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Authoritarian ApprehensionsIdeology, Judgment, and Mourning in Syria$
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Lisa Wedeen

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780226650579

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: May 2020

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226650746.001.0001

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Humor in Dark Times

Humor in Dark Times

Chapter:
(p.49) 2 Humor in Dark Times
Source:
Authoritarian Apprehensions
Author(s):

Lisa Wedeen

Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
DOI:10.7208/chicago/9780226650746.003.0003

Chapter two demonstrates the reliability and incompleteness of ideological reproduction by detailing how dramatic comedies operated ideologically among Syria’s citizenry under al-Asad’s emerging market-oriented autocracy before the uprising. The chapter considers the work of Allayth Hajju, one of Syria’s best-known television directors, registering both the grim realities of the decade just past and the evident seductions of the neoliberal turn. At times uncannily prescient, at times poignantly bleak, Hajju’s comedy opens up alternatives to its own most conservative impulses, demonstrating the potency and unevenness of ideological saturation. Even his most biting comedy perpetuates an ideology of neoliberal autocracy, while also providing openings for an oppositional consciousness. Comedy expresses a struggle between desires for political reform and attachments to everyday conventions, as prefiguring solidarities in acts of disruption that are themselves ambiguous—and politically relevant for being so. Those solidarities congealed in the notably unambivalent humor of the uprising’s early days and have come to be refreshed in the open-ended, mini publics of the contemporary period. Monologues of young activists amid the devastation of 2016–2017 do more than suggest resilience; their capacities for mimicry, multiple registers of address, and embrace of uncertainty draw attention to future possibilities in past paths not taken.

Keywords:   ideology, comedy, autocracy, Bashar al-Asad, Allayth Hajju, neoliberal, saturation, solidarities, ambiguity

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