Brock University

Sociology for Fun: Playing within the Discipline

Often times, sessions at academic conferences engage with heavy subject matter. While identifying, analyzing and problematizing these issues are key strengths of sociology, this session solicits papers that explore the lighter side of the discipline. Keeping with the conference theme, this panel seeks to toy with the Borders without Boundaries internal to sociology. Submissions may include, but are not limited to, the sociology of humour, laughter and/or happiness, cartoons, dance, carnivals, theater, art, or partying. There are no limits to the fun-tastic!

Session Organizer: Marc Sinclair, York University,


Transcending or Constructing Social Boundaries? Discursive Ambiguities in Contemporary Humour in Stand-Up Comedy and Late-Night Television

Julia Hemphill, York University, , Chris Sanders, Medical College of Wisconsin ,

Humour can be used to transcend or to construct social boundaries. It can be used to perpetuate oppressions along the lines of ‘race’, gender and sexuality and yet it can also be used to challenge them. Jokes about ‘race’ and ethnicity, for example, historically have been used as a means of othering minority groups, while satirical political cartoons historically have been used to try to unite such groups in common cause. However, humour and laughter often function more ambiguously. It is not always clear when privilege is being challenged or when it is being validated or protected. Tina Fey, for example, capitalized off her likeness to Sarah Palin to challenge “sexism in the media” yet Fey has also been accused of reinforcing sexism in her parody of Palin. We also see that different audiences interpret efforts at humour very differently as was the case with comedian Daniel Tosh’s infamous rape ‘joke’ in 2012, which sparked several contentious discussions within comedic and feminist communities. Using a Goffmanian feminist lens, we will explore recent examples of discursive ambiguities in humor from the realms of stand-up comedy and late-night television.


Between the Sociology of Comedy and a Comic Sociology: Can We Bridge the Gap?

David Feltmate, Auburn University at Montgomery,

In What’s So Funny? Murray S. Davis asked sociologists to consider a comically informed social theory (1993: 313). How do we achieve such a social theory? Who would be its leading lights? What would be its central concerns and questions? Why would we engage in it? Drawing upon my extensive research into the sociology of religion and humour in The Simpsons, South Park, and Family Guy and theoretical contributions taken from symbolic interactionism and Durkheimian sociology, I will demonstrate the critical contributions of a comic sociology while also discussing the more epistemologically unsettling theoretical ground upon which a this theoretical position resides. I will conclude with a reflection on the challenges of ambiguity in social thinking, what this reveals about sociology, and why thinking comically in sociology is both fun and frustrating.


The pleasures of mobility: the sensory dimensions of bicycling

Saeed Hydaralli, Department of Equity Studies York University,

Mobility and movement in the city is not simply a question of infrastructure, accessibility and the like; it also reflects a conception or formulation of the city and city life. Each mode of mobility represents a specific formulation of the city. That the city facilitates multiple modes of mobility means that the city is amenable to being oriented to in multiple ways. Each form of mobility that is practiced conforms to a specific image of the city and the kinds of relationship with the social and physical environment that that mode of mobility might permit with the city. Modes of mobility then inform specific ways of experiencing the city. The objective of this paper is to examine the image of the city that the practice of bicycling constructs and the nature of the experience of the city that that practice permits.


© Canadian Sociological Association ⁄ La Société canadienne de sociologie