Title page for ETD etd-07102007-134324

Type of Document Dissertation
Author Richardson, Debrah Royer
Author's Email Address richardson@lacollege.edu
URN etd-07102007-134324
Title Performing Louisiana: The History of Cajun Dialect Humor and its Impact on the Cajun Cultural Identity
Degree Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
Department Theatre
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Leslie A. Wade Committee Chair
Carolyn Ware Committee Member
Femi Euba Committee Member
Michael Tick Committee Member
Craig E. Colten Dean's Representative
  • Cajun dialect humor
  • Cajun
  • Acadian history
  • ethnography
  • cultural studies
  • cultural identity
  • ethnic humor
Date of Defense 2007-07-05
Availability unrestricted
Cajuns, the descendants of the Acadian diaspora begun in 1755, chose to live a largely isolated existence in Louisiana until elements in the nineteenth century began concerted efforts to assimilate the Cajuns. By the beginnings of the twentieth century, the dual challenges of enforced schooling and the prohibition of spoken French affected the Cajun sense of pride.

Around the same time, outsiders (satirists from Louisiana who were not of Cajun descent) used the Cajun dialect, in publications and on the radio, to humorously skewer Louisiana politics. Over the last century, Cajun dialect humor has evolved along specific lines that have closely followed the evolution of the Cajun cultural identity. Cajun dialect humor was associated with outsiders and would remain that way until the 1960’s. The process of reclamation has been a long and arduous journey, one that has prompted internal struggles leading to negotiations within the community over competing identity narratives. Even though Cajun humorists have supplanted the original satirists in performing the ethnic humor, these negotiations have often placed the practitioners of the dialect humor in the position of beggars at the gate, apologizing for stepping outside the boundaries set by self-appointed gatekeepers, and forcing them to amend their performances to fit certain acceptable guidelines.

The inside/outside duality of Cajun dialect humor led to a showdown within the community, allowing gatekeepers to set parameters on what style of humor would be tolerated and which would not. The dialect humor was divided into the “old,” unacceptable style and the “new,” established style. In this work, I am arguing for a return of the “old” style of humor by demonstrating its place in Cajun history. By restoring the “old” with the “new” style of humor, I believe this will strengthen the overall comic product and ensure the future of Cajun dialect humor.

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