Every interacting social group develops, over time, a joking culture: a set of humorous references that are known to members of the group to which members can refer and that serve as the basis of further interaction. Joking, thus, has a historical, retrospective, and reflexive character. We argue that group joking is embedded, interactive, and referential, and these features give it power within the group context. Elements of the joking culture serve to smooth group interaction, share affiliation, separate the group from outsiders, and secure the compliance of group members through social control. To demonstrate these processes we rely upon two detailed ethnographic examples of continuing joking: one from mushroom collectors and the second from professional meteorologists.
Walter de Gruyter