Michael Cotter

Michael Cotter

  • Loughborough University
  • Social Sciences
Participant in 2013

Phd Projects


New Ways To Express Old Hatred - The Transformation of Comic Racism in Contemporary British Popular Culture

New Ways To Express Old Hatred is a comprehensive account of how comic racist discourse is produced, distributed and consumed in contemporary British social media in terms of both its ethics and aesthetics. The main focal point is the current emergence of explicit comic racism in digitalised forms of popular culture and media, most notably internet joking sites and smart phone applications. This contemporary emergence is discussed in relation to the historical context of wider comic racism in Britain. This maintains that comic racist discourse has been consistently reproduced for the last fifty years, however it's form and presentation has undertaken a process of transformation in order for it to be circulated in contemporary popular cultural products unchallenged. Furthermore to investigate comic racism in more detail, this thesis addresses both historical and contemporary examples of its both ethical and aesthetic antithesis, anti-racist comic media. The study researches the subject from a multi-method perspective in order to fully account for the several facets of comic racism and to allow the discussion of it in terms of both its aesthetic form and ethical transgressions. The three areas addressed are production, text and reception. These three areas are simultaneously researched using methods of interviewing, critical discourse analysis and focus groups across a wide sample including professional comedians, the internet and smart phone texts and a diverse selection of members of the public from different backgrounds, ethnicities and genders. Conducting the study from these three approaches in this context provides an original contribution to the growing field of critical humour studies. Therefore the project combines history, theory, textual analysis and societal implications to describe this problematic contemporary phenomenon. It asks questions such as why do people take pleasure from offensive humour, why are racist discourses circulated and why less severe forms of racism are allowed to subsist in contemporary society. It illustrates the changing forms of comic racism provided by developments of twenty-first century digital media and its transformation into an ambivalent and ambiguous discourse in terms of both its aesthetics and ethics. Furthermore most importantly it details the ways in which audiences understand and make sense of racism, to ultimately explain how explicit forms of comic racist discourse have come find a place in mass accepted popular culture in contemporary society and perhaps most importantly what implications this has on those groups that are subordinated in the humour.

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