This special issue of EJHR results from the proceedings of an exploratory workshop that took place in September 2013 at the Netherlands Institute for Advanced Studies (NIAS) titled “Humorous Approaches to Art and Activism in Conflict”.[i] While not all contributors to the workshop are part of this issue, and not all contributors to this issue were part of the workshop, the exploratory gathering of scholars, artists, and activists served as a point of departure for an ongoing research project, the initial findings of which are presented in this volume. Interestingly, none of the contributors would strictly classify themselves as “humour researchers”, and the disciplinary divergences between the essays certainly do not end there. Yet it seemed fitting to position these varying interpretations of humour in relation to art and activism, particularly in sites of conflict, in a journal dedicated to the study of a field that already boasts of several decades of research.
The issue addresses the intersection of art and activism by investigating humorous interventions in socio-political conflict situations. Most research related to the arts in conflict zones, both from a social science perspective, as well as from a community arts perspective, tends to emphasize the emancipatory, therapeutic, or reconciliatory attributes of art in conflict, paying attention to how art contributes to conflict resolution, bridges social inequalities, or serves to ease tensions between communities in conflict and overcome trauma. The contributions in this volume discuss the more neglected, “non-serious” aesthetic strategies, such as those employing ironic, grotesque, absurd, frivolous, carnivalesque, and humorous forms of cultural and artistic intervention in conflict settings.
[i] We thank the Netherlands Institute for Advanced Studies (NIAS), Amsterdam Centre for Globalisation Studies (ACGS), Amsterdam School of Cultural Analysis (ASCA), and the Netherlands Institute for Cultural Analysis (NICA) for their institutional and financial support.
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