Burning effigies with Bakhtinian laughter
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The hanging or burning of effigies as an expression of dissent is a well-established genre of playful political protest. It is enacted in a variety of ways, accessing the conventions of various traditional rituals and social practices, and can function either as a progressive force demanding change, or repressively in seeking to enforce the existing order. Building on a close reading of media images of effigy protests from over the world, I relate the employed strategies of reversal and debasement and the grotesque aesthetics of these dummies to Bakhtin’s concept of the carnivalesque. I trace the different kinds of laughter that emerge during the effigy protests and explore the complicated relationship between laughter and violence inherent in these performed images of violent death.
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