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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:The uses of ridicule: humour, 'infrapolitics' and civil society in Nigeria
Author:Obadare, EbenezerISNI
Periodical:African affairs: the journal of the Royal African Society
Geographic term:Nigeria
State-society relationship
civil society
Abstract:As post-military 'democratic' regimes across Africa perpetuate norms and practices that were characteristic of the previous openly authoritarian era, humour and ridicule have emerged as a means through which ordinary people attempt to deconstruct and construct meaning out of a reality that is decidedly surreal. In Nigeria jokes serve a double function as a tool for subordinate classes to deride the State (including its agents) and themselves. Jokes are therefore a means through which an emergent civil society, 'behaving badly', subverts, deconstructs, and engages with the State. Yet, for all its significance as a form of agency, humour has been neglected in the civil society literature, partly because of the mentality which frames civil society in terms of organizations (humour is not organized), and partly because of its almost exclusive attention to the 'civil' attributes of civil society (humour is, inter alia, rude). This article argues for incorporating humour into the civil society discourse, and suggests that doing so will enrich civil society analysis by focusing on both the constructions of sociality and their associated politics, and the hidden spaces in which most of visible political action originates. Notes, ref., sum. [Journal abstract]