Institute of Advanced Studies (IAS)


IAS Research Themes 2018-19

27 February 2018

UCL library

The Institute of Advanced Studies is pleased to be able to announce its research themes for 2018-2019: Laughter and Turbulence.  These themes have emerged after extensive consultation and discussion with colleagues across the joint faculties and are designed to be capacious and suggestive so that various research-led initiatives and events can be accommodated under their aegis.  We hope to appoint two Junior Research Fellows for two years for each theme. In addition we aim to fund a selection of innovative research-led discussions, conferences and practices related to these themes.  Calls will be widely advertised and will proceed through open competition. Advertisements for the JRFs will go live in March 2018.  Keep an eye on this website for further information.

Each theme is open to the widest possible interpretation and is assumed to address the concerns of many disciplines and departments while providing a frame for thinking across or even bypassing entrenched or established modes of thinking. It may be useful for prospective applicants to know that the conversations we have been having around each have included the following concerns:


  • External expressions of merriment/amusement: its corporeal/cognitive dimensions
  • The politics of laughter: irreverence, mockery, ridicule, revenge, revolutionary mirth/glee
  • The aesthetics/poetics of laughter: satire, wit, comic forms, caricature and comedic creations
  • The performance/production of laughter: stand up, clowning, mimicry, jokers and fools
  • Technologies of laughter: canned, recorded, packaged, produced, pre-planned
  • Laughter on line: happy emojis, lol, hahaha, mediations and manipulations of laughing in social networks and new media
  • Laughter and feeling: reparation, catharsis, release, empathy
  • Dark laughter: last laughs, gallows humour, hysteria, contagion, forced funniness, humiliation, hyperbolic horror
  • Weaponised laughter: cruel jokes, taking the piss, winding some-one up, bullies and buffoons
  • Defensive laughter: anxiety, embarrassment, fear, unease
  • Representation/narration of laughter: infectious, unfunny, unpleasant, inappropriate, palliative
  • The laughing body: incontinence, unruliness, excess, falling about, unravelling, porous, seeping


  • Chaotic/unpredictable change: unsteady movement, elemental disturbance, liveliness of matter and mood, weather and wind
  • Turmoil, instability, upheaval, tumult, unruliness, uncontrolled passions, confusion, unsettlement
  • Turbulent times/journeys/environments: materials, flows, natural forces, economies
  • Wild and erratic motion, force, intensity, feeling, velocity
  • Unpredictability/instability/precarity: of markets, emotions, atoms and areas
  • Disruption of forms/genres: radical destabilisation of conventions, precedents, procedures and norms
  • Turbulence and aesthetics: melodrama, horror, noise, scale, the sublime
  • Turbulence and subjectivity, psychological unpredictability