Sending Laughter around the World




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De Gruyter Mouton



Peer reviewed



Clowning for refugees, clown performances in refugee camps or conflict zones is a performative practice which has existed for almost 40 years. However, very little academic attention has been paid to performance of this kind. This article, therefore, outlines the history of clowning with refugees (drawing on the practice of Clowns Without Borders (CWB), the primary organisation in this field and on the work of other individual clowns). It establishes the key principles which guide this kind of performance, focusing on the practitioners’ emphasis on the therapeutic power of laughter and play, particularly, but not exclusively, for children. Drawing on interviews with practitioners, email questionnaires, videos of clown refugee performance, internet newspaper articles and published material, the techniques and strategies of clown performances in refugee settings are explored through three examples of practical encounters. These case studies (CWB in Lesotho, Circus2Iraq and Mimi the Clown working with the Red Cross in Tunisia) facilitate the exploration of the aims of such work and how such performances might best be evaluated. Whilst the paper’s focus is on examining the performative and therapeutic nature of clowning, play and laughter on those who experience clown performances; the fact that such performances take place in difficult and potentially dangerous settings also raises issues in relation to cultural and ethical considerations which are also explored.


The file attached to this record is the author's final peer reviewed version. The Publisher's final version can be found by following the DOI link.


Clowning, Play, Refugees, Laughter


Peacock, L, (2016) Sending laughter around the world. Humor: International Journal of Humor Research, 29(2), pp 223- 241


Research Institute

Institute of Drama, Dance and Performance Studies