Conventionally defined as “the study of humanity,” anthropology has always been a highly diverse discipline. It was once described by one of its practitioners, Clyde Kluckhohn, as an intellectual poaching license, partly because of its “four field” approach encompassing biological anthropology, cultural anthropology, archaeology, and linguistics. Because the discipline spans the physical sciences and the humanities, anthropologists draw freely upon everything from philosophy and history to psychology and biology. Hence, anthropologists interested in humor employ a wide variety of approaches in their work, although most would claim that field study and ethnography are their forte. An anthropological account of joking, laughter, or carnival is as likely to draw on Sigmund Freud (a psychoanalyst), Henri Bergson (a philosopher), or Mikhail Bakhtin (a semiotician) as it is ...

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