Event Date: 10 May 2013
The Wiener Library
29 Russell Square,
London WC1B 5DP
Sanctioned Laughter: Humour, War and Dictatorship in Twentieth Century Europe
What was the relationship between power and laughter in the fascist and communist dictatorships of the twentieth century?
This workshop will examine why European dictatorships found it so difficult to dispense with humour, even though this risked subverting claims to total political commitment made by the regimes of Stalin, Hitler and Mussolini. Was official humour simply a tool for keeping the masses pliant, or was it shaped as much by the rulers as by the ruled? Was there a clear line between official, unofficial and subversive humour? Speakers will address these questions and others as they consider state-sanctioned humour in Europe, with a particular focus on Germany, Italy and Russia during the 1930s and 1940s.
Introductions and Chair: Dr Nikolaus Wachsmann (Birkbeck, University of London)
Professor Stephen Gundle (Warwick) – Laughing under Fascism: Comedy, Jokes and Ridicule in Italy 1922-1943
Dr Patrick Merziger (Freie Universität Berlin) – German humour in the ‘Volksgemeinschaft’: the failure of National Socialist Propaganda
Professor Orlando Figes (Birkbeck) – The Soviet Joke: Tiny Revolutions and the Art of Survival
Chair: Professor David Feldman (Director, Pears Institute for the Study of Antisemitism, Birkbeck) with:
Professor Jane Caplan (Oxford and Birkbeck)
Dr Julia Lovell (Birkbeck)
Dr Jan Rüger (Birkbeck)
The Pears Institute for the Study of Antisemitism
“The relationship between antisemitism and other forms of racism and exclusion is not only a historical question. It is an urgent issue for today.” Professor David Feldman, Director.
The Pears Institute for the Study of Antisemitism was established by the Pears Foundation and is based at Birkbeck, University of London. It is a centre of innovative research and teaching, contributing to discussion and policy formation on antisemitism as well as other forms of racial prejudice and intolerance. It is both independent and inclusive.