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World in View: Laughtivism: How Humorous Actions Have Advanced Democracy Across the Globe

  • Tuesday, February 8, 2022
  • 12:00 PM- 1:30 PM

A World in View discussion led by Dr. Sophia McClennen (Penn State) and Dr. Janjira Sombatpoonsiri (Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, Thailand)

Freedom House reports that “democracy and pluralism are under assault” with 2019 marking the 14th consecutive year of a decline in global freedom. This decline in freedom has been accompanied by an increase in “the unchecked brutality of autocratic regimes and the ethical decay of democratic powers.” Amidst these disturbing developments there has been a global rise in nonviolent social movements as activists have learned to counter brutal force with effective peaceful resistance. Within this rise in resistance there has been a notable shift in the ways that activists frame their messages and organize their struggles: activists are increasingly using humor, often referred to as laughtivism, to advance serious political agendas.

Suggested readings include:

Faculty Presenters

Sophia McClennen, Professor of International Affairs and Comparative Literature, is an established scholar in the fields of globalization, human rights, and media studies. She has published 8 books and over 50 articles; she serves on 10 editorial boards and on executive committees for three scholarly associations. She has conducted research on education and international area studies, with particular attention to how multidisciplinary approaches enhance understanding of global issues.

Janjira Sombatpoonsiri is currently a research-oriented assistant professor at the Institute of Asian Studies, Chulalongkorn University, and an associate at the German Institute for Global and Area Studies.

Her research has focused on nonviolent activism and social movements in the context of democratization and autocratization, and recently digital repression. Her dissertation-turned-book is Humor and Nonviolent Struggle in Serbia (New York: Syracuse University Press, 2015). The modified Thai version of this book—published by Matichon Publishing—includes the case of the Thai pro-democracy group ‘Red Sunday’ and Poland’s ‘Orange Alternative.’ She has published op-eds in several Thai and international press, including 101 World (in Thai),, The Conversation Global, and International Politics and Society (IPS).

She is currently a member of the Civic Research Network (CRN) of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and a board member for International Peace Research Foundation (IPRAF).

Event Contact

Sarah Lyall-Combs
Schreyer Scholar Matt Tracey

My family has always loved Penn State and to be able to take this love along with the fact that Penn State is a top research university is amazing. This combined with fact that Schreyer has a culture of independent thinking and an emphasis on a global perspective allows me to see my education as being much bigger than me.

Matt Tracey '19 Biochemistry and Microbiology

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