Sümeyra Günes Ertekin
Grant TypeDissertation Fieldwork Grant
Institutional AffiliationBoston U.
Grant numberGr. 10510
Approve DateApril 6, 2023
Project TitleGünes Ertekin, Sümeyra (Boston U.) "Can the Subaltern Joke? Identity Humor and Offense on Istanbul’s Stand-Up Stages"
My research project explores how stand-up comedians claim visibility and carve themselves alternative spaces on stages in the highly censored public space of Istanbul and within the broader political context of Turkey’s authoritarian rule. This project focuses on the entitlement that makes a joke possible; the punitive/legal, social, and professional consequences of these jokes; and the boundary-crossing/boundary-making practices of stand-up comedy. Paradigms that rest on the oppositions between the self and the subaltern, subversion/subordination, or resistance/hegemony are insufficient for analyzing the humorous representations of ethnic, religious, cultural, and sexual identities on the stage. Beyond state surveillance and related legal consequences, stand-up comedians in Turkey have to navigate more ambiguous workings of power. Appropriateness, political correctness, censorship, and the freedom to offend are always situated within a particular set of specific political, legal, and social circumstances. What does it mean for someone from a minority background in Turkey, whether they are Alevi citizens belonging to a religious minority, Kurdish citizens constituting an ethnic minority, LGBTQIA+ individuals, or members of migrant populations to make identity jokes on a stand-up stage in Istanbul? How are the lines of acceptable representation as well as offense drawn and renegotiated between Istanbul’s comedians and their audience?