ABSTRACT

How does a public, conditioned by political theatrics and false truths, understand and critique disaster through humor and satire? Italy’s 2009 earthquake in the city of L’Aquila erupted in legal and political controversy: scientists were accused of manslaughter for victim deaths from the disaster, which became internationally known as the “trial against science,” and then Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi became embroiled in a civil protection and housing crisis in the city. Humor and satire became a dominant part of the discourse making sense of disaster and the subsequent political turmoil, chief among them was a documentary by Sabina Guzzanti, political satirist, Berlusconi impersonator, and film director. I argue that epistemological uncertainties within the flashy age of Berlusconian political maneuvering—a modern political climate that is both highly specific to Italy yet also characteristic of late capitalism—compel modern subjects to embrace humor and satire as a more truthful form of political critique.