Discursive Power Relations in Naijabookofjokes.com

Discursive Power Relations in Naijabookofjokes.com

Rotimi Taiwo (Obafemi Awolowo University, Nigeria)
Copyright: © 2016 |Pages: 13
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-0338-5.ch010
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Abstract

This chapter is premised on the fact that a close reading of humour can provide an insight into what is lurking in the social mind of the humorist. A critical discourse analysis of twenty-five jokes sourced from Naijabookofjoke.com, a website dedicated to jokes, mainly within the Nigerian socio-cultural setting observes the selected jokes are used to context social and symbolic order among the people, especially through the expression of power, Otherness and stereotyping. The study also reveals that jokes can either be offensive (sword) or defensive (shield) in nature. They employ literary conventions such as exaggeration, allusions, metaphors, wit, and satire to discursively express socio-cultural issues.
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Introduction

One major pastime in modern society is making and listening to jokes. Jokes are part of the linguistic and interactional processes in every human society that help to break the routines of mundane life and allow listeners to relax. Jokes are generally believed to be expressions made with the intention to elicit laughter and amusement from the listener. They could vary in form: a short expression, a single word, a picture, a performance, a drama, a gesture, a story, and so forth. The space for sharing jokes also varies. They include, but are not limited to any social gathering (such as weddings, birthdays), workplace, classroom, church, newspaper, television, radio, and of recent the cyberspace. Before the advent of digital technology, making jokes was limited to face-to-face interactions. In the age of digital and multimodal discourse, we can talk about jokes in the newspaper, for instance, pictorial jokes in cartoons and caricatures. Pictorial jokes are believed to possess the same force of verbal jokes (Wekesa, 2012). Another kind of joke is a written joke, as we have in satirical writings (Simpson, 2003; Taiwo, 2007). However, there is advancement in technology and expansion in discourse patterning, the social space for jokes keeps expanding. The Internet was created as a space for serious communication, but became popular mostly due to its social and entertaining nature. Due to its social nature and exponential growth, the Internet became a space for experimenting and exhibiting playfulness and entertainment, particularly in chatrooms, blogs and discussion forums.

In recent times, making jokes has become a regular feature in live shows, especially in the electronic media. A popular kind of humour in the electronic media is situational comedy, also known as ''sitcom comedy''. Sitcom comedies are episode-based performances delivered through electronic media. They are very popular in America and Europe and gradually becoming popular in Nigeria.

Feigelson (1995) identifies the major types of humour as puns, goofing off, jokes (self ridicule, sexual, racial/ethnic), and teasing. Collison (1988) identifies three major functions of humour as to resist boredom, to conform and to control others. Pogrebin and Poole (1988) also identify a function they describe as ‘coping strategy’. This is also supported by Obadare (2009). Humour sometimes helps to normalize crises and deal with circumstances beyond one’s control. Ervin-Tripp and Lambert (1992) also identify four functions of humour, namely: equalizing, defending, sharing and coping. Listening to humour has become a favourite pastime in many urbanized areas. It is common for performers to entertain the audience in live performances. Their humorous performances are typically based on mutually shared background knowledge and value in the society. Brown and Levinson (1987: 124) confirmed this - that jokes may be used to stress the shared background or those shared values of the people in a society.

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