Humour as resistance (against settler colonialism): Jeremy A. Siegman, ‘Playing with Antagonists: The Politics of Humor in Israeli‐Palestinian Market Encounters’, PoLAR, 2020


Abstract: This article identifies playful antagonism as a defining mode of rare Israeli‐Palestinian encounters in Israeli settlement businesses. It is based on ethnographic work primarily in an Israeli settlement supermarket where the lowest‐paid workers are mostly occupied Palestinians. This playful antagonism characterizes heated Israeli‐Palestinian political exchanges as well as Palestinian workers’ mockery of their settler bosses and customers, through gestures and jokes alike. These practices navigate an incongruity between the high‐stakes antagonisms of Israeli settler‐colonization and the banality of the workplace. Rather than preventing more “serious” antagonism, this playful antagonism is itself serious, enacting and contesting existential struggles over settler‐colonization, in a context saturated with suspicion and risk to Palestinian livelihoods. Thus, rather than framing humor as standing outside of or transcending political domination and antagonism, this article frames humor as a way of enacting these forms of settler‐native politics. It thus stages a fresh conversation between the recent literature on settler colonialism in Palestine, which has understandably focused on Israeli domination but ignored Israeli‐Palestinian contact and humor, and the literature on humor, which has often ignored scaled‐up forms of power and domination. The article thus contributes to a political anthropology of humor as intertwined with power and domination.

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