Thesis-2014-Cotter.pdf (2.47 MB)

New ways to express old hatred: the transformation of comic racism in British popular culture

Download (2.47 MB)
posted on 15.06.2015, 10:51 by Michael Cotter
New Ways To Express Old Hatred is a sociological account of the consistencies and changes comic racist discourse has experienced over the past forty years in British popular culture, accounting for both content and communicative form in relation to the ethics and aesthetics of humour. The main focal point of the study concerns a case study representative of the communicative changes installed by the digitalisation of media in the cultural public sphere. which demonstrates a contemporary, participatory comic community that is simultaneously representative of popular culture. circulates explicit comic racist material on a large scale across several formats including its main website, several smart phone applications and a range of social media including Facebook and Twitter. This contemporary emergence of comic racism is discussed in relation to the historical context of wider comic racism in British popular culture, comparatively evaluating the form and content of material from the 'clubland' humour of the 1970s, the anti-racist tradition of 1980s Alternative comedy, the thematically fragmented popular comedy of the 1990s through to prejudicial liquidity evident in more recent comedy. The central argument being asserted is that comic racist discourse has been consistently reproduced for the last forty years. However its communicative form, aesthetic presentation and in some cases its content has undertaken a process of transformation in order for it to be circulated in contemporary popular cultural products unchallenged by both social critics and institutional authorities. Critical humour studies stresses that ridicule-based humorous discourse must be treated critically, especially if that ridicule is directed at groups who are socially marginalised. Comic racism represents the discursive stability of traditional racist discourses that have circulated in society since the Enlightenment, reproducing the ideological perspectives of white supremacy, social exclusion of 'Others' and the perceived, amalgamated biological and cultural inferiority of non-white 'races'. Drawing from content analysis and critical discourse analysis of, this study, on a textual level, with reference to theory and history, critically discusses the persistent reproduction of comic racism in the cultural public sphere of the UK, deconstructing the hateful messages embedded in racist jokes and providing an original contribution to critical humour studies.


Loughborough University Graduate School



  • Social Sciences


  • Communication, Media, Social and Policy Studies


© Michael Cotter

Publisher statement

This work is made available according to the conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0) licence. Full details of this licence are available at:

Publication date



A Doctoral Thesis. Submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the award of Doctor of Philosophy of Loughborough University.