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Social Philosophy Today

Volume 17, 2001

Communication, Conflict, and Reconciliation

Nancy Potter
Pages 103-123

Is There a Role for Humor in the Midst of Conflict?

Theories of humor tend to neglect the role that humor plays in situations of conflict. This paper explores epistemological and political dimensions of humor as it is used by members of disenfranchised and otherwise marginalized groups. Not only can this kind of humor I call "oppositional" aid members of oppressed groups in preparing for conflict; it can also help people's beliefs shift in politically significant ways. Although I think the use of oppositional humor can be very constructive both politically and epistemologically indealing with conflict, I am skeptical about the use of oppositional humor in situations of direct conflict resolution. Nevertheless, I suggest that a type of humor called banter can be productively engaged in by the relatively disempowered when certain parameters are drawn.

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