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Laughter in Occupied Palestine: Comedy and Identity in Art and Film

Laughter in Occupied Palestine: Comedy and Identity in Art and Film
Lionis Chrisoula

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Though the current political situation in Palestine is more serious than ever, contemporary Palestinian art and film is becoming, paradoxically, increasingly funny.In Laughter in Occupied Palestine, Chrisoula Lionis analyses both the impetus behind this shift toward laughter and its consequences, arguing that laughter comes as a response to political uncertainty and the decline in nationalist hope. Revealing the crucial role of laughter in responding to the failure of the peace process and ongoing occupation, she unearths the potential of humour to facilitate understanding and empathy in a time of division. This is the first book to provide a combined overview of Palestinian art and film, showing the ways in which both art forms have developed in response to critical moments in Palestinian history over the last century. These key moments, Lionis argues, have radically transformed contemporary Palestinian collective identity and in turn Palestinian cultural output.

Mapping these critical junctions - beginning with the Balfour Declaration of 1917 to the Oslo Accords in 1993 - she explores the historical trajectory of Palestinian art and film, and explains how to the failure of the peace process has led to the present proliferation of humour in Palestinian visual culture.

Author Info

Chrisoula Lionis is a Researcher and Curator at the National Institute for Experimental Arts at the University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia. She organised the first exhibition of contemporary Palestinian art in Australia, Beyond the Last Sky (2012) at the Australian Centre for Photography, and belongs to the curatorial team that programmes the annual Australian Palestinian Film Festival.


‘Chrisoula Lionis succeeds in giving a panoramic and, at the same time, profound view of the field of humorology as a whole and of the relationship between humor and identity in particular. In applying her theoretical insights to the context of Palestinian culture and history gives a comprehensive, fair and objective account of what has happened to Palestine and the Palestinian people over the last hundred years. This book is a must-read for anyone interested in humor and/or the history of the Middle East conflict.’
Professor Sharif Kanaana, Department of Anthropology, Birzeit University and co-author of Speak Bird, Speak Again (1989)

‘Lionis offers  a marvellous introduction to the way Palestinian art and cinema reflect the shifting dynamics of Palestinian politics, giving us rare insight into the way humor has taken hold in the arts over the past two decades.  Rich examples of the ways Palestinian artists brilliantly illuminate the absurdity of their conditions allow Lionis to reflect on how laughter in the face of trauma and political disappointment can actually sustain hope and solidarity.’ 
Lila Abu-Lughod, Joseph L. Buttenwieser Professor, Columbia University

'This impressively happy-sad book tracks the development of artistic practices by Palestinians in their homeland and in exile. It is an ambitious book drawn from deep engagement and is testament to a kind of familiarity with one’s subject that is indeed very rare. The reading of works by Mona Hatoum, Raeda Saadeh and Emily Jacir is among the best I have seen. The dissection of the “excess of tragedy” and the explosion of humour is expressed with exquisite care and precision. The final passages on waiting are lucid, beautiful and haunting. This book contains the bittersweet wisdom of a painful but uplifting joke. It shows how humour builds bridges even in a war zone. Spread it around!    
- Professor Nikos Papastergiadis, Director,  Research Unit in Public Cultures, The University of Melbourne & Professor, School of Culture and Communication, The University of Melbourne

Bibliographic Info

Imprint: I.B.Tauris
Publisher: I.B.Tauris & Co. Ltd.

ISBN: 9781784532888
Publication Date: 28 Feb 2016
Number of Pages: 288
Height: 216
Width: 138
Illustrations: 23 bw integrated

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