In Search of Literature on the Sociology of Humour: A Sociobibliographical Afterword

  • George E. C. Paton


Initial attempts to search for and locate sources in the sociological literature which discuss humour as a sociocultural phenomenon are about as fruitful and as frustrating as the search for the Holy Grail. At best, the two major sociological journals which deign to periodically index subjects as well as authors — the American Journal of Sociology and the American Sociological Review — under the respective headings of ‘Humour, functions of’ and ‘Humour’ throw up a total of only five articles up to 1965 and 1960 respectively.1 This basic categorisation, however, fails to trawl other articles in these journals relevant for the study of humour which omit the word from their titles.2 Similarly, diligent searches of article titles and bibliog­raphies indicate that in the 1950s and 1960s such established social science or sociological journals as Sociometry, Human Relations, Journal of Social Issues, Sociological Inquiry and Social Research published one or more articles on sociological aspects of humour, albeit employing keywords such as ‘jokes’ or ‘comedians’ rather than humour in their titles.3 In terms of the British sociological literature the first traceable paper devoted to the sociological aspects of humour does not appear until 1982 with the publication in the British Journal of Sociology of a paper by Christie Davies.4


American Sociological Review Human Relation Social Facilitation Comic Artist Humanity Index 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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  1. 2.
    O. Klapp, ‘The Fool as a Social Type’, American Journal of Sociology, vol. 55 (1950) pp. 157–62;CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. T. Burns, ‘Friends, Enemies and Polite Fiction’, American Sociological Review, vol. 18 (1953) pp. 654–62.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    See for example, J. Emerson, ‘Negotiating the serious import of humour’, Sociometry, vol. 32 (1969) pp. 169–81;CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. P. Bradney, ‘The joking relationship in industry’, Human Relations, vol. 10 (1957) pp. 179–87;CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. M. Salutin, ‘The Impression Management Techniques of the Burlesque Comedian’, Sociological Inquiry, vol. 43 (1973) pp. 159–68;CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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  7. 4.
    C. Davies, ‘Ethnic Jokes, Moral Values and Social Boundaries’, British Journal of Sociology, vol. 33 (1982) pp. 383–403.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. 5.
    J. Goldstein, ‘Theoretical Notes on Humour’, Journal of Communication (Summer 1976) p. 105.Google Scholar
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    See, for example, H. Sacks, ‘An Analysis of the Course of a Joke’s Telling in Conversation’, in R. Bauman and J. Sherzer (eds) Explorations in the Ethnography of Speaking (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1974);Google Scholar
  10. G. Jefferson, ‘A Technique for Inviting Laughter and its Subsequent Acceptance Declination’, in G. Psathas (ed.) Everyday Language: Studies in Ethnomethodology ( New York: Irvington Publishers, 1979 ).Google Scholar
  11. 9.
    See, for example, P. Bradney, ‘The Joking Relationship in Industry’, Human Relations, vol. 10 (1957) pp. 179–87;CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. R. Coser, ‘Some Social Functions of Laughter’, Human Relations, vol. 12 (1959) pp. 171–82;CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. A. Sykes, ‘Joking Relationships in an Industrial Setting’, American Anthropologist, vol. 68 (1966) pp. 188–93.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

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© Chris Powell and George E. C. Paton 1988

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  • George E. C. Paton

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