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 (In press).

URL: https://read.dukeupress.edu/poetics-today/issue/42...

Abstract

Illness stories have been celebrated as a resource for giving patients voice from the active position of the wounded storyteller (Frank 1997). The proliferating research on illness stories, however, has often reproduced a reductionist approach to narrative as a window to subjective views and experience based on a largely underdeveloped and essentialized notion of voice. Critics of the over-celebration of narrative have called for caution towards the use of personal stories (Atkinson 2009, Woods 2011), pointing to the need to situate constructions of the narrative self in their social, cultural, and political contexts (Schiff 2006: 21).

In this article, I discuss a new type of illness stories that has emerged in digital contexts as entrepreneurial narratives (Stage 2017) characterized by the connective mobilization of illness for producing various forms of economic and social value. Using small stories (Georgakopoulou 2015) and affective positioning (Giaxoglou 2021) as my analytic lens, I examine the specific case of story-design, curation and sharing of the COVID-19 diagnosis of actor Idris Elba in March 2020. As I will argue, the illness experience is mobilized in small stories online as a resource for authenticating the self in line with templetized 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 across domains and its limits (Mäkelä 2018, Meretoja 2018, Meretoja and Davis 2018).

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