Burning Effigies with Bakhtinian Laughter


An article exploring the aspects of the carnivalesque in the burning or hanging of effigies as political protest, published in the European Journal of Humour Research.

The hanging or burning of effigies as an expression of dissent is a well-established genre of playful political protest. It is enacted in a variety of ways, accessing the conventions of various traditional rituals and social practices, and can function either as a progressive force demanding change, or repressively in seeking to enforce the existing order. Building on a close reading of media images of effigy protests from over the world, I relate the employed strategies of reversal and debasement and the grotesque aesthetics of these dummies to Bakhtin’s concept of the carnivalesque. I trace the different kinds of laughter that emerge during the effigy protests and explore the complicated relationship between laughter and violence inherent in these performed images of violent death.
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