China and Inner Asia
Organized Panel Session
Laughter is a powerful way of communication—it can express dissatisfaction or criticism; it can also offer sympathy and form community. The persistent government censorship in postsocialist China have imposed numerous restraints on laughter, but the shifting political landscape and evolving technologies have also offered people various opportunities to explore different ways to laugh. This panel aims to investigate the rhetoric and politics of satire and humor in contemporary China. Historically rooted and theoretically informed, it seeks to illuminate: how have satire and humor evolved in this environment? What strategies do they use to engage with the state and the general public respectively? What power and problems do they have? What roles do different media and new technologies play? How should we understand them in the context of postsocialism and globalization?
The four papers approach these questions with case studies that cross four fields and span four decades. Zhuoyi Wang, by studying a 1979 film, reveals the inherent contradictions in the attempts to revive Maoist comedy in the early reform years. Hongjian Wang, while examining the satiric skits on CCTV Spring Festival Gala since 1983, registers a trend under Xi Jinping that recalls comedy in the pre-reform era. Yiwen Wang explains how a popular microblogger and his followers generate cynical laughter through texts and paratexts in the early 21st century. Xi Tian discusses how two most recent online literary works turn censorship on its head through hilarious parody. Together, they aim to initiate a conversation on laughter in postsocialist China.