This article sketches a rough outline of ways humor and laughter were used in setting social boundaries along the Alaska-Yukon border in the decade before the Klondike gold rush (1896-1900). It maintains that humor possessed an extraordinary capacity to both collapse and sustain social hierarchies on the frontier—establishing in and out groups in the absence of any “official” state or national authority in the Far North, drawing on Mikhail Bakhtin's Rabelais and His World as a theoretical framework to analyze humor's capacity to establish togetherness and otherness. Frontiersmen, this article suggests, harnessed the leveling power of humor to create in-groups while deploying it against Indians and Black Americans to define otherness.

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