Mobilizing stories of illness in digital contexts: a critical approach to narrative, voice and visibility

Giaxoglou, Korina (2021). Mobilizing stories of illness in digital contexts: a critical approach to narrative, voice and visibility. Poetics Today, 43(2) pp. 287–308.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1215/03335372-9642623

Abstract

Illness stories have been celebrated as a resource for giving patients voice from the active position of the wounded storyteller. The proliferating research on illness stories, however, has often reproduced a reductionist approach to narrative as a window to subjective views and experiences based on a largely underdeveloped and essentialized notion of voice. Critics of the over-celebration of narrative have called for caution toward the use of personal stories, pointing to the need to situate constructions of the narrative self in their social, cultural, and political contexts. This article discusses a new type of illness stories that has emerged in digital contexts and that is characterized by the use of illness for producing various forms of economic and social value. Using small stories and affective positioning as its analytic lens, the article examines the specific case of story design, curation, and sharing of the COVID-19 diagnosis of actor Idris Elba in March 2020. As the article argues, the illness experience is mobilized in small stories online as a resource for authenticating the self in line with conventional modes of sharing, blurring the lines between the personal voice and the public visibility of storytelling. The article contributes to the critical study of the mobilization of stories in digital contexts.

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