Anthropological writings on humor are not very numerous or extensive, but they do contain a great deal of insight into the diverse mental and social processes that underlie joking and laughter. On the basis of a wide range of ethnographic and textual materials, the chapters examine the cognitive, social, and moral aspects of humor and its potential to bring about a sense of amity and mutual understanding, even among different and possibly hostile people. Unfortunately, though, cartoons, jokes, and parodies can cause irremediable distress and offence. Nevertheless, contributors' cross-cultural evidence confirms that the positive aspects of humor far outweigh the danger of deepening divisions and fueling hostilities
Lidia Dina Sciama is former Director of the International Gender Studies Centre (formerly the Centre for Cross-Cultural Research on Women), University of Oxford, where she is currently a Research Associate. She is the author of A Venetian Island: Environment, History and Change in Burano (Berghahn 2003).