- SMC Spring Speakers: ‘Digital Dissent: Revolutionary Humor Between Old and New Media’
- February 19, 2013 2:00 pm
- February 19, 2013 3:15 pm
- Annenberg Hall, Room 3
2020 North 13th Street, Philadelphia, PA, 19122, United States
Professor of Global Communication
Annenberg School for Communication
University of Pennsylvania
Though in ancient Greece Socrates and Aristophanes glimpsed in political humor an uneasy cohabitation of the ludicrous with the solemn, Arabs may have been the first people—in the 10th Century—to use humor against their leaders. In the wake of a historically deep tradition of satire, the Arab uprising gave rise to a rich cornucopia of parody and satire.
Though theories of humor help us understand the kinds of political humor that existed prior to the uprisings, Arab revolutionary drollery calls for an adaptation of theory to emergent combinations of old and new media. The video web series Top Goon—Diaries of a Little Dictator, which emerged from the Syrian uprising, is such a crossbreed, lampooning Bashar al-Assad and chronicling his regime’s brutal repression of the rebellion. An examination of one episode of Top Goon, “Who Wants to Kill a Million?” reveals the series’ nature as a hybrid of multiple media and art forms (puppetry, theater, video and digital) that compel a different understanding of “digital.”
Multimedia hybridity, and the peculiar aesthetics of puppetry explain much of Top Goon’s appeal and ability to cut through the thick chatter of the uprising, opening a vista on how articulations of emerging technologies and old media enable symbolic resistance in revolutionary times.
Marwan M. Kraidy is Professor of Global Communication at the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania. His book, Reality Television and Arab Politics: Contention in Public Life (Cambridge University Press, 2010), won the 2010 Best Book Award in Global Communication and Social Change from the International Communication Association, the 2011 Diamond Anniversary Best Book Award and the 2011 Roderick P. Hart Outstanding Book Award in Political Communication, both from the National Communication Association in the USA. As a Guggenheim Fellow and the Edward Said Chair in American Studies at the American University of Beirut, Kraidy spent the 2011-2012 academic year traveling throughout the Arab world researching digital activism, music video, graffiti, political humor and the human body as political medium, for a book on creative resistance in revolutionary times.