EU’ve got to be kidding: anxiety, humour and ontological security

James Brassett, Christopher Browning, Muireann O'Dwyer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Recent years have seen a pronounced turn to humour in EU discourse. From attempts to build solidarity with/through the rights of satirists after the Danish Cartoon Crisis and Charlie Hebdo, to ongoing efforts to re-brand the EU as a reflexive and liberal polity through self-deprecating messaging and the use of snark in diplomacy on Brexit/Trump, the rise of EU humour raises critical questions for IR. This paper argues that one important way to think about humour is as a mechanism for managing anxiety. A widely known 'defence mechanism', humour, joking and laughter can suspend the seriousness and pressure of difficult social situations. We draw on the literature on ontological security to argue that, when deployed in political and diplomatic discourses, humour might tell us rather more about the power relations, hierarchies, and instabilities which characterise a given polity.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-19
Number of pages19
JournalGlobal Society
VolumeLatest Articles
Publication statusPublished - 29 Oct 2020


  • Humour
  • Ontological security
  • Anxiety
  • EU diplomacy


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