Graduate Theses & Dissertations

Laughing to be Citizens
This study will focus on how immigrants from Sub Saharan African (SSA) countries use humour as a tool for integration and belonging (and ultimately citizenship) in Canada. My aim is to investigate, through a detailed analysis of popular culture productions from immigrant communities, the strategies and techniques of humour that immigrants employ as a mode of communication with fellow immigrants, their immediate host community and the governmental authorities of Canada. I am particularly interested in how African immigrants use their oral background and cultural memory in the production of jokes and other humour products as a way of interacting, first with fellow immigrants as the primary audience and recipients of the humour and, second, with Canadian society at large. Using the ‘Signifying’ theory of Henry Louis Gates (1988) and Mikhail Bakhtin’s (1968) concept of the “Carnivalesque” as the theoretical framework for this study, I argue that immigrants from SSA countries are using humour to question hegemonic regulations that portrays them as victims, while providing alternative narratives of themselves as subjects with human agency. I further postulate that immigrants are taking advantage of the policy of multiculturalism that exists in Canada in a positive manner as an enabler for their humour. In turn, they are using the humour produced to communicate and break down social barriers, while building bridges across communities and social strata. I bolster my arguments with a consideration of humour in three genres of popular culture – literature, standup comedy and film – to show how immigrants rely on their home culture to produce humour in an effort to find belonging in Canada as contributors rather than victims. This thesis is the first work to examine SSA humour, produced by immigrants from these countries, in the context of their immigration and integration into Canada, and the first to present extended literary criticism of the works of immigrant writers, Tololwa Mollel, Yabome Gilpin-Jackson and Segun Akinlolu. This is also the first study on the comedy of Arthur Simeon, originally from Uganda and the film of Phina Brooks, originally from Nigeria. My analysis apprehends the immigrant voice in the writings and productions of these artists and places their works in conversation with Canadian literary/cultural criticism. Until now, there has been no study of the function of humour produced by African immigrants in Canada. It is my hope that this study will not only fill that gap, but also lay the groundwork for future study in this field that I believe holds a lot of socio-cultural promise, especially in the area of cohesive habitation amongst different ethnic groups. This study aims to contribute to conversations on immigration and its impact on Canadian society as part of nation-building and national consciousness. Author Keywords: African Stand up Comedy, Humour, Immigration, Multiculturalism, Popular Culture, Postcolonialism

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2011 - 2021
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