JOKES, WAR, AND GENOCIDE
WORKING GROUP / DAMIR ARSENIJEVIC´Ć, EMIN EMINAGIC´Ć, SELMA PUZIC´Ć, ADIS SADIKOVIC´Ć & PAVLINA VUJOVIC´Ć
We have come together to explore jokes as speech about war and genocide and the effects such speech produces in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Jokes, as speech about war and genocide, are posited and explored as specific forms of witnessing, testifying to the unconscious of the war and genocide. We start with Freud’s position that jokes, and the enjoyment gained through jokes, are short-circuits. Jokes are created in language, as opposed to the comic, which is found in a situation, this being a crucial difference for our work on jokes about war and genocide. These jokes testify to loss and continuing pain. They also enable enjoyment through the joke-work.
Enjoyment through jokes is greater if individual images that are short-circuited are wider apart. Short-circuit is a way to examine predominant positions and ways of thinking, shedding light on their silenced and disavowed assumptions and effects. In a short-circuit created by the joke, not only can we understand something new, but also gain an insight into something more important and more disturbing— “rediscovery of what is familiar,” of what we have always already known but about which we have had to be silent. In such a short-circuit, we locate “the help of joke”: to secure enjoyment in something that would otherwise be repressed, to secure enjoyment from objection on the part of criticism, which would end enjoyment. Jokes, as the most social of “all the mental functions that aim at a yield of pleasure,” need three persons to secure pleasure: the person who tells the joke, the person or a situation about which the joke is told and the third person to whom we tell the joke. The first person, or teller’s pleasure is secured when they see the third person, or listener’s, pleasure.
Bringing together the first position about a joke as a type of witnessing and the psychoanalytic insight about a joke as the most social of all functions that secure pleasure, through our analysis, we open up the space for witnessing as part of the commons—as space of collective action, speech and thinking. Our thesis is that a joke, though a short-circuit, enables us to open up a space beyond prohibitions and oppression for speech such as: witnessing to war and genocide, the denial of genocide, the position of life that remains after war and the role of myth in cementing the positions gained in the war.