Humor and Nonviolent Struggle in Serbia

Humor and Nonviolent Struggle in Serbia

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If I had no sense of humour, I should long ago have committed suicide," wrote the late Mahatma Gandhi, expressing the potent power of humour to sustain and uplift. Less obvious is humour's ability to operate as a cunning weapon in nonviolent protest movements. Over the last few decades, activists are increasingly incorporating subversive laughter in their protest repertoires, realizing the ways in which it challenges the ruling elite's propaganda, defuses antagonism, and inspires both participants and the greater population.

In this highly original and engaging work, Sombatpoonsiri explores the nexus between humour and nonviolent protest, aiming to enhance our understanding of the growing popularity of humour in protest movements around the world. Drawing on insights from the pioneering Otpor activists in Serbia, she provides a detailed account of the protesters' systematic use of humour to topple Slobadan Milosevi? in 2000. Interviews with activists, protest newsletters, and documentaries of the movement combine to illustrate how humour played a pivotal role by reflecting the absurdity of the regime's propaganda and, in turn, by delegitimizing its authority. Sombatpoonsiri highlights the Otpor activists' ability to internationalize their nonviolent crusade, influencing youth movements in the Ukraine, Georgia, Iran, and Egypt. Globally, Otpor's successful use of humour became an inspiration for a later generation of protest movements.
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Product details

  • Hardback | 288 pages
  • 152 x 229 x 20.83mm | 517.1g
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • 9 blac and white illustrations
  • 0815634072
  • 9780815634072
  • 1,129,612

Review quote

Sombatpoonsiri has now given us reason to laugh as we topple dictators, chuckle as we contemplate new strategies, and make jokes as we outwit oppressors. . . .Sombatpoonsiri's work should be studied by all who yearn for a nonviolent way to bring down repressive regimes.--Tom H. Hastings, assistant professor of conflict resolution, Portland State University An engaging, serious and well documented, interesting and bright book about the students who organized various protests in the 1990s.--Peace and Justice Studies Journal An original and useful contribution, drawing both on existing literature and documentary sources as well as on interviews with participants. It has the potential to advance understanding of the role of humor and satirical stances in the generation of political change.--Eric Gordy, School of Slavonic and East European Studies, University College, London Sombatpoonsiri analyses the humorous protests of Otpor (Resistance), a legendary group of activists in Serbia whose systematic use of humor in the 1990s played a role in toppling Slobodan Milosevic.... Sombatpoonsiri's coherent narrative is very pleasant to read.--Humor: International Journal of Humor Research This study is an important contribution to understanding nonviolent social movements within Serbia's modern history.--The Journal of Contemporary Central and Eastern Europe Sombatpoonsiri challenges the myth that humor is the language of the powerless-a meaningless expression of frustration that rarely amounts to change. Instead, drawing on the case of the Serbian uprising against Milosevic, she persuasively argues that humor can have truly subversive effects and can be a crucial form of power for movements. A timely, insightful, and entertaining read!--Erica Chenoweth, associate professor at the Josef Korbel School of International Studies, University of Denver The book, a fantastic adventure in crossing boundaries, reminds us how remembering and understanding nonviolent experiences in Serbia could empower nonviolent struggles elsewhere in the world.--Chaiwat Satha-Anand, professor of political science, Thammasat University In this lively and empathetic study, the first serious look at Otpor in English, Janjira Sombatpoonsiri delivers the sophisticated analysis that the main agent of the Serbian Revolution of 2000 deserves.--Padraic Kenney, Professor of History and International Studies, Indiana University
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About Janjira Sombatpoonsiri

Janjira Sombatpoonsiri is lecturer of political science at Thammasat University in Thailand.
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