ABSTRACT

On May 19, 2000, armed rebels stormed the Fiji Parliament, unleashing months of political turmoil and military and civilian violence. Indo-Fijians were among the hardest hit as racial violence targeting their communities spread rapidly across the nation. Among the variety of their responses to these traumatic events were moments of spontaneous joking and laughter. In this article I examine how, in a time of intense fear and confusion, a sense of “normality” and a return to the “everyday” were constructed through such collective acts of humor. Following up on Freud’s fleeting acknowledgment of the thin line that separates the frighteningly familiar or uncanny (das Unheimliche) from the pleasurably and absurdly incongruous, I consider the role that humor came to play in both acknowledging and tempering the specter of uncertainty that haunted post-coup constructions of sociality.