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© Ehimetalor Akhere Unuabona / Unsplash
Racism is a Pandemic

Humour builds relationships: Do we share something in common? Can we laugh together? Are we at all similar? Moreover, humour regulates emotions: promotes positive ones, alleviates painful ones.

As a teenager in England, Mithu Sanyal saw comedy as a means of talking about race. Not to laugh at those affected by racism – but at the absurdity of the concept of “race”. Sanyal’s novel Identitti, published this spring, uses wit and humour to build a comprehensive self-empowerment when speaking about racism, identity politics and coloniality. At the kick-off event of Counterquestions, Mithu Sanyal suggests that as a society, we would do well to laugh at ourselves if we want to change.

Over in Glasgow, Scotland, a teenage Amna Saleem was similarly developing her own comedic take on the world. At first, her sense of humour was formed as a self defense mechanism as she navigated her dual cultures during an unforgiving post 9/11 culture. Lucky for her, this innate desire for self preservation later evolved into a successful career as an adult. Although, Amna Saleem‘s complicated feelings surrounding race and politics discreetly inform much of her work, it is her ability to make people laugh that she prioritises above all. She firmly believes comedy to be the trojan horse that allows us to truly progress as a society.

Welcome address
Hartmut Dorgerloh, Director of the Humboldt Forum

Melinda Crane & Geraldine de Bastion



Mithu Sanyal was born in Düsseldorf in 1971 and is a cultural scientist, author, journalist and critic. Her non-fiction book, Vulva. Das unsichtbare Geschlecht, was published in 2009 and her following release was in 2016, titled Vergewaltigung. Aspekte eines Verbrechens. 2021 saw the publication of her first novel Identitti.

Amna Saleem is a Scottish Pakistani screenwriter, journalist and broadcaster based in Glasgow with several TV projects in production. Her first sitcom, Beta Female, can be found on BBC Radio Four. She has written for publications such as The Guardian, BBC, GQ, The New Statesman and HuffPost. Amna Saleem‘s work can also be found within the pages of two best selling anthologies in which she is featured – It’s Not About The Burqa: Muslim Women on Faith, Feminism, Sexuality and Race and Who’s Loving You. Love Stories by Women of Colour.

Melinda Crane is chief political correspondent at DW TV and also hosts the DW talk show To the Point. In 2014 she was awarded the Steuben-Schurz Media Award for her service to transatlantic understanding. She regularly comments on US politics for German broadcasters. Her journalistic experience includes work for the New York Times Magazine, The Boston Globe Sunday Magazine, The Boston Globe, the Christian Science Monitor and German newspapers such as Frankfurter Hefte, Internationale Politik and the ARD.

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