Extending ethnic humour theory: Genuine vs. functional ethnic jokе scripts


ethnic humour
genuine and functional ethnic scripts
ethnic identity and interethnic understanding

How to Cite

Takovski, A. (2018). Extending ethnic humour theory: Genuine vs. functional ethnic jokе scripts. The European Journal of Humour Research, 6(2), 60–80. https://doi.org/10.7592/EJHR2018.6.2.254.takovski


Most ethnic humour that has been studied so far consists of jokes which use ethnically non-specific qualities such as stupidity or canniness in order to ridicule an ethnic group and thus to preserve and perpetuate ethnically based social hierarchies in western industrial societies. In light of this dominant logic in ethnic humour theory, the objective of this study is to problematize the relation of such non-ethnic qualities and the notion of ethnic identity, as well as their relation to a specific type of society, in an attempt to convincingly argue in favour of the need to differentiate between ‘ethnically-empty’ functional joke scripts and genuine ethnic joke scripts that are related to the ethnic identity of the target. In so doing, I extend ethnic humour theory by introducing and testing the notion of genuine ethnic joke scripts in order to motivate future research that will tackle other potential ethnic humour idiosyncrasies. Toward this end, I have collected and analysed joke material (N=369) coming from Macedonia, Bulgaria, Serbia, and Albania, societies with histories and relations very different that those in the western industrial societies. Additionally, the study incorporates two questionnaires with members of the two largest ethnicities in the Republic of Macedonia, Macedonians and Albanians, to ascertain the relation between the genuine ethnic humour and ethnic identity.


Apte, M. (1985). Humor and Laughter: An Anthropological Approach. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.

Apte, M. (1987). ‘Ethnic humor versus sense of humor: An American

sociocultural dilemma’. American Behavioral Scientist 30 (3), pp. 27–41.

Barth, F. (1969). Ethnic groups and boundaries: The Social Organization of Culture Difference. Boston: Little, Brown, & Co.

Brass, P. R. (1991). Ethnicity and Nationalism: Theory and Comparison. SAGE Publications.

Boskin, J. & Dorinson, J. (1985). ‘Ethnic humor: subversion and survival’. American Quarterly 37 (1), pp. 81–97.

Boxman, L. S. & Shifman, L. 2015. ‘When ethnic humor goes digital’. New Media and Society 17(4), pp. 520-539.

Cohen, A. (1996). ‘Ethnicity and Politics’, in Hutchinson, J. & Smith, D.C (eds.), Ethnicity. Oxford University Press, pp. 83-84

Cundall, M. (2012). ‘Towards better understanding of racist and ethnic humor’. Humor 25 (2), pp. 155-177.

Davies, C. (1990). Ethnic Humor Around the World: A Comparative Analysis. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

Davies, C. (1998). The Mirth of Nations. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction.

del Rio, C.M. (2013). ‘Can ethnic humour appreciation be influenced by political reasons? A comparative study of the Basque Country and Calalonia’. European Journal of Humour Research 1(2), pp. 24- 42.

Geertz, C. (1963). ‘The integrative revolution: primordial sentiments and civil politics in the new states’, in Geertz, C. (ed.), Old Societies and New States: The Quest for Modernity in Asia and Africa. New York: Free Press, pp.255-310.

Gonzales, M. E. & Wiseman, R. L. (2005). ‘Ethnic Iidentification and the perceived humor and rudeness of ethnic jokes’. Intercultural Communication Studies 14 (2), pp. 170–183.

Hechter, M. ( 1986 ). ‘A rational choice approach to race and ethnic relations’, in Mason, D &

Rex, J. (eds.), Theories of Race and Ethnic Relations. Cambridge University Press, 268-277.

Kuipers, G. (2000). ‘The difference between a Surinamese and a Turk: Ethnic jokes and the position of ethnic minorities in the Netherlands’. Humor 13 (2), 141-175.

Kuipers, G. & van der Ent, B. (2016). ‘The seriousness of ethnic jokes: Ethnic humor and social change in the Netherlands, 1995–2012’. Humour 29(4), pp. 605-633.

Laineste, L. (2005). ‘Targets of Estonian ethnic jokes within the theory of ethnic humour (ch.Davies)’.Folklore 29, pp. 7-24. Available at: http://www.folklore.ee/folklore/vol29/davies.pdf.

Lowe, John. 1986. ‘Theories of ethnic humor: How to enter, laughing’. American Quarterly 38 (3), pp. 439–460.

Martin, R.A. (2006). The Psychology of Humor: An Integrative Approach. Burlington: Elsevier Academic Press.

Oshima, K. (2000). ‘Ethnic jokes and social function in Hawaii’. Humor 13 (1), pp. 41-57.

Rappoport, L. (2005). Punchlines: The Case for Racial, Ethnic, and Gender Humor. Westport, CT: Praeger Publishers.

Schutz, C. (1977). Political Humor. Cranbury, N. J.: Associated University Presses.

Schutz, C. (1989). ‘The sociability of ethnic jokes’. Humor 2 (2), pp. 165–177.

Smith, D. A. (1986). The Ethnic Origins of Nations. Oxford: Blackwell.

Smith, D. A. (1991). National Identity. Hardmondsworth: Penguin Books.

Sollors, W. (1986). Beyond Ethnicity: Consent and Descent in American Culture. New York: Oxford University Press.

Takovski, A. (2015). ‘From joker to the butt and back Ethnic identity construction through humour’, Language and Dialogue 5 (1), pp. 127–150.

van der Berghe, P.L. (1995). ‘Does race matter?’, Nations and Nationalisms 1(3), pp. 357-368.

Weaver, S. (2014). ‘Ethnicity and humor', in Attardo, S. (ed.), Encyclopedia of humor studies. (Vols. 1-2). Thousand Oaks, California: SAGE Publications., pp. 81-96.

All authors agree to an Attribution Non-Commercial Non Derivative Creative Commons License on their work.


Download data is not yet available.