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Professor Gary Fine (Northwestern University): “Dark Fun: The Cruelties of Hedonic Communities” - 11 June 2019

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The FinWork Futures Research Centre organises research seminars, workshops and other events investigating the future of financial work in relation to the global rise of digital technologies.

This week we welcome Professor Gary Fine from Northwestern University, Evanston, USA.

“Dark Fun: The Cruelties of Hedonic Communities”


While fun is generally conceived as positive engagement and community building, we explore the linkage between fun and cruelty, suggesting that acts of violence and humiliation can be situated within hedonic experience. In this, we provide a meso-analysis of the occasions in which groups engage in activities that are widely judged to be disreputable and deviant, even if providing enjoyment and increasing group cohesion.

By examining ethnographic observations of gang activity, bullying, hooliganism, political violence, and brutality in prison, we argue for the concept of “dark fun.” We focus on the role of collective effervescence, local group cultures, and moral ordering as contributing to dark fun. However, in considering fun and cruelty, we argue, following John Levi Martin, that the former is judged by first-person recognition and the latter through third-person analysis.

The different perspectives of perpetrators and victims in the same situation suggest the challenge of interpreting a twined phenomenology, requiring different interpretive strategies for fun and cruelty.

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11 June 2019