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ABSTRACT. Drawn from a larger study that examined raced interactions in a racially diverse urban high school in the Midwest, this paper uses Mikhail Bakhtin’s carnival to explore how three young men from different races created a carnival-like atmosphere as they exchanged what they called ‘racist jokes’ during a three-month collaboration on a documentary film about immigration. Findings suggest that carnival laughter and abuse rituals were dialogically generative. That is, they allowed the young men to play with and transform racial stereotypes in a space otherwise overshadowed by colorblind racial discourses, and in so doing, come to know each other and engage deeply in their film work. Drawing upon Bakhtin’s theory of the carnivalesque, I argue that laughter, even the most profane and abusive laughter considered to be taboo in classroom spaces, opens a possibility for closeness, dialogic consciousness, and deep learning. The purpose of this paper is to demonstrate that backstage laughter, as an embodied reaction to ideologies, is far from off-task and may, in fact, be central to the kinds of engaged collaboration and critique we desire for students. pp. 38–46

Keywords: race; laughter; carnival; dialogic; embodiment; discourse

doi:10.22381/KC5320173

JESSICA DOCKTER TIERNEY
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University of Minnesota

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