Towards a Sociology of Racist Humour
Sociology University of Bristol UK,
Sacha Baron Cohen's performance characters Ali G and Borat, and the satirical cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad in the Danish newspaper Jylland-Posten, highlight how the debate on humorous and satirical "race" and ethnic representation is increasingly relevant in the European public sphere. Such examples often have very serious consequences that require sociological attention. Thus racist humour has become the focus of argument and debate in recent times, with issues of acceptability, offense and censorship very much at the fore. Despite this, there has been little research into racist humour or the issues surrounding it. This paper will provide a discussion of the theory and method of studying "race" humour sociologically, drawing on the particular examples of Sacha Baron Cohen's characters and the Jylland-Posten cartoons. I argue that racist, "race" and ethnic humour and comedy, far from being an insignificant or harmless form of communication, can act as a rhetorical device for any number of discursive positions, and thus often forms a significant communicative tool for these positions.