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Public lecture

Languages and Humour in the Digital Age

18 March 2019, 17:00 – 19:00

The Pitt Building, Trumpington Street, Cambridge CB2 1RP

Contemporary nations are understood as ‘imagined communities’ where symbolic boundaries are defined by a particular set of myths, narratives and languages. In recent times, social media platforms have connected hundreds of thousands of people across the globe, allowing these imagined communities to expand, while people feel ever-closer. However, as a rule, we continue to define ourselves in terms of our difference to others – that is, not what we are, but what we are not. For centuries, humour has been at the heart of the way in which this ‘othering’ is achieved. In fact, beyond it’s more playful, entertaining side, it has a key role in reflecting and affecting the power dynamics in society; research has shown humour’s ability to boost national solidarity, challenge power structures and deepen national and linguistic divisions. But how has this type of humour adapted to these new platforms of communication? In times of serious political debate surrounding the relationship between a people and its language or identity, where actors and activists find themselves stripped of their freedom – or worse, their lives – can​ a throwaway meme or gif that circulates through ‘likes’, comments, ‘shares’ and ‘retweets’ be considered a legitimate part of the conversation? With the focus on the cases of Catalonia and Ukraine, this public lecture will explore how languages and humour are embedded in national belonging and will discuss the changes (and challenges) brought up by the Digital Revolution.

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MEITS Strand 1

Rhiannon McGlade and Ivan Kozachenko

17:00 - 19:00


The Pitt Building, Trumpington Street, Cambridge CB2 1RP

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