Laughter and Trauma: Making Sense of Colonial Violence

Maryrose Casey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Aboriginal Australian performances, created from within their own traditional practices, have often dealt with aspects of European colonization and racism in a humorous manner. There are numerous accounts of these, including performances that were satirical and which treated traumatic acts of racialized violence in Australia in a comedic form. Indeed, Aboriginal audiences are documented as laughing uproariously at these performances. Examples include performances from Arnhem Land in the north, which centred on white men abducting women for sexual use; others from Stradbroke Island, off the coast of Queensland, include the ways in which the Europeans in the volunteer land army used their training and arms to kill Aboriginal people. This article examines the translation of traumatic events into comedic performances in the context of the major trauma of colonization, illustrating the particular manner by which humour offers ways of acting out and dealing with events that cause communal and individual traumas.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)9-23
Number of pages15
JournalPerforming Ethos: International Journal of Ethics in Theatre & Performance
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Aboriginal Australian
  • Colonization
  • Comedy
  • Performance
  • Trauma
  • War


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