Performativity of Japanese Laughter

By Mio Bryce and Hanae Katayama.

Published by The Humanities Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Laughter is a complicated and highly sensitive human activity, implying ambivalent elements, such as spontaneity and performativity, innocence and tactics. It can elicit simply cheerful ambience but also facilitate powerful victimisation by provoking embarrassment of the target. Humoristic discourses are often heavily culture-specific in terms of the text and the situation wherein they are expressed. This is particularly true with Japanese humour, due to the insular and circumstantial nature of the language (e.g., Toyama, 1976) and the way communicative protocols are executed.

This paper will examine manzai (Japanese stand-up comedy) and explore Japanese laughter, paying a particular attention to their performativity. Our discussions include the essential characteristics of laughter and humour and their social-cultural and psychological background (Benedict, 1946; Hibbett, 1998-2005; Kawai, 2005, Kitayama, 1993; Kotthoff, 1996; Norrick, 1993, 2001, 2004; Oda, 1986; Raskin, 1985; Sakuta, 1967; Schmitz, 2002; Umehara, 1972). Our hypothesis is that Japanese comical discourses are highly performative and staged, either physically or imaginably, installing the readers/audiences in a voyeuristic perspective, often as an accomplice of one of the participants of the humoristic performance.

Keywords: Laughter, Humor, Performativity, Manzai, Manga, Anime, Japanese Language and Culture

International Journal of the Humanities, Volume 6, Issue 9, pp.125-132. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 678.209KB).

Dr. Mio Bryce

Senior Lecturer, Head of Department of Asian Studies, Division of Humanities, Macquarie University, Sydney, NSW, Australia

Senior Lecturer and Head of Department of Asian Studies at Macquarie University, teaching Japanese language, literature and manga related units. PhD in Japanese classical literature, The Tale of Genji, from the University of Sydney.

Dr. Hanae Katayama

Associate Lecturer, Department of Asian Studies, Macquarie University, Sydney, NSW, Australia

Associate Lecturer, Asian Studies at Macquarie University. Ph.D. in Applied Linguistics from the Pennsylvania State University. Areas of interest are cross-cultural/intercultural communication and popular culture discourse in English and Japanese.

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