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The Interdisciplinary Approaches to Humor conference will take place at UNC-CH from April 8th to 9th. The goal of this conference is to foster an interdisciplinary dialogue on the topic of humor, and will feature speakers from a variety of academic disciplines including gender studies, African-American studies, anthropology, psychology, neuroscience, philosophy, and law.  The conference will also include a panel discussion among some comedic actors, writers, and producers, as well as a Saturday night performance by a fantastic longform, musical, theatrical improv group called Centralia.

The Saturday (April 9) session on the Psychology and Neuroscience of Humor may be of particular interest to those in Literature, Medicine and Culture. The speakers for this session are Associate Professor Dr. Leonard E. White, who is faculty in the Department of Neurobiology and the School of Medicine at Duke University (as well as, among other things, an affiliate of the Duke Institute for Brian Sciences), and Dr. Thomas Ford, a social psychologist at Western Carolina University who operates a Humor Lab.

All conference events (including the Centralia performance) are completely free and open to everyone, though advance registration is required.  Please feel free to be in touch with Professor Michelle Robinson at<> if you have any questions.

The schedule is available here and registration is here.

The keynote speaker is Mel Watkins, who is perhaps best known as the author of On the Real Side: A History of African American Comedy from Slavery to Chris Rock (Lawrence Hill Books, 1994; updated edition, 1999). As the foremost study of the history and development of African American humor, On the Real Side is an ambitious work that roots the contemporary characteristics of black American public comedic performance to the private displays of humor of enslaved West Africans during the antebellum period. A journalist as well as a scholar, Mr. Watkins became the first African American staff editor at the New York Times Sunday Book Review in 1968, serving in that position until 1985.

Co-sponsors include the American Studies Department, the Department of Philosophy, the Center for the Study of the American South, the Program in Sexuality Studies, the Department of History, and the Institute for Arts and Humanities. We have also received support from the UNC Interdisciplinary Initiative Fund and the Provost’s Performing Arts Special Activities Fund.

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