Rebellious bodies and subversive sniggers?: embodying women's humour and laughter in colonial Australia

Publisher:
Australian Historical Association
Publication Type:
Journal Article
Citation:
History Australia, 2009, 6 (2), pp. 1 - 16
Issue Date:
2009-01
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This article challenges orthodox interpretations of the relationship between laughter and agency among women in nineteenth-century colonial Australia. It seeks to complicate functionalist accounts of laughter and play as always representing a working-class challenge to the imposition of middle-class values: not by denying such accounts, but by opening up debate on the relationship between laughter, class and place. While it is true that laughter could operate as an affront to male authority and the repressive colonial penal system, this article suggests that it was a contested discourse, reliant on social class and a sense of place in the colonial order of things. Through a re-reading of the infamous Cascades bottom-slapping incident, it explores the ways in which women¹s humour and the corporeal expression of their laughter functioned to draw the contours of social class. This article has been peer-reviewed.
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