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? It’s commonly assumed that revolutionaries should be solemn, but research shows that when humor is employed as a tactic in social movements the success rate doubles.

Humor is a powerful weapon, especially in response authoritarianism and dictators. Not only does humor melt fear, but movements that use humor and satire gain popularity quickly, allowing them to grow exponentially, which is a crucial component for success.

Popovic will discuss the different strategies of using humor in nonviolent movements. He promotes the idea that nonviolent revolutions work and 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 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 former Serbian dictator, Slobodan Milosevic. After Milosevic was defeated in 2000, Popovic was elected to the Serbian Parliament where he served from 2000-2004.

Following his career in parliament, Popovic went on to found CANVAS, which was created with the intent of teaching people all over the world about how to be successful in nonviolent conflict. The organization has worked with activists from 46 different countries, spreading the knowledge of the nonviolent strategies and tactics used by Otpor! worldwide.

Popovic is currently the 53rd Rector of the University of St Andrews. He commenced the role 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 Blueprint for Revolution.

Learn more at

This lecture is co-sponsored by the Department of Comparative Literature, the Department of History, the McCourtney Institute for Democracy, the Paterno Fellows Program, the Department of Political Science, the School of International Affairs, Schreyer Honors College, the Department of Sociology and Criminology.

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