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Deflating the Dictators: Satire, Humor, and 21st Century Tyranny

Organization: Humanities
Categories: Postcolonial, American, Hispanic & Latino, Comparative, Interdisciplinary, Popular Culture, Literary Theory, Women's Studies, World Literatures, African-American, Colonial, Revolution & Early National, Transcendentalists, 1865-1914, 20th & 21st Century, Aesthetics, Anthropology/Sociology, Classical Studies, Cultural Studies, Environmental Studies, Film, TV, & Media, Food Studies, History, Philosophy, African & African Diasporas, Asian & Asian Diasporas, Australian Literature, Canadian Literature, Caribbean & Caribbean Diasporas, Indian Subcontinent, Eastern European, Mediterranean, Middle East, Native American, Scandinavian, Pacific Literature
Event Date: 2020-01-01 Abstract Due: 2019-09-30

"Deflating the Dictators: Satire, Humor, and 21st Century Tyranny"

For a special issue of Humanities (ISSN 2076-0787).

After the opening of the Berlin Wall and the Iron Curtain, hopes were high that other dictatorships around the world might fall as well. The new millennium ushered in a further domino effect after the attacks on the World Trade Center and the wars that led to the elimination of Saddam Hussein and the dispersal of the Taliban. And yet many tyrants have stayed in power, waging war and violating human rights. When tools of diplomacy and weapons of war fail, what ammunition remains to fight them? Historically, satirists have provided some answers to this question. Despite threats of censorship, incarceration, or execution, satirists such as the journalist Kurt Tucholsky, playwright and novelist Mikhail Bulgakov, and actor Charlie Chaplin have openly criticized even the worst despots like Hitler and Stalin. Who are today’s challengers?

The upcoming issue of the journal Humanities seeks to publish international analyses of current efforts by satirists and humorists to call attention to the injustice and abuse inflicted by autocrats. Which satirists are engaging in a national or international struggle for justice against repressive leadership and with what means? How are satire and the related mode of humor currently functioning, despite censorship, in oppressive regimes? How do current satirical or humorous texts depicting oppression incorporate facts and artefacts that generate countercultural memories and thereby fill gaps in other historical or mass media narratives?

A few examples of such artworks include the novel Day of the Oprichnik by Vladimir Sorokin (2006); the essay collection United States of Banana by Giannina Braschi (2011); the Masasit Mati acting group’s finger-puppet show series “Top Goon: Diaries of a Little Dictator” (2011-2012), created to deflate Syrian president Bashar al-Assad; and Trevor Stankiewicz’s mixed genre satirical play The Darfur Compromised (2015).

As Martha C. Nussbaum writes, “the ability to imagine vividly, and then to assess judicially, another person’s pain, to participate in it and then to ask about its significance, is a powerful way of learning what the human facts are and of acquiring a motivation to alter them” (Poetic Justice 91). This issue of Humanities delves into the political outcries and aesthetic innovations of satirical and humorous responses to twenty-first-century oppressive regimes.

Please send completed article (4,000 to 9,000 words, including references) to Jill Twark, East Carolina University, twarkj@ecu.edu by September 30, 2019.

Dr. Jill E. Twark
Guest Editor

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline of Sept 30, 2019.

Humanities is an international peer-reviewed open access quarterly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript.


satire in literature
satire in film
satire and dictatorship
Vladimir Sorokin
Giannina Braschi
Charlie Chaplin
satire and justice
twenty-first-century satire
humor in literature
humor in film
twenty-first-century humor
Special Issue Editors
Special Issue Information
Published Papers



Jill E. Twark