SCAS News - 6 November, 2023

The CAT ‘Cartoons in Court’ Team Assembles at the Collegium

This week, SCAS is hosting a third group of early-career researchers within the NetIAS Constructive
Advanced Thinking (CAT) programme. Gathering at the Collegium for a week of intense work are
Principal Investigator Alberto Godioli (University of Groningen/RUG), Vicky Breemen (Utrecht University),
Andrew Bricker (Ghent University), Ana Pedrazzini (Conicet – National University of Comahue), and Tjeerd
Royaards (Cartoon Movement), focusing on a project titled “Cartoons in Court: Visual Humor and Free Speech Jurisprudence”:

 “Due to its inherent ambiguity and elusiveness, humor can make it particularly difficult to draw a line between
lawful and unlawful expression. This is particularly evident in the case of cartoons or other comparable forms
of predominantly visual humor (such as memes), whose high degree of implicitness and condensation generates
specific interpretive challenges. Courts of law still lack a consistent approach to questions such as the following:
How can judges deal with the ambiguity of visual humor, i.e. the fact that the same cartoon or meme can be in-
terpreted in different ways by different people? And to what extent can the author/cartoonist be considered re-
sponsible for those different interpretations?

The ‘Cartoons in Court’ team tackles these questions by working organically on the following interconnected
strands: 1) Discussion of case law regarding controversial cartoons; 2) Corpus-assisted analysis of ambiguity
in cartoons; 3) Historical perspective on cartoon controversies; 4) Interviews with cartoonists and legal pro-
fessionals. Throughout the project, the research team will work in close collaboration with stakeholders such
as Cartoon Movement, Cartoonists Rights Network International, Cartooning for Peace and other free speech

Previously the group has visited the IAS CEU Budapest (November 2022). Future research visits within the
framework of the programme are being planned to include IIAS Jerusalem (April 2024, to be confirmed) and
NIAS Amsterdam (Spring 2025).

SCAS is one of twelve participating institutes of the CAT initiative, which was developed within the
framework of the Network of European Institutes for Advanced Studies (NETIAS), and launched in
2019. The programme aims at supporting small groups of excellent early-career researchers conducting
fundamental research dedicated to developing new ideas to understand and to tackle current or emerging
societal challenges. The selected groups work on their project for a duration of up to three years and
during this time they are invited to meet for short stays at some of the participating institutes, where
they also get the opportunity to get in contact with the Fellows in residence at the institutes as well as
local research communities.

Read more about the CAT programme >>
Read more about the Network of European Institutes for Advanced Studies (NETIAS) >>