Political cartoons as carnivalesque: a multimodal discourse analysis of Argentina’s Humor Registrado magazine

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Political cartoons, although generally neglected by academic criticism, are often one of the only forms of socio-political critique permitted during authoritarian rule (Barajas, Rafael. 2000. “The Transformative Power of art: Mexico’s Combat Cartoonists.” NACLA Report on the Americas, 3: 6–41). This paper explores the reasons behind this, reading the genre as a form of Bakhtin’s carnivalesque, a participatory space of oppositional discourse outside the official version with which it has an “ambivalent” relationship (Bakhtin, Mikhael. 1984. Rabelais and His World (Trans Iswolsky H). Bloomington: Indiana University Press) and can be allowed to circulate as a “safety valve” (Holquist, Michael. 1984. “Prologue.” In Rabelais and his World, edited by M. Bakhtin, xiii–xxiii. Bloomington: Indiana University Press) of controlled protest. Drawing on tools of Multimodal Discourse Analysis, Social Semiotics (Kress, Gunther, and Theo Van Leeuwen. 1996. Reading Images: The Grammar of Visual Design. New York: Routledge) and Semiology (Barthes, Roland. 1968. Elements of Semiology. New York: Hill and Wang) for methodological purposes, this study investigates this hypothesis through the political cartoons of the covers of satirical fortnightly publication Humor Registrado during the final year of Argentina’s last dictatorship, 1982–1983. The magazine’s role in challenging the dictatorship is explored through an analysis of its representations of key social actors and events during Argentina’s difficult period of transition from dictatorship to democracy following defeat in the 1982 Malvinas/Falklands War.
Original languageEnglish (Ireland)
Pages (from-to)45
Number of pages67
JournalSocial Semiotics
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 01 Apr 2019


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