This paper has its origin in research on festivals in Central Italy, focused on the themes of body, territory and aggressive/competitive dynamics. The comparisons between two festivals in particular alerted me to a potentially interesting angle by which to view the role of humour in relation to festivals and political life. The main line of inquiry follows links and a possible progression from movement and rough and tumble play, to humour and aggression. Issues of ambivalence and fluidity are explored in relation to these and a connection between the natures of festivals and humour. A possible link between territorial motifs and humour emerges.
The paper is constructed along the following lines:
An eclectic approach seeks to bring together different ideas and perspectives much the same way as humour does, shifting the boundaries of thinking along different disciplines.
By looking at festivals in the light of theories of humour it may be possible to gain some understanding of both festivals and humour's function. The affective links between these, body, territory and intellect are highlighted.
Laughter is viewed as a homogenous response to an invasion of territory be it bodily or intellectual.
A further element considered is the interplay between two levels of existence, using Winnicott’s terms: playing and reality.
The relative levels of safety or threat present or perceived give the difference between these two levels, highlighting what may trigger shifts between ritualised, socially contained expressions of aggression and actual conflict.
It follows that the possibility for trust is fundamental to how festivals and cultural experiences where aggressive dynamics are played out may allow these a containable expression or unleash the possibility of social unrest
The complexity of humour cannot be contained in a short paper, the following is only a sketch of a particular aspect and perspective. More research into the affective nature of humour and laughter has plenty of potential, but will have to wait for the time being.
Crociani-Windland, L. (2004). Humouring aggression. Journal of Psychosocial Studies, 3(2),