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Comic strips and “the crisis”: postcolonial laughter and coping with everyday life in Zimbabwe

Willems, Wendy (2011) Comic strips and “the crisis”: postcolonial laughter and coping with everyday life in Zimbabwe. Popular Communication, 9 (2). pp. 126-145. ISSN 1540-5702

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Identification Number: 10.1080/15405702.2011.562099


In African Studies, political cartoons and comic strips have frequently been analyzed in relation to concepts of power and resistance and considered as ways in which those subject to power challenge the rulers (Mason, 2002; Mbembe, 2001; Nyamnjoh, 2009). To a certain extent, these studies have reflected the wider debate on the role of humor in the relation between rulers and ruled in the postcolony. In media and cultural studies, scholars have analyzed comics primarily as ideological texts which offer a particular framing of reality. Drawing on the Zimbabwean comic strip Chikwama, which was published in the Zimbabwean privately owned newspaper The Daily News in the early 2000s, this article argues that postcolonial laughter does not always address those in power, but humor may also point fingers at those subject to power in an attempt to make readers cope with the tragic events unfolding around them. Laughter frequently adopts a self-reflexive mode through which those subject to power mock their own powerlessness and lack of agency in the face of a system that they perceive as immutable. Furthermore, the strip Chikwama also highlights how media discourse came to reflect the way in which politics slowly invaded the lives of ordinary Zimbabweans, hereby reinforcing the importance of treating media texts as embedded in broader social discourses. The comic strip Chikwama did not only replicate the particular institutional ideology of The Daily News but also mirrored the way in which ordinary Zimbabweans negotiated the social and economic impact of the crisis on an everyday basis.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2011 Taylor & Francis Group, LLC
Divisions: Media and Communications
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
Sets: Departments > Media and Communications
Date Deposited: 19 Mar 2013 14:41
Last Modified: 20 May 2020 02:26

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