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Bilingual Humor, Authentic Aunties, and the Transnational Vernacular at Gezi Park

Abstract

Mass-mediated American culture and the English language became raw materials for vernacular protest humor alongside images of headscarf-wearing middle-aged “aunties” during antigovernment protests in Turkey in the summer of 2013. Focusing on posts shared on Facebook and Twitter by Turkish protestors and their supporters in the first two months of the protests, this article studies the complex linguistic and visual humor that developed around Gezi Park and relates it to the identity politics mobilized during the resistance. Exploring how the protestors projected themselves as both cosmopolitan (through the use of American mass culture and the English language) and locally rooted (through the use of auntie humor), the essay delineates how “America” can function in local Middle Eastern politics even in the absence of actual US intervention on the ground. Humor at Gezi demonstrates how closely analyzing transculturated vernacular communication can help us modify Western-derived academic theories about culture and power, making the case for incorporating the study of folklore into transnational American Studies.

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