Laughtivism – the Power of Humor in Nonviolent Struggle

Feb 26, 2019
04:30 PM to 05:45 PM
Katz Auditorium, University Park

What do jokes have to do with revolutions? People would argue that revolutionaries should be solemn and serious because they are dealing with serious issues. However, studies have showed that the chance of success is doubled when the leader and others in the movement are happier and less obsessed with keeping a serious visage around-the-clock.

Humor is a powerful weapon in social movements. This is especially true when you are up against some of the world's toughest and most serious dictators. Humor melts fear and without fear, dictators cannot survive.

Not only that, but most movements that use humor and satire as part of their approach, appear "cool" and become popular quickly. This allows the movement to grow exponentially, and amassing people power is a crucial component to the success of a social movement. It's also difficult for opposition to reply to a joke or a satirical jab in an intelligent manner. However, not responding is just as risky, which leaves the opponent in a dicey situation and gives you the upper hand.

Srdja will discuss different ways of using humor as a strategy, in the form of nonviolent movements. He promotes the idea that nonviolent revolutions work and can help make the world a more peaceful and democratic place.

Srdja Popovic is the Founder and Executive director of the Center for Applied Nonviolent Actions and Strategies (CANVAS), a non-profit organization based in Belgrade, Serbia that aims to teach the use of nonviolence to make a change.

He was born and raised in Belgrade, Serbia (then part of Yugoslavia), in 1973. Popovic played the guitar in a rock band and graduated from the Faculty of Biology in Belgrade, holding a Master’s degree (MA) in animal ecology. Since his early twenties, he has focused on activism, democracy and human rights issues.

In 1998, Popovic founded the student movement “Otpor!” (“Resistance!”) which played a crucial role in ousting president Slobodan Milosevic, former Serbian dictator accused of war crimes. After Milosevic was defeated in 2000, Popovic was elected to the Serbian Parliament where he served from 2000 until 2004.

Following his career in the Serbian Parliament, Popovic went on to found CANVAS, acting as its executive director ever since. CANVAS was created with the intent of teaching people all over the world about how to be successful in nonviolent conflict. So far, the organization has worked with activists from 46 different countries, spreading the knowledge of the nonviolent strategies and tactics used by Otpor! worldwide.

He is currently the 53rd Rector of the University of St Andrews. He commenced the role of the University Rector for a period of 3 years from November 2017.

Apart from being nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2012, Popovic was listed as one of the "Top 100 Global Thinkers" of 2011 by the Foreign Policy Magazine. And in 2014 he was listed as a "Young Global Leader" by the World Economic Forum in Davos. Popovic is also the author of the recent book Blueprint for Revolution.

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