The European Journal of Humour Research

Vol 4, No 2 (2016)

The humorous language of street dissent: A discourse analysis of the graffiti of the Gezi Park protests

Oya Morva


Owing to its critical and creative potential, humour has often been used as one of the preferred means of resistance in social and political protests. In addition, the presence of humour is also increasing in the new social movements of recent history. The essential questions that this article aims to answer are how humour functions and what its purpose is amidst a time of numerous and notable social movements. During the 2013 Gezi Park protests in Turkey, the protesters made significant use of humour that specifically targeted the control of the authorities over public life, thus providing a good case with which to study humour in social movements. One form which the protesters used to disseminate humorous messages was graffiti. In this article, the graffiti from the Gezi Park protests is examined using a critical discourse analysis model. In order to achieve the intended aims, Van Dijk’s (1995) understanding of ideological discourse analysis arguing that dominated groups may have ideologies that effectively organise the social representation needed for resistance and change, is taken as a point of departure. However, this work specifically relies on Fairclough’s (1992) three dimensional discourse analysis that covers the object (the text), the process (discursive practice) and the socio-historical conditions (social practice). Research on the language of Gezi graffiti shows that the humorous language of the protesters identified and differentiated the actors of the movement, and it did not only help them to cope with the domination and oppression to which they were subjected, but also increased support for development in the desired direction.


Bakhtin, M. (1984). Rabelais and his World. Indiana: Indiana University Press.

Broich, U. (1997). ‘Intertextuality’, in Bertens, H. & Fokkema, D. (eds.), International Postmodernism: Theory and Literary Practice, Amsterdam: John Benjamin, pp. 249-257.

Czajka, A. & Wastnidge, E. (2015). ‘The centre of world politics? Neo-ottomanism in Turkish foreign and domestic politics’. Retrieved September 17, 2015 from

Emre, P.O.,Coban, B. & Sener, G. (2013). ‘Humorous form of protest: Disproportionate use of intelligence in Gezi Park’s resistance’. Paper presented at Politsci’ 13 Political Science Conference. Istanbul, Turkey, 31 October- 02 November. Retrieved December 14, 2015 from

Fairclough, N. (1992). Discourse and Social Change. Cambridge: Polity Press.

Fairclough, N. (1995). Media Discourse. London: Edward Arnold.

Fairclough, N. (2003). ‘Critical discourse analysis and change in management discourse and ideology: A transdisciplinary approach to strategic critique’. Paper presented at the Second International Conference on Discourse, Communication and Enterprise, Vigo, Spain, 12-14 November. Retrieved August 20, 2015 from

Gole, N. (2013). Gezi: Anatomy of public square movement. Today’s Zaman [online]. Retrieved September 10, 2015 from

Gurevich, A. (1997). ‘Bakhtin and his theory of carnival’, in Bremmer, J. & Roodenburg, H. (eds.), A Cultural History of Humour: From Antiquity to the Present Day. Cambridge: Polity Press, pp. 54-60.

Hanauer, D.I. (2004). ‘Silence, voice and erasure: psychological embodiment in graffiti at the site of Prime Minister Rabin’s assassination’. The Arts in Psychotherapy. 1 (31), pp. 29-35.

Hardt, M. (2014). Innovation and obstacles in Istanbul one year after Gezi. EuroNomade. Retrieved February 29, 2016 from

Hodges, A. (2011). The War on Terror Narrative: Discourse and Intertextuality in the Construction and Contestation of Sociopolitical Reality. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Jorgensen, M. and Phillips, L. (2002). Discourse Analyses as Theory and Method. London: Sage.

Keyder, C. (2013). Gezi Parkı protestolari baglaminda yeni orta siniflar, neo-liberal donusum ve yoksulluk. [online] KonuşaKonuşa. Retrieved September 20, 2015 from

Kitis, D. (2011). ‘The subversive poetics of a marginalized discourse and culture’, in Foust, E. & Fuggle, S. (eds.), Words on the Street, London: Institute of Germanic & Romance Studies, pp. 53-70.

Kuipers, G. (2008) ‘The sociology of humor’, in Raskin, V. (ed.), Read First! The Primer of Humor Research, New York: Mouton de Gruyter, pp. 365-402.

Kutz-Flamenbaum, R.V. (2014). ‘Humor and social movements’. Sociology Compass 8 (3), pp. 294-304.

Lynch, O.H. (2002). ‘Humorous communication: Finding a place for humor in communication research’. Communication Theory (12) 4, pp. 423-445.

Pennycook, A. ( 2010). Language as a Local Practice. London:Routledge.

Robinson, A. (2011). ‘In theory Bakhtin: Carnival against capital, carnival against power’. [online] Ceasefire. Retrieved October 12, 2015 from

Romanos, E. (2012). ‘The strategic use of humor in the Spanish Indignados/15M Movement’. Paper presented at the Politics and Protest Workshop CUNY Graduate Center, New York, USA, 4 October. Retrieved December 14, 2015 from

Sabral, J. & Erdim, Z. (2013). ‘Will Istanbul’s protestors have the last laugh?’ [online] BBC News. Retrieved March 21, 2016 from

Sorensen, M.J. (2008). ‘Humor as a serious strategy of nonviolent resistance to oppression’. Journal of Peace and Change 33 (2), pp. 167-190.

Sahin, B. (2013). ‘Farklılık hosgoru ve AK Parti iktidari: Gezi Parki surecinin dusundurdukleri’. Liberal Dusunce 18 (71), pp. 161-169.

Vandaele, J. (2002). ‘(Re)constructing humour: meanings and means’. The Translator 8 (2), pp. 149-172.

Van Dijk, T.A. (1995) ‘Ideological discourse analyses’. Retrieved March 24, 2016 from

Yegenoglu, M. (2013). ‘Smells like Gezi sprit’. [online] Radical Philosophy: Philosophical Journal of the Independent Left. Retrieved August 5, 2015 from Available online. [Retrieved August 5, 2015]. [Retrieved August 5, 2015].[Retrieved August 5, 2015].