Dark Humor from Algeria's "Dark Decade"

with Elizabeth Perego

hosted by Graham Cornwell and Soha El Achi

Download the podcast
Feed | iTunes | GooglePlaySoundCloud

Between December 1991 and February 2002, Algeria experienced a protracted civil war, which earned the period the designation of the "dark decade." In this episode, we explore how Algerians experienced and coped with the violence and trepidation of the civil war through the lens of humor. Our guest Elizabeth Perego has studied to role of humor, jokes, and caricatures in the politics of Algeria since the struggle against French colonialism in the 1950s. In our conversation, we focus on the dark humor of the dark decade, retelling some of the most widespread jokes of the period in a discussion of how humor provided a source of relief and platform for commentary on the unsettling realities of the war.

Cross-posted with tajine

Stream via SoundCloud


Elizabeth Perego is a Ph.D. candidate in History at the Ohio State University. She is completing a dissertation entitled "Laughing in the Face of Death" which analyzes the evolution of political humor in post-independence Algeria. Her broader research focuses on the intersection of culture, media, and conflict in the modern Maghrib. She has previously published scholarship in the Journal of North African Studies and Hawwa: Journal of Women of the Middle East and the Islamic World. 
Graham H. Cornwell is a Ph.D. Candidate in History at Georgetown University. His work examines the history of tea and sugar consumption in Northwest Africa in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. He is also the editor of tajine, a podcast and blog about North African Studies.
Soha El Achi is completing a Ph.D. in the Department of History at Georgetown University. Her dissertation examines the history of French colonialism, slavery, and abolition in North Africa.


Episode No. 279
Release Date: 5 November 2016
Recording Location: Georgetown University
Editing and production by Chris Gratien
Sound excerpts: from archive.org - Harmandali - Recep Efendi, Cemal EfendiEgil Daglar Ustunden Asam - Viktoriya Hanim; from Excavated Shellac - Hocine Slaoui – Yal Cahla
Special thanks to Kara Güneş for allowing us to use the composition "Istanbul" in the outro music
Bibliography courtesy of Elizabeth Perego
Addition thanks to Sofiane Zouggar and Slim for images below


'Hope remains.' This cartoon by popular Algerian cartoonist Slim reflects the dark tone of comedy during Algeria's civil conflict of the 1990s. 
A drawing by Algerian artist Sofiane Zouggar expressing the suffering of Algerians during the 'Dark Decade.' Drawing on paper.

Boskin, Joseph. “American Political Humour.” International Political Science Review. 11, no. 4 (1990): 473-482.

Bozzini, David M. “The Catch-22 of Resistance: Jokes and the Political Imagination of Eritrean Conscripts.” Africa Today. 60, no. 2 (2013): 38-64.

Bryant, Chad. “The Language of Resistance,” Journal of Contemporary History. 41, no. 1 (2006): 133-151.

Davies, Christie. “Humour and Protest: Jokes under Communism.” International Review of Social History. 52 (2007): 291-305.

Draitser, Emil. “Soviet Underground Jokes as a Means of Entertainment,” Journal of Popular Culture. 23 (1989): 117–125.

Evans, Martin, and John Phillips. Algeria: Anger of the Dispossessed. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2007.

Moussaoui, Abderrahmane. “Du rire aux larmes : dérision et railleries.” Chap. 12 in De la Violence en Algérie. Paris : Actes Sud, 2006.

Silverstein, Paul A. “An Excess of Truth: Violence, Conspiracy Theorizing and the Algerian Civil War,” Anthropological Quarterly, 75, no. 4 (1996): 643-674

Speier, Hans. “Wit and Politics.” American Journal of Sociology 103, no. 5 (1998): 1352–1401.

Wedeen, Lisa. “Ideology and Humor in Dark Times: Notes from Syria,” Critical Inquiry 39, no. 4 (2013): 841-873.


Ottoman History Podcast is a noncommerical website intended for educational use. Anyone is welcome to use and reproduce our content with proper attribution under the terms of noncommercial fair use within the classroom setting or on other educational websites. All third-party content is used either with express permission or under the terms of fair use. Our page and podcasts contain no advertising and our website receives no revenue. All donations received are used solely for the purposes of covering our expenses. Unauthorized commercial use of our material is strictly prohibited, as it violates not only our noncommercial commitment but also the rights of third-party content owners.

We make efforts to completely cite all secondary sources employed in the making of our episodes and properly attribute third-party content such as images from the web. If you feel that your material has been improperly used or incorrectly attributed on our site, please do not hesitate to contact us.