Practical joking

Robert Launay*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


The theoretical literature on joking behavior has focused on the nature of the relationships between joking partners - mother's brothers and sister's sons, grandparents and grandchildren, certain affines, free men and slaves, etc. Such a focus overlooks the critical fact that such behavior is never obligatory and automatic, but always needs to be instantiated. Attention to the actual practice of joking shows that joking relationships themselves are not simply the product of the mechanical application of logical rules, but rather the product of strategies about whether, when, and how those supposed rules can be invoked. Neither the practice nor the meanings of joking are ever predetermined. They retain their potential to create and to subvert relations of hierarchy or of equality, to stoke or to subdue aggression.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)795-808
Number of pages14
JournalCahiers d'Etudes Africaines
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2006


  • Practical joking

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • History
  • Development


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