The Arab Spring offered Egyptians a brief opportunity for political freedom of expression; it also offered many creative youths a chance to experiment with their newfound digital talents. However, this was soon followed by a state crackdown on public forms of dissent; subsequently, creative expression had to find other platforms and modalities to continue its practices of playful dissent. Through Mikhail Bakhtin’s (1984) theory of Carnivalesque, this paper examines how Egyptian youths managed to create alternate spaces, other than the highly scrutinised political square, to challenge officialdom and generate their own folk culture through laughter and creative digital arts. This research is based on interviews conducted with administrators and fans of Facebook pages that offer satirical content in the form of memes and remix videos. Fans of these pages mostly belong to the 1980s and 1990s generations, but they also include younger adults whose formative years were those of the Arab Spring. This study argues that, like Bakhtin’s carnival, laughter and everyday comedy was a means by which creative artists could continue to express their opinions and indirect dissent amid intensifying state surveillance. These spaces, therefore, constituted third spaces away from polarised politics, where fans could playfully discuss the comedy away from the heat of events. They were spaces where youths could exercise control over the objects of laughter and challenge established institutions. Like the carnival, youths exercised Carnival practices of both reversal and renewal to craft a new folk culture of their own that did not have to abide by the rules of patronising politics.
Abdulla, R. (2014). ‘Egypt’s media in the midst of revolution’. Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Retrieved May 25, 2019 from https://carnegieendowment.org/2014/07/16/egypt-s-media-in-midst-of-revolution-pub-56164
Astapova, A. (2017). ‘Rumour, humour, and other forms of election folklore in non-democratic societies: The case of Belarus’. Folklore: Electronic Journal of Folklore, 69, pp. 15-48.
Astapova, A. (2015). ‘Why all dictators have moustaches: Political jokes in contemporary Belarus’. Humour: International Journal of Humour Research 28 (1), pp. 71-91.
Bahaa Al Deen, A. (1990). Ayam Laha Tareekh [Days that Have History]. Cairo, Egypt: Dar Al Helal.
Bakhtin, M. M. (1984). Rabelais and his World. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press.
Bauer, M. W. & Gaskell, G. (eds.). (2000). Qualitative Researching with Text, Image and Sound: A Practical Handbook for Social Research. Thousand Oaks: Sage.
Braun, V., & Clarke, V. (2006). ‘Using thematic analysis in psychology’. Qualitative Research in Psychology 3 (2), pp. 77-101.
Cao, X., & Brewer, P. R. (2008). ‘Political comedy shows and public participation in politics’. International Journal of Public Opinion Research 20 (1), pp. 90-99.
Davies, C. (2002). The Mirth of Nations. Piscataway: Transaction Publishers.
‘Egypt: Events of 2018’. (2018). Human Rights Watch. Retrieved November 12, 2019 from https://www.hrw.org/world-report/2019/country-chapters/egypt
‘Egypt is suffering from a crisis in morality [Masr toa’ny Azmet Akhlak]’. )2013). Mobtdaa. Retrieved November 14th, 2019 from https://www.mobtada.com/details/104034.
Elliot, S. (1999). ‘Carnival and dialogue in Bakhtin’s poetics of folklore’. Folklore Forum 30 (1/2), pp. 129-139.
El-Menawy, A. (2017). ‘Egyptians’ sense of humour is very telling’. Arab News. Retrieved May 26, 2019 from http://www.arabnews.com/node/1165171
Elsayed, Y. (2016). ‘Laughing through change: Subversive humour in online videos of Arab youth’. International Journal of Communication 10, pp. 5102-5122.
‘Fastest-growing pages in Egypt’. (2019). Social Bakers. Retrieved November 6, 2019 from https://www.socialbakers.com/statistics/facebook/pages/total/egypt
Freud, S. (1963). ‘Jokes and their relation to the unconscious.’ In Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud, Vol. 5. New York: Norton. (Original work published 1905).
Frey, L., Botan, C. & Kreps, G. (1999). Investigating Communication: An Introduction to Research Methods (2nd ed.). Boston: Allyn and Bacon.
Grundlingh, L. (2018). ‘Memes as speech acts’. Social Semiotics 28 (2), pp. 147-168.
Gupta, P. (2014). ‘Bassem Youssef’s weekly satirical show in Egypt has been cancelled’. June, 3. Salon. Retrieved May 26, 2019 from https://www.salon.com/2014/06/02/bassem_youssefs_weekly_satirical_show_in_egypt_has_been_canceled/
Helmy, M. M. & Frerichs, S. (2013). ‘Stripping the boss: The powerful role of humour in the Egyptian Revolution 2011’. Integrative Psychological and Behavioral Science 47 (4), pp. 450-481.
Houlihan, P. F. (2001). Wit and Humour in Ancient Egypt. Ontario: Rubicon Press.
Jackson, P. (1991). ‘The cultural politics of masculinity: Towards a social geography’. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers 16 (2), pp. 199-213.
Jenkins, H. (2010). ‘DIY video 2010: Political remix (Part One)’. Confessions of an Aca-fan. Retrieved May 26, 2019 from http://henryjenkins.org/blog/2010/11/political_remix_video_can_empo.html
Juni, S. & Katz, B. (2001). ‘Self-effacing wit as a response to oppression: Dynamics in ethnic humour’. The Journal of General Psychology 128 (2), pp. 119-142.
Kandeel, M. (2016). ‘A conversation with my brother, atheist with Mohammed Sobhy’. Mada Masr. Retrieved May 26, 2019 from https://goo.gl/inXepT
Khalaf, R. (2012). ‘So who are we?’. Al Ahram Weekly. Retrieved May 26, 2019 from http://weekly.ahram.org.eg/Archive/2011/1042/cu3.htm
Knepp, R. (2013). Laughing Together: Comedic Theatre as a Mechanism of Survival during the Holocaust. Masters’ Thesis. Retrieved May 26, 2019 from https://scholarscompass.vcu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=4039&context=etd
Laineste, L. & Voolaid, P. (2016). ‘Laughing across borders: Intertextuality of internet memes’. The European Journal of Humour Research 4 (4).
Levine, L. W. (1978). Black Culture and Black Consciousness: Afro-American Folk Thought from Slavery to Freedom. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Lockyer, S. & Pickering, M. (2008). ‘You must be joking: The sociological critique of humour and comic media’. Sociology Compass 2 (3), pp. 808-820.
Morreall, J. (2014). ‘Humour, philosophy and education.’ Educational Philosophy and Theory 46 (2), pp. 120-13.
‘President smiley face’. (2016). BBC News. Retrieved May 26, 2019 from https://www.bbc.com/news/blogs-trending-35375790
‘Protest and Freedom of Assembly in Egypt’. (2017). October 18. The Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy. Retrieved May 26, 2019 from https://timep.org/reports-briefings/protest-and-freedom-of-assembly-in-egypt/
Radwan, H. (2017). ‘Joking and reproach’. April 7. Sasa Post. Retrieved January 1, 2021 from https://www.sasapost.com/opinion/sarcastic-crying/
Saldana, J. (2009). The Coding Manual for Qualitative Researchers. Thousand Oaks: SAGE Publications.
Attardo, A. & Ergül, H. (2014). ‘Ancient Egypt, humor in’. In S. Attardo (ed.), Encyclopedia of Humor Studies (pp. 30-32). Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications.
Scruton, R. (1987). ‘Laughter’. In J. Morreall (ed.), The Philosophy of Laughter and Humour (pp. 156-171). Albany: SUNY Press.
Shifman, L. (2014). Memes in Digital Culture. Cambridge: MIT Press.
Singh, R. K. (2012). ‘Humour, irony and satire in literature’. International Journal of English and Literature 3 (4), 63-72.
‘Social media users in Egypt: Facebook insights and usage in Egypt, 2018’. (2018). Digital Marketing Community. Retrieved May 25, 2019 from https://www.digitalmarketingcommunity.com/indicators/facebook-insights-usage-in-egypt-2018/
‘Social media stats in Egypt’. (2019). Stat Counter Global Stats. Retrieved November 6th from https://gs.statcounter.com/social-media-stats/all/egypt
Stark, C. (2003). ‘“What, me worry?”: Teaching media literacy through Satire and Mad Magazine’. The Clearing House 76 (6), pp. 305-309.
Twenge, J. M., Martin, G. N. & Spitzberg, B. H. (2019). ‘Trends in US adolescents’ media use, 1976-2016: The rise of digital media, the decline of TV, and the (near) demise of print.’ Psychology of Popular Media Culture 8 (4), 329.
van de Bildt, J. (2015). ‘The quest for legitimacy in postrevolutionary Egypt: Propaganda and controlling narratives’. The Journal of the Middle East and Africa 6 (3-4), pp. 253-274.
Walsh, D. (2019). ‘Egypt’s soap opera clampdown extends el-Sisi’s iron grip to TV’. The New York Times. Retrieved November 7, 2019 from https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/03/world/middleeast/sisi-egypt-soap-opera.html
Woodsome, K., Elshinnawi, M. (2012). ‘In uncertain times, Egyptian comedy thrives’. Voices of America. Retrieved November 7, 2019 from https://www.voanews.com/middle-east/uncertain-times-egyptian-comedy-thrives
Zidani, S. (2016). ‘Arab Internet humour: From Adele to Adeela’. Medium. Retrieved November 14 from https://medium.com/@Sulafa/arab-internet-humor-from-adele-to-adeela-b8cc2fe2db9a