In the introduction to this volume, the author explains why social historians should study the relationship between humour and social protest in the past. The following questions are of interest. Under what conditions did laughter serve the cause of the protesters? How did humour strengthen social protest? And to what degree has humour been an effective tool for contentious social movements? Recent developments in the field of social movement theory regarding framing, collective identity, and emotions are combined with insights from humorology. A short account of the individual contributions follow: they range from the Zapatistas in Mexico to Vietnamese garment workers, from sixteenth-century Augsburg to Madrid and Stockholm in the 1990s. The findings point, above all, to the power of humour in the framing of political protest. Humour was used in quite different political opportunity structures, from open democratic societies to harsh repressive regimes. Often, humour furthered the development of the collective identity of a social movement, whereas in several cases humour acted as a powerful communication tool, serving as a true “weapon of the weak”.
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