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Humorous States: New Diplomacy and The Rise of Comedy in IR

British Academy Small Grant

Why do states and state leaders cultivate a sense of humour? What is the impact of Trump's tweets (their circulation and satirical responses to them) on global politics? And how should we understand the widespread affirmation of free speech by European states in the aftermath of the Danish Cartoons Crisis and Charlie Hebdo attacks? Questions of humour and satire implicitly carry a potential for political controversy, yet this has not affected the rise of comedy in IR or its growing prevalence in the once staid realm of international diplomacy. This British Academy funded project observes that comedy and IR are increasingly coterminous, yet the intellectual resources required to address them seem scattered across several literatures and sub-disciplines. By drawing them together through three international workshops geared towards the production of an Edited collection, two articles, and several blog posts, this project will develop a systematic analysis that foregrounds the function, meaning and politics of these 'humorous states'.

Key research questions include:

  • What explains the rise of comedy/satire in international politics/diplomacy?
  • Is the ironic/self-aware nature of such humour indicative of any wider changes in IR, such as the 'maturing' of cultural diplomacy, or the emergence of a more reflexive state identity?

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