Not just a joke: The ‘quenelle’ as a running gag masking anti-Semitic communication

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Abstract

Invented by French comedian Dieudonné and interpreted as an anti-Semitic gesture, the ‘quenelle’ is a running gag with worldwide circulation in public settings and social networks. This case confronts us with the challenge posed by the use of humor as a cover for racist communication. Rejecting the options of political ban and media boycott as inefficient, this article examines two alternative strategies discussed in the French public sphere: One remains in the realm of humor and consists of joking back, while the other attempts to unmask the political significance of the quenelle behind the meaning that its producers claim to give it. This article draws on theories of disparagement humor and hermeneutics to propose strategic responses to those using humor as cover for denigration and vilification.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)189-206
Number of pages18
JournalEuropean Journal of Cultural Studies
Volume21
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 Apr 2018

Keywords

  • Anti-establishment
  • Dieudonné
  • French politics
  • anti-Semitism
  • disparagement humor
  • media boycott
  • political ban
  • political humor
  • public sphere

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