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Integr Psychol Behav Sci. 2013 Dec;47(4):450-81. doi: 10.1007/s12124-013-9239-x.

Stripping the boss: the powerful role of humor in the Egyptian Revolution 2011.

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  • 1Department of Biosciences, University of Helsinki, 00014, Helsinki, Finland, mohamed.helmy@helsinki.fi.

Abstract

The Egyptian Revolution 2011 has shaken the Arab world and stirred up Middle-East politics. Moreover, it caused a rush in political science and the neighboring disciplines, which had not predicted an event like this and now have troubles explaining it. While many things can be learned from the popular uprising, and from the limitations of previous scholarship, our focus will be on a moral resource, which has occasionally been noticed, but not sufficiently explored: the role of humor in keeping up the spirit of the Revolution. For 18 days, protestors persevered at Liberation Square in Central Cairo, the epicenter of resistance; at times a few dozens, at times hundreds of thousands. What they did was to fight the terror of the regime, which reached absurd peaks during those days, with humor-successfully. We offer a social-functionalist account of the uprising, which includes behavioral as well as cultural levels of analysis, and illuminates how humorous means helped to achieve deadly serious goals. By reconstructing how Egyptians laughed themselves into democracy, we outline a social psychology of resistance, which uses humor both as a sword and a shield.

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