China’s Age of Irreverence: Christopher Rea in Conversation with Timothy Brook

Oct 21, 2015

Book Launch for The Age of Irreverence: a New History of Laughter in China

China’s entry in modernity was not just traumatic, but uproarious. As its last dynasty fell and was replaced by a republic, political and cultural discussion erupted into invective, with critics gleefully jeering and deriding rivals in public. Farceurs drew followings in the popular press, promoting a culture of practical joking and buffoonery. These various expressions of hilarity proved so offensive to high-brow writers that they launched a concerted campaign to displace the old forms of mirth with a new one they called youmo (humor). What can we learn about modern history from the perspective of those who laugh their way through it? Focusing on the case of China, this conversation will discuss how political turmoil, new media, and other forces have nurtured cultures of humor in a modernizing society, from the last days of empire to the digital age.

Christopher Rea is Associate Professor of Asian Studies at the University of British Columbia.
Timothy Brook is the Republic of China Chair and Professor of History at the University of British Columbia.

University Centre, Seminar Room (307), 6331 Crescent Road, Vancouver