Why do we laugh at things that appall us?

In our increasingly fraught world we know that jokes about distressing situations arise and are popular in such situations themselves. We also know that in-group gallows humor can be appropriated and used by others whose intention is to offend, but who deflect criticism by saying they are being ironic or “just kidding”. Can we think about humor like this in ways that see it as something other than, or more than, the generally agreed-upon ways of considering humor: as an expression of superiority, the release of nervous energy, or the perception of incongruity? Does the hilarity of the awful offer us any special perspective on engagement with other human beings, and the world?

The symposium takes place in Uppsala on October 31, 2017, 10:45 am–7 pm, in the University Main Building, room IV.

Register your participation by emailing mats.hyvonen@antro.uu.se no later than 24 October.

Download the symposium program here.

Speakers at the symposium

Simon Critchley, Hans Jonas Professor of Philosophy, New School for Social Research, will talk about humor and tragedy.


Deborah Cameron, Rupert Murdock Professor of Language and Communication, Oxford University, will talk about academic awfulness.


Angela Nagle, Cultural critic for The Baffler and the Dublin Review of Books, will talk about irony and the alt-right.


Karl Ekeman, Doctoral student, Literature and Rhetoric, Uppsala University will talk about the webcomic meme “Captain Sweden”.


Delia Chiaro, Professor of English Language and Translation, University of Bologna, will talk about the resurgence of poop jokes in contemporary culture.


Carole Vance, Professor of Anthropology, Columbia University, will talk about Trump and sex.


Carl Johan De Geer, Swedish artist, designer, filmmaker and author, will discuss aesthetics beyond good and bad [In Swedish].