Whilst we wait for the world to return to normal, help us restore a sense of normalcy to one of the most misunderstood regions in the world - The Middle East. With English translations, we strive to familiarize the global community with the rich history and tradition of Middle Eastern humour and satire. The Middle East is home to numerous nations, peoples and cultures with a great sense of humor, beyond the stereotypical narratives that we see today. “Middle East Humor: A Digital Docent” (MEHumor) will be the first global, online - open-access - encyclopedia of humor and satire of the Middle East and North Africa.
OUR MISSION: MEHumor is a digital encyclopedia and archival project focused on the humor of the Middle East and North Africa. Generically organized, the project will collect, introduce, contextualize, and translate examples of various types and forms of historical and contemporary humor produced by authors/artists in, or associated with the MENA region.
Our vision: We anticipate MEHumor to become an enormous general interest as well as teaching and research resource on the humor of the Middle East and North Africa. We strive to do this with the help of the public, whilst financially supporting many students along the way, by employing them as Research Assistants.
MEHumor’s audience: Our project combines scholarly precision with accessible language, so we hope to reach a wide array of users, especially the public, throughout the global community.
Open-access: Thanks to donations, MEhumor will always remain a free and open-access resource for all to enjoy and extract knowledge from.
Where does your money go? MEhumor is currently registered as a not-for-profit organization in Ontario, Canada. Your donation will be directly deposited into the organization’s account and spent to advance the research and production of the online encyclopedia.
How much work has been done? Thus far, a team of volunteers and research assistants, under the leadership of Dr. Mostafa Abedinifard, have compiled samples on the following countries: Iran, Turkey, Pakistan, Egypt, Syria and Morocco. Translations and contextualization of satirical literature, oral humour, film and visual media, comedians and periodicals are being completed as you read this!
How can your donations help? Through your donations, we will be able to hire eligible students by offering short-term appointments to undergraduate students as entry writers; hire copy editors; and pay for the website design and maintenance costs.
Why Middle East humor? Currently, it’s no secret that the first thing recalled, on a global level, upon hearing the name “Middle East,” is not its peoples’ sense of humor. Whilst this is largely due to the geopolitical issues going on in the region, it is also due to certain incidents—often violent—directly associated with some humor/satire related to Islam in the past few decades, including the Rushdie affair, the Prophet Muhammad cartoons, and the Charlie Hebdo attacks. Though not a fair representative of the totality of the region and its nations, these incidents were so graphic, and the emotional reactions so universally strong, that in response, in addition to the public attention the episodes attracted, a strand of scholarly research on Islam and humor also gained ground. Some such research explicitly asked whether Muslims have any sense of humor. Yet, do they? Well, it’s no secret either, at least to scholars and themselves, that Middle Easterners—Muslims and non-Muslims alike—have always had rich, varied, and dynamic repertoires of jokes, comedy and satire throughout their histories. There is a growing line, though gradual, of research on the humor of Islamic(ate) societies, which, while analyzing their humor, also makes examples of it available to a global audience. However, perhaps due to the hegemony of mainstream media depictions of the Middle East, it is often war and politics that get the most attention rather than humor, when the region is mentioned in the news and the media. Prior to this project, no single venue existed for introducing, presenting, and archiving specimens of the MENA humor in a systemic manner. The current mission is an answer to this need.
What makes MEHumor unique?
Almost all of the MEhumor data, especially the humour examples, are translated for the first time.
MEhumor data is organized based on themes and countries, making them easily accessible.
You will be able to search the MENAHumor data for statistical purposes on the humor of the MENA region.
MEHumor Projects Currently, our ongoing projects are as follows:
1. Satirical literature (fiction, poetry, drama);
2. Magazines & periodicals;
4. Film & visual media
5. Stand-up comedy
6. Humor in oral culture
7. Social network
How can you access the MEhumor data? The project’s website is planned to be launched by the end of August 2021. In the first phase, the website will contain a sum of 200 entries under the above categories for several countries. As a donor, you will be notified of any updates in the project throughout its advancement.
The MEhumor Bibliography is an ever-evolving page on the website, geared towards introducing the growing scholarship on the humor of the MENA region. For those interested in further pursuing a topic, certain pages on the website link to the MENAHumor Bibliography.
The scope of the MEhumor Projects: We have no restriction on the temporal scope of the above projects. However, in the first phase, we will especially cover the 20-21st century.
Our values & our understanding of humor: For us, humor is a discourse among other discourses; as such, it cannot be “good” or “bad” per se. In different contexts, and based on numerous variables, the same humor text might serve different functions for different audiences. Therefore, reproducing any humor texts on this website does not mean that their stated or implied meanings are necessarily endorsed or approved by all Editorial and/or Advisory Board members. Indeed, due to their varied political and ethical viewpoints, many of the MENAHumor team members might find some of the cited humor examples to be problematic or questionable in one way or another—as might be the case with some users as well. In such cases, the MENAHumor’s main aim in collecting, translating, and presenting such humor instances has been to make them available as “social facts,” yet also as objects of potential study, especially from critical perspectives. This, we hope, also explains why we have not “censored” such “problematic” humor. We believe that censorship is not an effective way of dealing with such humor— critique is.
OUR LOGO draws on the multiculturally known and claimed, jocular character of Nasreddin. Check out this Wikipedia article if you would like to know more about him.
Would you like to join our team of entry writers? We would be happy to have you on board! To become an entry writer, you do not need any credentials or an expertise in humor studies. Only an interest in humor and research and familiarity with a Middle Eastern language will suffice. To receive more details on how to become a contributor, or to ask any questions, please e-mail us at mehumorproject at gmail dot com
MEHumor’s Principal Investigator: Mostafa Abedinifard, PhD (University of British Columbia)
Mostafa Abedinifard is a literary and cultural critic and historian, with a special focus on Persian literature and the Iranian culture and cinema, within his broader interests in comparative and world literature. Before joining the Department of Asian Studies at UBC in 2018, Mostafa was an SSHRC Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations at the University of Toronto (2017–2018). Mostafa’s articles have appeared in such journals as International Journal of Middle East Studies; Asian Cinema; The British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies; HUMOR: International Journal of Humor Research; Social Semiotics; de genere: Journal of Literary, Postcolonial and Gender Studies; Iran Nameh: A Quarterly of Iranian Studies; and elsewhere. In addition to other research projects, he is currently completing a monograph tentatively titled Self-Deprecating Modernity: Humor, Affect, and Nationalism in Iran. It explores the role of humor as a signifier for affect within the discourses of Iranian modernity and nationalism. In part a history of emotions, this project focuses on the intersections of humor—and a range of related emotions including embarrassment, shame, and humiliation—with gender, sexuality, race, and ethnicity in modern Iranian history, literature, and culture. Mostafa is currently serving as a Consulting Editor on the Editorial Board of HUMOR: International Journal for Humor Research.
LOGO: Graphic work is by Kavosh Maleki; the logo draws on the multiculturally known and claimed, jocular character of Nasreddin.
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