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Paris, October 14, 2022

Workshop on, Satire and democracy

About the workshop


How should democracies approach the moral, political and legal challenges posed by satire? Satire can speak truth to power, but it can also vilify minorities and intensify prejudice. Democracies can benefit from satire’s ridicule of élite hypocrisy, corruption, incompetence and self-regard. But savage anger, outrage and bitter contempt for the objects of satire can prove difficult for democracies to handle, especially when their targets are citizens, rather than rulers. So, what do democratic commitments to the freedom, equality, solidarity and security of citizens tell us about the nature and value of satire, the ways in which it can or should be regulated, and the degrees to which different national traditions of satire should be celebrated or, simply, tolerated?

This workshop tries to map out answers to these questions. Drawing on cognitive science, communication studies and political philosophy, it takes the differences between British and French approaches to satire as a starting point for thinking about the challenges that satire poses for democracy, on the one hand, and that the internet and contested social norms pose for satire on the other. It then brings together an international group of scholars, as well as a distinguished group of cartoonists to examine the points of agreement and disagreement that typify recent reactions to satire, and to illuminate the challenges posed by the limits of law in protecting what we most cherish in a democratic society. This is our first attempt to explore these problems and we hope that it will lay the groundwork for future academic and non-academic collaborations.

The workshop is supported by a 2021 Joint Awards King’s College London - University of Paris grant. We are very grateful for their help and support, as well as that of Adrian Blau (KCL) and Justin E Smith (Paris VII), without whose help this grant, and the workshop, would not have been possible. Many thanks also to Sciences Po, to its Centre de Recherches Politiques (CEVIPOF) and to Pragma Communication, who supported the organisation and publicizing of this workshop.