(NeMLA 2021 panel) Laughing Off Violence: The Genre of Comedy and its Politics

deadline for submissions: 
October 10, 2020
full name / name of organization: 
contact email: 

We invite presentation proposals for the 2021 NeMLA Annual Conference, to be held virtually Mach 11-14.  

The current COVID-19 pandemic highlights the relationship between disaster, racism, and comedy in unexpected ways. Fear, hostility, and open acts of violence towards Asian bodies, the perceived carriers of disease, are naturalized in part through their exaggerated and comic portrayals. The images of Oriental “gross” food consumers in Hazmat suits and masks circulate via internet memes and anecdotes of personal encounters, generating a shared normal response of derision and repulsion. What is so funny, though? 

Comedy is never innocuous. Comedy, as often as not, involves violence — a laughable kind of violence. It relies on a culturally shared distinction between two kinds of violence: the kind of violence that we can laugh off and the kind of violence that we cannot. The genre of comedy engages in a hierarchical and epistemological construction of bodies: there are “important,” “serious,” and “high” bodies on the one hand, and on the other, “expendable,” “low,” “funny” bodies.

The conference organizers are seeking interdisciplinary and intriguing contributions which explore the politics of the comedy genre from a range of theoretical and  literary perspectives.  Our goal is to shed light on how this popular form works – in overt, insidious, or violent ways – to arrange complex networks of social and cultural hierarchy, and help set more fundamental definitions of the “human” or “abject.” We welcome proposals that cut across periods and mediums of the comic, as well as papers which focus on a specific literary era. Possible topics may include (but are certainly not limited to) embodiment in the comedy genre, imbrications of comic forms and gender and/or critical race theory, or genre theory and the politics of popular culture.   

Proposals are to be directly submitted at NeMLA submission page: https://www.cfplist.com/nemla/Home/S/18689

If you have questions, please write to Yunah Kae (ykae@umass.edu ) or Jiwon Rim (jir20@pitt.edu).