Irony's Potential as Subversive Strategy: A Case Study of Anti-Racist Stand-Up Comedy

Charlotte Ortmanns


In this paper, I evaluate the potential of irony to subvert racist discourse.
Irony is characterised by semantic forms that engage explicit
and implicit language so as to communicate oppositional or contradictory
meanings for satirical or contentious purposes. This process
is complicated as meaning often remains contested between
the author of a statement and its various interpreters. My analysis of
the stand-up comedian Aamer Rahman’s work shows how irony can
be used by comedians in order to subvert dominant and exploitative
discourses. In particular, I illustrate how irony provides him with a
tool to evoke and simultaneously distance himself from anti-Muslim
racist discourses. For white audiences with an interest in deconstructing
their own complicity in racism, his comedy can function
as a Critical Public Pedagogy that enables critical self-reflection.


Irony, Subversion, Stand-Up Comedy, Anti-Racism, Critical Public Pedagogy

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