Lighten up?! Humour, Race, and Da off colour joke of Ali G

Abstract

Racism’s a drag: race and the politics of performance In her work Bodies that Matter, Judith Butler argues that sex is materialized through an existing discourse of gender that slots ‘acceptable ’ bodies into two categories, male or female (1993: 1–25). If we accepted that Butler’s argu-ments concerning performativity could be applied to race, what might this mean for anti-racist politics and performance? If we took seriously the assertion that discourse materializes bodies, per-haps we could examine how race may be interrupted in ways that gesture to the constructed nature of racial identity. Racially charged humour may offer insight into how race is malleable, while gesturing to the psychic anxieties that arise when the performative nature of identity is revealed. It should be noted that Butler warns against equating ‘performativity ’ with ‘performance ’ (1993: 234). However, while regulated daily performatives should not be mistaken for ‘theatrical self-representation ’ (1993: 95), perhaps performance can be used to explicate aspects of performativity. In Performative Maladies in Contemporary Anglophone Drama, Ward argues that: … theatre can become an appropriate arena to stage and upstage notions of gender, to see traditional gender concepts from a critical distance and to reflect on their inherent theatricality, not despite but because of the fact that ‘theatrical perform-ance depends on the legible presence of the quotation marks, which, as described by Butler, the process of performativity as citation operates to conceal in “every-day life” ’ (Harris 1999: 76). (Ward, 2007: 22) This argument can also be applied to Da Ali G Show. The show may offer hyperbolic performances of race that shed light on racial performativity, and its relationship to the comic

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oai:CiteSeerX.psu:10.1.1.908.8354Last time updated on 11/1/2017

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