By this point of the course you should be very familiar with theories of humor.
should be able to distinguish and explain the significance of 1) Incongruity Theory, 2)
Relief Theory, and 3) Superiority (see Crtichley).
In addition, our last set of readings deal with the issue of rationality in detail (Odysseos,
Since the Enlightenment, social science and academic inquiry have been
centered on the notion of rationality.
While there is nothing inherently wrong with
inquiry based on rationality, the thinkers in this section of the course make the point
clear that rationality has been elevated above all other modes of discourse.
The focus on
the rational eclipses all other modes of inquiry or discourse.
One other mode of thought
or inquiry that these authors introduce is humor/comedy.
That is, instead of explaining
events in the world through rational narrative, other narratives—like the comedic, may
reveal very interesting insight and descriptions about global events.
We must think about the role and/or purpose of humor as we engage the second part of
this course: IR concepts.
As we continue through this course we will juxtapose IR
concepts (presented in the readings and lectures) with humor (presented in the films).
We will critically engage the use of humor in understanding world politics.
examine how many assumed, rational, and obvious IR concepts like deterrence,
inevitable conflict, rational state action, balance of power, sovereignty, anarchy,
international law, the importance of international institutions (ex: UN), etc. are turned on
their heads or “defamiliarized” by humor.
Humor will offer us a new lens for critically
engaging traditional IR concepts.
For example, within IR paradigms, realists generally argue that conflict is inevitable.
is assumed that states interact in an anarchical international society.
Lacking any global
government or authority, states must act in their own self-interest to survive.
conditions of limited resources, imperfect diplomacy and communication, the threat of
aggressive states, and the desire for self-preservation, it is inevitable that states will
compete and engage in conflict.
Not engaging in conflict and not desiring self-
preservation is “irrational.”
Now, as we watch Catch-22, for example, we examine how
this issue of rationality is addressed.
This film presents war as a very irrational
In addition, this film also encourages us to think about bureaucracy within
war, the “military industrial complex,” and the treatment of soldiers as interchangeable.
What else does this film do?
How else does it challenge IR assumptions?