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Laughing at cancer: Humour, empowerment, solidarity and coping online

Demjén, Z; (2016) Laughing at cancer: Humour, empowerment, solidarity and coping online. Journal of Pragmatics , 101 pp. 18-30. 10.1016/j.pragma.2016.05.010. Green open access

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Abstract

In the context of cancer, humour and joking can still be seen as socially unacceptable. Yet people with cancer can find relief in making light of their often life-threatening situations. How and why they do this has received little systematic attention to date. This paper begins to address this gap by exploring 530,055 words of online patient-patient interactions on a thread explicitly dedicated to humour within a UK-based cancer forum.A corpus informed analysis reveals that characteristic forms of humour make fun of cancer and its consequences (e.g. embarrassing bodily functions and paraphernalia required as part of treatment), sometimes via co-constructed fantasy scenarios developed over several posts. Facilitated by the affordances of the online environment, the main functions of these humorous utterances and exchanges include enabling contributors to talk about frightening, sensitive, embarrassing and/or taboo experiences; potentially reducing the psychological impact of their experiences; facilitating a sense of individual and collective empowerment in a context where people can feel powerless; and building a sense of a cohesive, supportive community, thereby reducing potential feelings of isolation. In these ways, humour helps contributors cope with their illness.

Type: Article
Title: Laughing at cancer: Humour, empowerment, solidarity and coping online
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1016/j.pragma.2016.05.010
Publisher version: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.pragma.2016.05.010
Language: English
Additional information: © 2016 The Author(s). Published by Elsevier B.V. This is an open access article under the CC BY license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/)
Keywords: Conversational humour; Cancer; Online interactions; Health communication; Empowerment
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education > UCL Institute of Education
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education > UCL Institute of Education > IOE - Culture, Communication and Media
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1530106
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