AHSA statement in support of Black Lives Matter
The American Humor Studies Association supports Black Lives Matter and similarly believes we must confront systemic racial injustice in all arenas. The protests in the last month have forced us to reexamine our commitment to racial and social equality. Our organization stands with those who believe in and fight for an inclusive and democratic world. The Movement for Black Lives has not only energized the nation’s political scene, but also our association. To do our part, we commit to diversifying our membership, expanding the range of our scholarship, and encouraging publication of work that examines issues of power, social injustice, and equity across all identity categories. As students of American humor, in its many forms, we have the opportunity and duty to acknowledge the multiplicity of voices that in the past constituted the landscape of humor in the United States. Those voices strive to be heard today, in order that, as John Berger puts it, “Never again one story will be told as if it were the only story.”
Greetings from the new president
There is something incongruous about becoming president of the American Humor Studies Association during these most unhumorous of times: A pandemic that, at the time of this writing, has killed half a million people worldwide, including 125,000 Americans and counting. Our relatives, friends and neighbors have been affected, even if we ourselves were fortunate not to be. The academic world retreated into online teaching and learning. Students were sent back home in the spring, finding themselves cut off from friends and classmates, while instructors did their best at recreating their classes, now diminished as a remote experience. A new normal confined Americans to their homes for months and in the process, millions lost their jobs. We watched in frustration numerous inadequate responses from the federal government.
Compounding the sense of crisis, is the police brutality against people of color, vividly exemplified in the shocking spectacle of George Floyd being casually killed over the course of nearly nine minutes by a policeman (with a record of violence) while three other officers watched. Across the country, untold thousands of Americans demonstrated in demand of police accountability. American humor has not avoided the uncertain, frightening social climate of the last few months. Throughout this pandemic, humor has helped connect a society fragmented by forced physical isolation. It has called attention to the cruelty of our social dysfunctions, addressed our government’s ineptitude at dealing with the current health and economic crisis, and denounced the unchecked epidemic of police brutality.
These are sobering subjects for those of us who study humor, even for those of us whose interests lie in the distant past.
The pandemic prevented our meeting in Austin in June that we were all so looking forward to. But despite that, the AHSA is brimming with energy and new initiatives. Here are three.
- Consider the most recent issue of StAH. Judith Yaross Lee’s “American Humor and Matters of Empire: A Proposal and Invitation,” challenges us to abandon a parochial framework for our scholarship and to incorporate a complex transnational view.
- Check out the quality of this year’s winners of the Rosenbalm Prize on American Humor. Perin E. Gürel’s “Amerikan Jokes: The Transnational Politics of Unlaughter in Turkey” won First Place and Albert Sergio Laguna’s “Edgardo Vega Yunqué and the Comedy of Race,” received Honorable Mention.
- Help us spread the word about the new mentoring initiative to help graduate students publish articles (especially to graduate students from historically underrepresented populations), and, a program now in the works to help young faculty publish their first book.
With Beck Krefting, the incoming Vice-President, and Tracy Wuster, the Executive Director, along with a solid governing board, I am excited to move forward.
Let us be intentionally anti-racist and continue to discuss ways to be more inclusive and to broaden our group. I look forward to doing that work with you.
Three cheers to the humorist and the humor scholar.
President of the AHSA
Professor of History
Columbia College Chicago