July 13th, 2006

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July 13th, 2006

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July 13th, 2006

Prospect Magazine May 2006: Essays: ‘Hammer & tickle’ by Ben Lewis

[….] Soon my volume of Stefanescu’s Ten Years of Romanian Black Humour was joined by 30 or so other collections of communist jokes such as Reinhard Wagner’s Jokes of East Germany Volume 1-2 (1994/96), and Hammer and Tickle (1980) by Petr Beckmann. The earliest volume I found, Humour Behind the Iron Curtain, was published in 1962 by the Nazi-hunter Simon Wiesenthal, under the pseudonym Mischka Kukin. I wondered if Wiesenthal found communist jokes a diversion from the business of tracking down Nazis, or if they represented to him another struggle against injustice. I also came across a wonderfully overwritten PhD thesis by the Stanford anthropologist Seth Benedict Graham: A Cultural Analysis of the Russo-Soviet Anekdot (anekdot is the Russian word for a political joke). Graham’s earnest academic language suggests the standard theory of the joke as a tool of subversion: “An important reason for the anekdot’s pre-eminence was its capacity to outflank, mimic, debunk, deconstruct, and otherwise critically engage with other genres and texts of all stripes and at all presumed points on the spectrum from resistance to complicity.”

via BoingBoing.

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