Ethnic humour in a multicultural society

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Abstract

The coexistence of different cultures in specific pluralistic settings not only has positive but also negative impacts. Besides exchanging cultural contents within a multicultural environment, societies use humour as a form of social interaction, which reinforces cultural interrelationships as well as ethnical differences. However, humour differs from culture to culture and from individual to individual. On the one hand, it develops social cohesion, fosters positive relations and increases the self-identification of the individual in relation to other ethnic groups, but on the other hand, it functions as an acceptable and tolerated form of aggression in a particular society. The bipolar character of humour stems from its status and functions. It serves both as a social unifier and a social separator. The most common paradigms of humour in social discourse are ethnic jokes or cartoons that are often built on fixed ethnic/racial stereotypes leading to social categorization but also to fast and correct decoding of semantic information by an audience. Ethnic jokes are social thermometers, recording and measuring the level of sensitivity towards specific cultural groups. The main aim of this paper is to introduce ethnic humour and its key functions in the context of ongoing cultural interactions and changes.

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