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Laughable borders: Making the case for the humorous in migration studies

by Anja K. Franck

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Submission summary

Authors (as registered SciPost users): Anja Franck
Submission information
Preprint Link: scipost_202205_00006v1  (pdf)
Date accepted: 2022-05-18
Date submitted: 2022-05-10 13:26
Submitted by: Franck, Anja
Submitted to: Migration Politics
Ontological classification
Academic field: Political Science
  • Migration Politics


Humor is widely recognized as a fundamental aspect of the human experience, that has historically also played an important role in the way marginalized groups comment on and mock power. Yet, in migration research, the methodological and analytical value of the humorous has been more or less entirely overlooked. Rather to the contrary, migration studies has overwhelmingly centered its analysis around suffering and tragedy and, in the process, migrant trajectories have become depicted as endeavors that are largely devoid of humor, laughter, wit, irony, and play. This article, however, suggests that the almost single dedication to hardship in migration research has implications for the types of knowledge that we (re)produce around migrants’ experiences, subjectivities and struggles. In fact, it argues that our humorless representation of migrants risks feeding into de-humanization processes that tends to exceptionalize migrants’ experiences and subject positions. Offering an ethnographic account from fieldwork in Lesvos the article not only highlights how migrants do laugh at their own circumstances and the technologies put in place to control their lives and freedom of movement – but also how such laughter does political work in the way migrants narrate and navigate their experiences. In doing this it focuses on humor as a refusal to normalize conditions of subjugation, as a form of ironic truth-telling and the work that it can do to expose the absurdity of violence.

Published as Mig. Pol. 1, 004 (2022)

Author comments upon resubmission


So I have made some minor revisons.
As suggested by reviewer 2, I have added a few notes on gender: In the theory section I have highlighted how humor intersects gender, class etc. and also added a comment on how gender mattered for the way that Qasim and his companions were able to use humor in a footnote.
As suggested by reviewer 1, I have also edited the final part of the conclusions to not end on a quote by someone else.
I have also added a footnote on how scholars have used Scott's notion of resistance to study the functioning of humor.
Apart from this the paper has been through some proof-reading by a native English-speaking colleague.
With these revisions, I hope you find the paper ready for publication in Migration Politics.


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Resubmission scipost_202205_00006v1 on 10 May 2022

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