Among the many reasons Covid-19 continues to be experienced as a stressful event worldwide and especially in Africa are the number of deaths linked to the disease, the absence of a cure, the extended lockdown, the impact it is having on fragile national and household economies in Africa, the weak nature of African health and social systems, and the corruption attending, or exposed by, governance of the disease. Although evidence from history, counselling, and literature has demonstrated how individuals draw on humor as a resource for radical hope and develop a sense of coherence, little is currently known about what role humor is playing as individuals and communities in Africa in an attempt to make sense of, and cope with, Covid-19. Using a research database of WhatsApp messages shared by collaborators based in over ten countries of Africa, this research will among others seek to: (1) examine and interpret the evidence for Covid-19-related humor in Africa; (2) understand the creative processes through which clinical and social dimensions of the disease become the butt of humor; (3) analyze humor samples in the research database in order to classify them into documented styles, with the associated effects; and (4) infer the implications of the foregoing analyses for rethinking the advice on Covid-19 and/or for enhancing the uptake of current biomedical advice. Besides findings to be disseminated as academic literature, we also intend to create a website of widely circulating and humorous WhatsApp memes and maintain a blog.
Professor, Linguistics, University of the Western Cape
Associate Professor, Pennsylvania State University