Call for participation - "Laughter in Times of Distress: Humor and its Politics in Middle Eastern Literature and Popular Culture" - MESA 2021 virtual conference

Lina Molokotos-Liederman

Hello all,

See below call for participation in a panel on "Laughter in Times of Distress" as part of MESA's 2021 virtual conference.

See this link and below:

Organizer: Linda Istanbulli (listanbulli@...​​​​​​​)

Proposed Panel Title: "Laughter in Times of Distress: Humor and its Politics in Middle Eastern Literature and Popular Culture"

Brief Panel Description: Like millions around the world, people in the Middle East have found in laughter a relief valve for the fears, speculations, and tensions that the COVID-19 pandemic generates. From literature and diaries to talk shows and blogs, writers and cultural producers have also turned to humor, mobilizing its multifaceted effects and its unique abilities to probe the intricate relationship between the aesthetic, the social, and the political. As they engage humor during a global pandemic, cultural producers in the Middle East build on a long history, both in literature and popular culture, in which humor has been employed not only for its liberating and emancipatory capacities, but also for its disciplinary, didactic, and ideological possibilities. Thinking through humor, not as a uniform but as a diverse phenomenon that is deeply engrossed in texts and contexts, and its dynamic relationship to group values, social identity, and literary and cultural traditions, this panel will consider the complex ways in which, and the ends to which, humor has been employed in times of distress in Middle Eastern literature and popular culture. Taking literary and artistic responses to the current pandemic as a point of departure without limiting ourselves to the present moment, we seek papers that consider not only humorous genres but also instances and representations of humor in works engaging conflicts, illness, war, displacement, and ongoing oppressive practices in order to foreground a pluralistic approach to questions about the forms, meanings, and receptions of humor in dark times, as well as its function as a vehicle through which various genres, mediums, cultural traditions, and historical moments intersect. We are particularly interested in papers that think through continuities as well as ruptures between premodern and modern modes and functions of humor. Possible topics and areas of consideration might include, but are not at all limited to:
- How have forms of humor been mobilized to negotiate, subvert, or sustain various paradigms of structural oppression?
- What role has humor and its representations played in moments of individual and collective displacement and identity erasure?
- What effects do literary instances of humor in trauma narratives and retellings have in the process of reclaiming and reconfiguring traumatic pasts? And do such instances facilitate a shift beyond common aesthetic forms in working through painful histories?
- Intertextual practices are at the heart of humor’s language, forms, and reception. What role does intertextual humor play in meaning making and remaking? And how does it facilitate new understandings of both the past and the present?

Please send your abstract (300-400 words) with you name, institution, and email address to Linda Istanbulli at listanbulli@....

Deadline for AbstractsFebruary 10, 2021