Accepted Paper:

Of power and laughter: political participation, opposition, and moral alternatives in Lithuania  

Author:

Neringa Klumbyte (Miami University, USA)

Paper short abstract:

This paper explores the 2008 carnivalesque electoral campaign in Lithuania, which appealed to communities of despair and engaged moral citizenship through laughter. Humor mediated serious efforts to constitute a different politics and promoted a new ontology of post-socialism.

Paper long abstract:

Since 1989 we have observed expanding forms of political participation as well as opposition in Europe. From Portugal to Sweden, Bulgaria to Iceland, and Ukraine and Bosnia more recently citizens have reacted to economic and political crises, social marginalization, and exclusion with mass protests and self-immolations. They have also enacted innovative forms of political participation and opposition, such as street theaters and canivalesque campaigns. This paper focuses on the parliamentary elections of 2008 in Lithuania, when the newly founded National Resurrection Party (NRP), popularly called a 'showmen party', gained 15 percent of the total vote and finished second. Citizens were amused by images of vampires, the insane, prostitutes, and criminals in the NRP campaign. They laughed at subversive messages, such as "Let us in the Ship of Fools!", that is, the Parliament. I argue that the 2008 electoral carnivalesque was a politics of becoming, a future-oriented process that engaged communities of despair and promoted moral citizenship through laughter. It introduced various changes: attracted new people to politics, especially the young; reframed political debates and introduced new ideas; and challenged some state policies, practices, and ideologies. Humor mediated serious efforts to constitute a different politics and promoted a new ontology of post-socialism.

Panel P055
Protest and politics of grievance in Europe