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Elizabeth Tacke
PhD English and Education Student

Practice Job Talk
Wednesday, December 4, 1-2:30 in Angell Hall 3222

Negotiating Precarious Affects: Anger, Humor, and Disability Disclosure

Every day, individuals must navigate how, when, and to what extent they disclose disability, because doing so is a risky act, laden with consequences. Drawing on data generated through discussion groups and semi-structured interviews with ten women who self-identify as disabled or chronically ill, my dissertation complicates existing theories of disclosure by exploring how individuals employ rhetorical tactics of “masking” in their disclosures of disability and trauma. Within this theoretical framing, I understand masking as a process of disclosure that both reveals and conceals, that engages in silence and speech (or other forms of multimodal and embodied communication).

In this talk, I draw from qualitative data to explore how participants adopt particular affective stances as rhetorical vehicles for disclosure that can help mediate how those disclosures are received. In particular, participants draw on humor to advocate for access, to deemphasize being read as having a political “agenda,” or to soften the material and emotional stigma of disability or trauma. For example, Rachel wrote an online blog about her experiences of institutionalization, making fun of her hospital attire and highlighting the mundane milestones, like painting one’s nails, that constituted acts of wellness, in order to humanize those who are institutionalized, particularly herself. These rhetorical uses of humor work as tactics of resistance (Certeau 1980), as participants adopt more socially acceptable, affective means of self-advocacy. However, akin to Hannah Gadsby’s (2018) argument in her stand-up, Nanette, there are often embodied and epistemological prices to pay for humor. Using participants’ stories, I highlight how humor as translation requires emotional and rhetorical labor, and I interrogate the stakes of adopting humor, particularly when humor may fail to portray the “whole story” of experience.

We hope you can attend and support our Jobseekers, light refreshments will be available.
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