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Just Joking? Humor and the Limits of Free Speech


Where is the line between someone’s 'right to offend' and someone else’s 'right not to be offended'? Answering this question is particularly difficult when it comes to humor. Due to its ambiguity and elusiveness, humorous expression can be hard to decipher, and the difference between an ‘innocent joke’ and a deeply harmful one is often far from clear.

In this lecture we will discuss recent examples of global controversies generated by satirical cartoons (from Charlie Hebdo to The New York Times), and we will analyse those examples in a legal and cultural perspective. Particular attention will also be given to recent rulings by the European Court of Human Rights regarding extreme or controversial humor, as well as to ongoing debates over the meaning and boundaries of freedom of expression.

Why should you not miss out on this lecture?

You will have an opportunity to reflect on highly topical issues, such as freedom of speech and respect of diversity in an increasingly interconnected world. You will be invited to contribute during the session by taking part in group discussions and sharing your view via


Dr Alberto Godioli Dr Alberto Godioli is Senior Lecturer in European Literature and Culture at the University of Groningen, and programme director of the Netherlands Research School for Literary Studies (OSL). His main research area is humor and satire across media, with special regard to ongoing debates on dark and controversial humor.
Last modified:13 August 2019 1.54 p.m.