The European Journal of Humour Research

Vol 9, No 3 (2021)

Egyptian Facebook satire: a post-Spring carnivalesque

Yomna Elsayed


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.


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