Laughter is the Best Medicine

Nonviolence and Humor: Carnival as a Tool of Nonviolent Resistance and Reconciliation

In my thesis, it looks at three forms of humor: Satire, parody and carnival. And, my argument is that satire and parody constitute this aggressive, kind of, not aggressive in the sense of violent, but a
more coercive form of nonviolent action, so it is OK to, you know, “attack” the opponent. So, in the literature of nonviolent resistance there’s a lot of emphasis on attacking your opponent without using arms. So, that’s one aspect to it. But I think what has been missing is nonviolent action used as reconciliation. So, that’s where I think carnivals are important. How carnivals can be a space for a dialogue, meaning that in the protest site, if you have festive activities and these are a part of carnival’s features, you would have different – people from different walks of life- be it, you know, the authorities, security forces, supporters of the government, protestors joining these festivities. So, for example, in the case of the protests in Belgrade in 1996-1997, there were a lot of carnival-esque activities used in the protest site. And, I remember there were a few actions where protestors deliberately staged them in order to build this image of being friendly. And having people from the other side to join the activity together. So, these activities could be – they ranged from
concerts, um parties, using music, dancing, beauty contests. That, actually, they asked, protestors asked other protest participants to select police officers who were the best looking. So, that’s the idea, you know, to get people
who may be in conflict at the time, or they carry out that duty because they have to,
but then that puts them in the situation that, you know, in opposite to the protestors. They may not dislike protestors, but they have to do their jobs, right? Um, so that sort of provides space for, you
know, convincing the other side to change sides. So, that’s the idea.

One thought on “Nonviolence and Humor: Carnival as a Tool of Nonviolent Resistance and Reconciliation

  1. Ajarn Jan has extended this idea in her recent book "''Humor and Nonviolent Struggle in Serbia''. There she recounts that carnivalesque activities serve not only to defuse tension and reduce the possibility of violence but also to enable participants to experience and internalise a ''''Vision of Tomorrow'''' – so essential in giving direction to nonviolent action.

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