Anthropologist explores humor as culture of resistance in Palestine

Nora Kamal, associate researcher at University of Vienna and an expert in social and cultural anthropology, gave a lecture on Palestinian folklore and political humor, examining how it can undercut the power of the Israeli occupation.

Speaking at the invitation of Birzeit University’s Department of Social and Behavioral Science, Kamal talked about her research project titled “Humor.” She traces in particular how the deployment of humor and laughter in the Palestinian context, under the Israeli occupation, functions as a mode and practice of the refusal to submit to subjugation and why it is considered a significant strategy of resistance.

Kamal pointed out that her research explores how humor has become part of Palestinian daily life and is employed in political, social and culture activities and interactions. “Jokes are tied to resistance,” she explained, “and mainly target the Israeli army, exemplifying powerful and subversive ways through which ordinary people ridicule their occupiers and represent the reality beneath the one imposed on them.”

Ala Alazzeh, chair of the Department of Social and Behavioral Science, commented on Kamal’s argument and emphasized the importance of humor and political jokes in reflecting what communities under oppression must endure. “Humor is used as a strategy to knock oppressors down from their powerful position; it serves as a form of resistance that cushions the blows of the occupation. Thus, humor gives Palestinians a sense of freedom even though they live under tension and frustration,” Alazzeh added.