Annual Workshop 2013

monks in line

“Comedy and Satire as Discourses of Protest in Asia” -- A Symposium

Asian men hold sign KGB, Most Wanted, Moustache Brothers are Under Surveillance,

The Center for Asian Democracy at the University of Louisville presents a symposium on the effect of Comedy and Satire on political change in Asia.  The morning and afternoon panel discussions will take place in the Chao Auditorium of Ekstrom Library, on the University of Louisville campus, on Saturday, October 19th.  The event is free and open to the public.  To register for a free lunch with the participants, call 852-2667, or email

This year’s workshop seeks to examine the relationship between political protest and comedy in East Asia. In particular we are interested in the ways in which comedy has and is being used to critique and parody authoritarianism, corruption and political leadership.  Recognizing that in the West comedy and satire have a long tradition of not just speaking truth to power but also as a powerful tool of public criticism, this workshop aims to analyze the role of comedy in East Asia. Is it analogous to the role it plays in the West? Are there unique forms of comedy and protest? Are there cultural obstacles to parody and satire?

Chao Auditorium, Ekstrom Library.  Lunch provided. Free and open to the public.

10:00am — Introductory Remarks
"Comedic and Satirical Narratives in Global Politics," Rodger Payne, University of Louisville

10:30am — Early Forms of Satire in Asia
"Haiku D'état! Sociopolitical Satire in the Poetry and Comic books of Early Modern Japan," Adam L. Kern, University of Wisconsin
"State of Mirth: Top-Down Comedy in Mao's China," Christopher Rea, University of British Columbia

12:00pm — Lunch (Provided, but RSVP for lunch is requested.) RSVP to, or call 502-852-2667.

1:00pm — Contemporary Satire in Asia
"Pop Activism: Playful Netizens in Chinese Cyberspace," Rongbin Han, University of Georgia
"Voices of Treason, Visions of Allegiance: Rise of Political and Social Satire in Contemporary South Korean Popular Culture," Sueyoung Park-Primiano, New York University
“Social Commentary or Public Protest? The Politics of Satirical Sayings in Contemporary China,” Hong Zhang, Colby College

3:00pm — Closing remarks — Jason Abbott, University of Louisville

Presenter Bios:
Adam L. Kern, University of Wisconsin
Adam L. Kern is Associate Professor of Japanese Literature and Visual Culture at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. His writings include Manga from the Floating World: Comicbook Culture and the Kibyōshi of Edo Japan (Harvard University Asia Center, 2006) and The Penguin Book of Haiku (Penguin Classics, forthcoming 2014). His noteworthy experiences in Japan (apart from research affiliations with Kyoto University, Tokyo University, and the National Institute of Japanese Literature) include an editorial internship in the manga division of Kōdansha Publishers, a stint as a staff reporter for a major metropolitan newspaper (Kyoto Shimbun), and the day student radicals set the roof of his boarding house on fire.

Christopher Rea, University of British Columbia
Christopher Rea (Ph.D., Columbia) is assistant professor of modern Chinese literature at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver. His editorial and translation projects include the books "Humans, Beasts, and Ghosts: Stories and Essays by Qian Zhongshu" (Columbia, 2011) and "The Business of Culture: Cultural Entrepreneurs in China and Southeast Asia, 1960-65" (UBC Press, forthcoming), and special issues of the journals "China Heritage Quarterly" (2012), "Renditions" (2011), and "Modern Chinese Literature and Culture" (2008). He is particularly interested in cultures of comedy and recently completed a book manuscript entitled "The Age of Irreverence: A New History of Laughter in China."

Sueyoung Park-Primiano, New York University
Sueyoung Park-Primiano is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Cinema Studies at New York University. Her dissertation narrates the development of South Korean cinema in the aftermath of World War II, under the U.S. occupation and during the rise of the First Republic before and after the Korean War. She is a contributor to Popular Culture in Asia: Memory, City, Celebrity, and teaches courses on film and new media at NYU, FIT, New School, and Cooper Union.

Hong Zhang, Colby College
Dr. Hong Zhang obtained her Ph.D. in anthropology from Columbia University. She is currently Associate Professor and Department Chair of East Asian Studies at Colby College, where she teaches both Chinese language and Chinese culture courses. Her research interests include changing family life and marriage patterns, gender and intergenerational relations, impact of one-child policy and new eldercare patterns in China, the emergence of Chinese labor NGOs and the politics of satire and humor in contemporary China.
Rongbin Han, University of Georgia, “Pop Activism: Playful Netizens in Chinese Cyberspace”
Rongbin Han is an assistant professor in the Department of International Affairs, University of Georgia. He received his Ph.D. in political science from University of California, Berkeley. His research interests center on regime transition, media politics and social activism in authoritarian regimes, with an area focus on China.

Rodger Payne, University of Louisville, “Comedic and Satirical Narratives in Global Politics”
Rodger A. Payne is Professor and Chair the Department of Political Science at the University of Louisville. He is coauthor of Democratizing Global Politics (State University of New York Press, 2004) and the author of more than 30 academic journal articles and book chapters in edited volumes. From 1994-2011, Payne was the Director of the Grawemeyer Award for Ideas Improving World Order.  He previously taught at Northwestern University for two years and was a visiting research fellow at Harvard's Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Stanford's Center for International Security and Cooperation, and the Program on International Politics, Economics and Security at the University of Chicago. Payne received a Dissertation Fellowship from the International Peace and Security Studies Program co-sponsored by the Social Science Research Council and MacArthur Foundation and was a member of the two-person 1983 National Debate Tournament championship team from the University of Kansas.

About our Annual Workshop

Regularly, the Center for Asian Democracy brings in a small group of scholars to present a paper on a particular topic.  In 2011, workshop brought together scholars and policymakers from across the United States to discuss the impact of the Internet and Democratization in Asia.  Those papers have since been published as a special issue of the Journal of Contemporary Asia.