Bringing inside out: humor, outreach, and sexual and gender-based violence in Sierra Leone

Laura S. Martin, Caroline Bradbury-Jones, Simeon Koroma, Stephen Forcer

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This article explores the theoretical and practical role(s) of humour in facilitating outreach about sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) in Sierra Leone. While humour might be considered an insensitive way of approaching difficult issues, this project shows that incongruity can in fact be productive. Recognizing that humour itself can be a form of symbolic or physical violence in some contexts, we argue that humour is a means of opening up conversations about violence (in this case SGBV) in order to address the social and legal challenges associated with it. Our pilot project – devised by an interdisciplinary team and conducted in partnership with a Sierra Leonean access-to-justice NGO, Timap for Justice – used comedy and performance to meet two key challenges: to disseminate awareness about social and legal issues related to commonplace practices of SGBV, and to open up a broader discussion about experiences of SGBV. Using empirical evidence from focus groups and interviews, this article shows how a humorous approach proved to be a productive mode of engagement and examines key concepts including ‘the vicinity of laughter’ (involving the spatial and interpersonal aspects of humour), the connections between laughter and memory, and the paradoxical relationship between lived experience, humour and violence.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)356-373
JournalCritical African Studies
Issue number3
Early online date8 Dec 2021
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 8 Dec 2021


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