Laughable Resistance? The Role of Humour in Middle Eastern Women’s Social Media Empowerment

Author First name, Last name, Institution

Zoe Hurley, Zayed UniversityFollow

Document Type

Book Chapter

Source of Publication

The Palgrave Handbook of Gender, Media and Communication in the Middle East and North Africa

Publication Date



Pranks, jests and comic performances inducing laughter are everyday social media affordances on platforms like Instagram, the image and video sharing platform. Simultaneously, humour has a long tradition of subverting and ridiculing social norms by actors on the margins of power. But insights into Middle Eastern women’s funny performances on Instagram represent a gap in media and communications research. This study takes the case of three comic Middle Eastern women social media influencers to consider how their humorous Instagram performances might develop agencies for empowerment while articulating the boredom and constraints of women’s inequalities within the domestic sphere and beyond. A novel feminist postdigital framework explores the collapsed context of social media and illustrates modes of veiled humour navigating the Middle East and North African patriarchal bargain. Enquiry reveals refractive and indirect humour, with meanings below the radar. Overall, the study illustrates the political significance of Middle Eastern women’s laughter and emerging comedy for articulating ‘hazl’ (farce), ‘tahakkum’ (taunt) and ‘sukhri’iya’ (poking fun, including forms of sarcasm and irony) as comic resistance to women’s oppression through subversive and destabilising laughter.


978-3-031-11979-8, 978-3-031-11980-4


Springer International Publishing

First Page


Last Page



Communication | Social and Behavioral Sciences


Middle Eastern women, Instagram, social media influencers, empowerment, humour

Indexed in Scopus


Open Access