The European Journal of Humour Research

Vol 3, No 2/3 (2015)

Funny as hell: The functions of humour during and after genocide

Uğur Ümit Üngör,Valerie Amandine Verkerke


The history of genocide is replete with various humorous treatments by different actors with distinctive objectives. This type of dark humour treats the topic, which is usually enveloped with solemnity, in a satirical manner. This essay aims to study the functions of humour by comparatively examining victimized individuals’ and groups’ use of humour during and after violent episodes such as genocide. Why do victims use humour under conditions of extreme peril, threats to life, and fear? It draws on published and unpublished memoirs, pamphlets, video clips, and most importantly victims’ artistic and literary responses to the Nazi repression and the mass violence in Bosnia (1992-1995) and Syria (2011-2013). The essay argues that dark humour seems to be widespread among victims and survivors, as it functions as a complex mechanism for coping with anxiety and fear, group cohesion and critique of perpetrators. Our conclusions suggest that victimological approaches in genocide studies can benefit considerably from focusing on oppressed groups’ humoristic responses to mass violence.


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