Tuesday, April 26, 2011

How to destabilise discourses?

In class we keep talking about discourses or ways of thinking about the world, and how they work in insidious ways to reinforce oppressive social structures, but so far we were left to ponder about how concrete actions to change or destabilise discourses.

Of course, academic work is one way - by researching about for example, a marginalised group that has always suffered from negative stereotypes. I mean, I'm trying to do that, by showing a positive representation of Indonesian domestic workers that study in addition to working full-time as our household 'servants'. But how many people actually read academic work? Besides students and professors. It's not that the majority of people can't understand, but it does take quite some time and effort (especially how some scholars write!)

So actually it's people who work in the arts - theater, comedy, poetry,  that carry a certain responsibility to destabilise discourses about society - whether they challenge or question patriarchy, political hegemony, or stereotypes about micro-groups of people in their own society or macro-groups of countries.

Here's a great example of using humour to address some really serious issues, a video done by Munah and Hirzi on using "sex appeal and jokes" about the upcoming general elections:

These two fantastic comedians addressed PAP's dubious political tactics such as giving money just before elections, the lack of political participation by youths, and the social exclusion, marginalisation, and overwork of migrant workers. If you work in the arts, don't forget to make your work a socially meaningful contribution. (:

For the more academia-inclined among you, Craig Zelizer's (2010) short article on humour and peacebuilding neatly summarises the different roles that humour can play in conflict. The abstract reads:

"In conflict-affected societies, humour has significant potential to contribute to the escalation or reduction of conflicts. This paper provides a multi-disciplinary approach to understanding the social role of humour in conflicted societies, drawing on literature from social psychology, health and conflict resolution. The paper offers an analytical model regarding the role of humour in peacebuilding in divided societies, as well as documenting several examples of the application of humour and the opportunities and challenges to using humour in societies in conflict. Concrete roles that humour can play are discussed, including as a tool to cope with violent conflict, humanizing or dehumanizing the other, bridge builder, mobiliser, etc. Avenues for future research are also outlined."

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