Embracing the carnivalesque: Young children's humour as performance and communication

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Today, in the field of early childhood education and care in the UK we do not always demonstrate a constructive attitude towards humour and laughter. We have seemingly stood by as humour and laughter have been subsumed by rhetoric that intimates their importance and value but, in reality, sits on top of contrasting ingrained authoritative discourses that view humour and laughter as a challenge to seriousness, rationality and innocence—qualities that seem to be highly sought after within the early childhood field. A number of ideas have emerged from my data that suggest that any negativity associated with humour and laughter may be confined to adults, and that children may have a more positive approach that embraces Bakhtin’s notion of carnivalesque humour. This paper addresses two findings that reflect the themes of children’s humour and laughter as carnivalesque performance and communication. Firstly, it explores the idea that in nursery settings young children may use humour to perform, but not in the conventional performer/audience understanding of the word. Instead, it seems young children may engage in a carnivalesque performance in which there is no distinction between audience and performers. Secondly, the paper examines the notion that young children may use humour and laughter as a significant form of communication between themselves, as well as with adults. Evidence within the data suggests that this communication could facilitate adult understanding of children’s intentions and motivations.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)70-83
Number of pages14
JournalKnowledge Cultures
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2017

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