2017 History in the Making (H.I.M.) Conference: "Parody, Protest, or Performance? Mischief and Humour in History"
“Humor can be dissected, as a frog can, but the thing dies in the process and the innards are discouraging to any but the pure scientific mind.” – E.B. White
The Graduate History Students Association invites you to their 22nd annual History in the Making Conference, which will turn White’s skepticism into critical engagement with an oft-neglected theme within historiography: “the innards” of humour. This year’s HIM provides a cross-disciplinary platform for emerging scholars to explore a host of methodological challenges related to the study of the comic.
The comic has taken many forms throughout history: parody, satire, caricature, slapstick, ridicule, mockery. Mutually reinforcing instead of mutually exclusive, these manifestations overlap in complex and revealing ways. Expressed visually, textually, and aurally, the comic can move amongst the perplexingly obscure, the dreadfully obvious, and the tantalizingly unexpected. Throughout, its levity can contain both light and dark shades. Dispersed through both mainstream and alternative media, it may embody a singular perspective or a collective sensibility. Humour sustains oral traditions while at the same time rehashing, recycling and reconfiguring familiar references. It can be a device used to initiate social and political change or consolidate established authorities. However, humour is subject to change and to miss this salient point is to ignore the ebb and flow of history. In what ways, then, is its meaning and interpretation contingent on time and place?
We take the laughter of the past to be our frog. Let us put it on our examining table. When we analyze its contents, do we find the innards appear different as we change the lens? The following themes and all other points of inquiry relating to historical uses of humour in modern and pre-modern contexts will be explored:
- How has the comic been expressed by communities of laughter during different points in history?
- How is humorous dissent and mischief used to subvert social order? How is the comic used to consolidate authority? To what extent is laughter an act of liberation or conformity?
- What are the challenges scholars face when using humour as an interpretive framework in historical, cross-cultural or transnational contexts?
Please join our keynote speakers, Professor Joanne Gilbert (Charles A. Dana Professor and Chair of Communication and New Media Studies at Alma College, Alma, MI) and Professor Greg Robinson (Department of History at UQAM, Montréal, QC), as we dissect the history of humour.