The Joke's On Who
The Performative Possibilities of Humour
Keywords:Wittgenstein, feminism, Simon Critchley
In this paper, I argue that humour is an underutilized tool in countering social injustice. Within feminist epistemology much has been made about implicit bias stemming from knowledge gaps. Yet studies that have shown that awareness of our implicit bias does little to change our behaviour. Instead, I argue that overcoming bias might require a less purely intellectual, more creative approach. Wittgenstein speculated that one could write a book of philosophy entirely in the form of jokes. In part, he thought that jokes offer an illuminating synopsis or overview of a state of affairs. We might even say jokes offer a fresh gestalt. It’s not just about a picture of the facts, but of our attitude towards them. As a result, while it can be tempting to respond to oppressive comments or slurs with outrage and indignation, there is a unique effect when we respond with a joke. First, jokes can reframe the perspective suggested by the slur. Second, jokes allow the speaker to make a lateral conversational move to evade being trapped in a defensive argumentative position. Using tone to open up new discursive planes allows for more communicative possibilities on an emotional as well as intellectual level.
Collins, P. H., 1998. “It’s All in the Family: Intersections of Gender, Race, and Nation.” Hypatia Vol. 13, No. 3. Summer, 62-82.
Critchley, S., 2002. On Humour. London: Routledge, 2002.
Gadsby, H. Nanette. Netflix, 2018.
Mason, B, 2020. “Curbing Implicit Bias: What Works and What Doesn’t.” Knowable Magazine. Available: https://knowablemagazine.org/article/mind/2020/how-to-curb-implicit-bias
Malcolm, N., 2001. Ludwig Wittgenstein: A Memoir. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
Monk, R., 1990. Wittgenstein: The Duty of Genius. London: Penguin Books.
Copyright (c) 2022 Lisa McKeown
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
NWR uses the Creative Commons license CC-BY.
Vol. 1-3 used CC-BY-NC-SA. The collected works copyright ownership for Vol. 1-2 were shared by Nordic Wittgenstein Society and ontos Verlag/De Gruyter.