Humor in French Postcolonial Literature and Culture: A Paradox?

Sonali Ravi, André Benhaïm

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


From black face, sexist jokes, anti-Semitic caricatures to anti-Muslim cartoons, comedic discourses have targeted minority groups. The aim of my dissertation, however, is to demonstrate the ways in which minorities who have been targets of jokes, have in turn themselves become its creators, using humor as a medium to deal with complicated questions of identity. In this overview of my dissertation, I outline how a selection of Francophone Maghrebi, Caribbean and sub-Saharan African writers, graphic novelists and stand-up comedians repurpose colonial stereotypes. Of interest is not humor writ large, but comedic play whose hallmark is a sense of ambivalence—it deals with issues of gravity with a sense of levity; and it simultaneously coopts yet subverts colonial representations of alterity. I argue that such comedic play with official discourses allows these humorists not only to delegitimize simplistic Metropolitan representations of alterity, but also to furnish ludic alternatives in their place. By using humor in their creation, postcolonial humorists laugh at misery and play with images of cultural alterity without necessarily propagating them, instead reappropriating them in ways that more accurately reflect the contemporary diversity and heterogeneity of modern France.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)49-56
Number of pages8
JournalContemporary French and Francophone Studies
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Cultural Studies
  • History
  • Visual Arts and Performing Arts
  • Literature and Literary Theory


  • ambivalence
  • complicity
  • Postcolonial humor
  • reappropriation
  • stereotypes
  • tragedy


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