Just kidding?

A qualitative research into the sociocultural role and meanings of humorous representations of ethnic diversity in Flemish television comedy (01/10/2018 - 01/10/2022)


Anke Lion


Frederik Dhaenens


Daniël Biltereyst

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To this day, comic imagery that revolves around ethnic differences may create intercultural conflicts and polarize public debates. This research project, funded by the Research Foundation Flanders (FWO), wants to explore this ‘tricky terrain’ of identity-based humour in a Flemish climate that is marked by ethno-cultural tensions, colorblind ideology and a lack of visibility for diaspora audiences in public, mediated and academic spheres. As such, the aim of the project is threefold. First, it wants to unravel and discuss the sociocultural discourses that revolve around humorous representations of ethnic diversity. Second, it seeks to explore the complex, ambiguous and even paradoxical role of comedy in broaching sensitive issues and challenging ethnic stereotypes and intercultural misunderstandings. Third, it aims to reflect on the ethics and limits of representation in a politically correct environment

To this end, the multimethod project first explores diaspora youth’s comedy preferences and knowledge of Flemish TV shows by means of co-creation sessions. Second, it scrutinizes the representations of ethnic diversity in four Flemish TV comedy genres by means of in-depth textual analysis. Third, it examines the public mediated debate revolving around these representations, paying attention to both traditional news articles and social media comments. Fourth, the project explores the various ways diaspora youth make sense of humorous representations of ethnic diversity and how they evaluate the potential role of humour in addressing sensitive topics. By result, the project aspires to provide a significant contribution to the international fields of critical humour studies, diaspora (youth) studies and media and cultural studies, as well as studies on critical race theory.