[R6452] The State of Middle Eastern and North African Humor Studies: Pasts, Presents and Horizons

Created by Elizabeth Perego
Tuesday, 11/30/21 11:30 am


In the wake of the 2009 Iranian presidential election protests, also called the “Green Movement,” as well as when protests for dignity, sometimes called the “Arab Uprisings,” erupted across many parts of the Middle East and North Africa in 2010-2011, academics, regional observers, and media outlets noticed the flurry of creative expression produced by demonstrators and rioters as the latter took to the streets to demand better economic and political conditions. The use of humor by revolutionaries and/or users on social media, e.g., by starting satiric news programs or channels, at home or in the diaspora particularly caught the attention of scholars and has featured heavily in work on political cultures present during and after these incidents. Yet, efforts to try to understand the significance of contemporary comedy in the region have often failed to account for longer and rich humorous traditions within it, a tradition whose roots, in its modern history, goes back at least to the blossoming/proliferation of comedy, including political satire, in the Middle East and North Africa since the mid-19th century.

Furthermore, scholars working on humor in the region generally produce compositions that focus only on the employ of comedy within certain linguistic, ethnic, or national groups despite the powerful capacity of humor for traversing boundaries and borders. In other words, despite the “global intertextuality” (Semati, 2012) of many such instances of humor, extant studies of them in the MENA region countries often fail to consider possible transregional connections and/or mutual influences among the occurrences and instances of humor in national settings. Emphasis on such connections is especially important given the thriving electronic technologies and their increasing role in the spread of what is called “politicized humorous cellphonelore” (Etaati, 2017).

This roundtable seeks to examine whether the creation or formalization of a broader subfield of Middle East and North Africa humor studies would assist scholars with overcoming some of these lacunae and barriers. It convenes lead scholars working on humor across geographic and temporal spaces in the Middle East and North Africa to discuss the potential benefits of regional perspectives towards comedy and the possibility of a typology of Middle East humor. This roundtable will showcase different disciplinary approaches to humor while paying special attention to areas for future academic production and collaboration surrounding the topic of humor in Middle East Studies, whether through conference meetings, digital projects, edited volumes, or journal special issues.






Elizabeth Perego

(Appalachian State University)
I am an Assistant Professor of History at Appalachian State University and present fellow at Princeton's University's Department of Near Eastern Studies (Institute for Transregional Studies). My scholarship looks at the intersection of gender, culture,...
Panel Participating Role(s): Organizer; Presenter;

Mostafa Abedinifard

(University of British Columbia)
I am a literary and cultural critic and historian, with a special focus on Persian literature and the Iranian culture and cinema, within my broader interests in comparative and world literature. Before joining the Department of Asian Studies at UBC in...
Panel Participating Role(s): Organizer; Presenter;

Leila Zonouzi

(University of California, Santa Barbara)
Leila Zonouzi is a PhD Candidate in Global Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Her dissertation research is a comparative diasporic study between Iran, Egypt, and Turkey, where she looks at the new wave of mass-migration from the MENA...
Panel Participating Role(s): Presenter;