“The Superman in a Turban”: Political Jokes in the Iranian Social Media

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Afsane Rezaei


In this article, I examine political jokes that flooded social media after Hassan Rouhani won the 2013 Iranian presidential election. I argue that political jokes in non-democratic countries like Iran are not unified expressions of resisting, succumbing to, or making fun of a shared oppressor. They can rather be interpreted and used in very different ways, even by those who are normally placed under the overarching category of “the politically oppressed.” I examine the polysemic nature of the “Thanks, Rouhani” jokes and trace the ways in which they have been interpreted and utilized to represent contradicting political opinions of different groups of people. I also compare the “Thanks, Rouhani” joke cycle to its American counterpart, “Thanks, Obama.” This juxtaposition, while revealing interesting parallels between the two cycles in terms of their form and content, also highlights a similar level of complexity in the meaning and usage of political humor regardless of the state of politics in the two countries.


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Rezaei, A. (2017). “The Superman in a Turban”: Political Jokes in the Iranian Social Media. New Directions in Folklore, 14(1/2), 89–132. Retrieved from https://scholarworks.iu.edu/journals/index.php/ndif/article/view/23127