- Public Cultures of the Middle East and North Africa
- Humor and Power in Algeria, 1920 to 2021
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Humor and Power in Algeria, 1920 to 2021
Published by: Indiana University Press
In times of peace as well as conflict, humor has served Algerians as a tool of both unification and division. Humor has also assisted Algerians of various backgrounds and ideological leanings with engaging critically in power struggles throughout the country's contemporary history. By analyzing comedic discourse in various forms (including plays, jokes, and cartoons), Humor and Power in Algeria, 1920 to 2021 demonstrates the globally informed and creative ways that civilians have made sense of moments of victory and loss through humor. Using oral interviews and media archives in Arabic, French, and Tamazight, Elizabeth M. Perego expands on theoretical debates about humor as a tool of resistance and explores the importance of humor as an instrument of war, peace, and social memory, as well as a source for retracing volatile, contested pasts.
Humor and Power in Algeria, 1920 to 2021 reveals how Algerians have harnessed humor to express competing visions for unity in a divided colonial society, to channel and process emotions surrounding a brutal war of decolonization and the forging of a new nation, and to demonstrate resilience in the face of a terrifying civil conflict.
Note on Transliteration
List of Illustrations
Introduction: The Price of Humor in Algeria's "Time of Terrorism"
1. Chapter One: Side-Splitting While Nation-Forming, 1914 to the 1980s
2. Chapter Two: Humor in Rebellion and Uncertain Political Transition, 1988 to 1992
3. Chapter Three: Laughing at Victims and Assailants through Popular Jokes from the "Black Decade"
4. Chapter Four: Cartoonists Drawing Lines through the Ambiguities of Terror, 1992-1997
5. Chapter Five: Cartoons "Dancing on Coffins" and Drumming Up Memory During Reconciliation, 1997-2005
Conclusion: Remembering Algeria's 1990s Conflict and Humor over Time
Elizabeth M. Perego is Assistant Professor in the Department of History at Appalachian State University. Her work has appeared in the Journal of North African Studies and the International Journal of Middle East Studies.
"Elizabeth Perego deconstructs the notion that humor is merely a 'weapon of the weak' by focusing on comedy's myriad functions, demonstrating that humor can support and/or challenge those in power, as well as those seeking power. Stated differently, humor can be used to unify or divide communities."~Jennifer Howell, author of The Algerian War in French-Language Comics: Postcolonial Memory, History, and Subjectivity
"Humor and Power in Algeria, 1920 to 2021 is the first book in English to examine in a systematic and sustained manner the role of humor in Algerian history and politics. It is genuinely pioneering. It engages with a subject everyone can connect with—what makes us laugh—but this is an aspect of Algerian society that is little understood outside of Algeria and France. Elizabeth Perego humanizes and de-exoticizes a region that has been subject to so many pernicious stereotypes in the 'Western' media."~Martin Evans, author of Algeria: France's Undeclared War
"Humor and Power in Algeria lays out a persuasive case to take jokes seriously as a primary source for writing history. Deeply researched, written with a vivid sense of storytelling and keen theoretical nuance, this study analyzes the myriad forms of humor that have been so central to the political vocabularies of Algerians since the early twentieth century. Perego gathers together a multilingual and heterogeneous archive of Algerian jokes, caricatures, cartoons, slogans, bandes dessinées, theatrical productions, and other works. Pinpointing the ways that such forms of expression exist in relation to state authority yet also elude it—fluid, flexible, ambiguous, and vernacular, humor "can be whispered" across just about any boundary!—Perego sheds light on the particular power that humor took on during the ruptures of October 1988 and the 1990s war. In its critical framing, the book helps to break with scholarly practices that still tend to bind Algeria to its former colonizer by articulating a broader vision of cultural references and exchanges. And, in its steady insistence on listening closely to what civilians themselves were thinking and saying during difficult times, this is above all a tribute to the capaciousness, resilience, and often hilarious brilliance of Algerian imaginations."~Jill Jarvis, author of Decolonizing Memory: Algeria and the Politics of Testimony
"In this thoughtful book, Elizabeth Perego argues that humour is more than a coping mecanism. Jokes and caricatures are this historian's way into the sequence of violence experienced by Algeria in the 1990s. She offers an intelligent, at times deeply moving, and always innovative history of violence."~Malika Rahal, author of Algérie 1962: Une histoire populaire