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Teasing, laughing and disciplinary humor: Staff-youth interaction in detention home treatment
Linköping University, Department of Behavioural Sciences and Learning, Psychology. Linköping University, Faculty of Arts and Sciences.
Stockholms universitet.
2013 (English)In: Discourse Studies, ISSN 1461-4456, E-ISSN 1461-7080, Vol. 15, no 2, 167-183 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

This study explores how disciplinary humor is deployed to shape and reshape social order in inter-generational encounters. Data are drawn from an ethnographic study of staff–resident encounters at a treatment home for boys (including about 30 hours of video recordings), focusing on sequential patterns in the local design of jokes and teasing, analyzing language and multimodal interaction in detail. It was found that staff and boys recurrently laughed together and teased each other by invoking local hierarchical positions such as child–adult. The intrinsic ambiguity of humor and teasing allowed staff members to engage in temporary breaches of social order, while simultaneously enforcing local rules of conduct. Similarly, the boys would joke with the staff, exaggerating or transgressing institutional and generational divides. But ultimately, the joking could also be seen to remind the participants of the very hierarchies that separate staff from residents and men from boys, or adults from children. 

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Sage Publications, 2013. Vol. 15, no 2, 167-183 p.
Keyword [en]
Detention homes, disciplinary humor, discipline, laughter, social order, teasing, youth
National Category
URN: urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-90251DOI: 10.1177/1461445612471469ISI: 000329071000003OAI: diva2:612621
Available from: 2013-03-22 Created: 2013-03-22 Last updated: 2014-08-28
In thesis
1. Disciplining Freedom: Treatment Dilemmas and Subjectivity at a Detention Home for Young Men
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Disciplining Freedom: Treatment Dilemmas and Subjectivity at a Detention Home for Young Men
2014 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

This ethnographic study explores treatment practices and staff-resident interaction at a detention home for young men, drawing on video recorded conversations and interviews. It investigates ideological dilemmas inherent in the institutional setting and how these produce complex subject positions to uptake, negotiate or refuse. Study I explores a core treatment dilemma: coercion vs. freedom, involving the dual institutional goal of coercing residents into norm abiding behavior and of producing individuals who behave "properly" out of their own free will. It focuses on staff members’ talk about token economy, illuminating rhetorical resources deployed to avoid the troubled subject position of a disciplinarian. Study II investigates disciplinary humor, illuminating how humor is used both to impose and disrupt social order. It shows how staff members and youths skillfully deploy humor in negotiating local hierarchies related to authority, generation, and age. Humor was also found to be a useful way of navigating ideological dilemmas. Study III explores behavior modification practices, focusing on how selfassessment practices can be conceptualized as responsibilization that emphasizes self-regulation. It documents the participants’ engagement in strategic deployment of specific subject position relations, “young boy”-caregiver rather than delinquent-disciplinarian. In brief, the thesis shows that subject positions are essentially co-constructed, and how positions related to age are highly relevant in this institutional setting. Paradoxical aspects of subject positions provide discursive resources that can be deployed to navigate ideological dilemmas such as that of coercion vs. freedom, but also to handle issues of authenticity.

Abstract [sv]

Denna etnografiska studie undersöker behandlingspraktiker och interaktion mellan personal och ungdomar på ett särskilt ungdomshem för unga män. Materialet består framförallt av videoinspelad interaktion och intervjuer. I studien utforskas ideologiska dilemman samt hur dessa producerar komplexa subjektspositioner att uppta, förhandla om eller neka. Studie I undersöker ett huvuddilemma: tvång vs. frihet, vilket involverar de dubbla institutionella målen att tvinga ungdomarna till önskvärt beteende och att producera individer som beter sig ”korrekt” av egen fri vilja. Fokus ligger på personalens tal om teckenekonomi och studien synliggör retoriska resurser som används för att undvika positionen ”disciplinär personal”. Studie II utforskar disciplinerande humor och synliggör hur humor används både för att skapa och omskapa den sociala ordningen. Studien visar hur personal och ungdomar skickligt använder humor i förhandlingar om lokala hierarkier relaterade till auktoritet, generation och ålder. Humor var också ett sätt att navigera ideologiska dilemman. Studie III undersöker beteendemodifieringspraktiker, med fokus på hur självutvärdering kan förstås som responsibilisering med fokus på själv-reglering. Studien dokumenterar deltagarnas strategiska användning av specifika subjektspositionsrelationer, ”liten pojke”-vårdare snarare än ungdomsbrottsling-disciplinär personal. Sammantaget visar avhandlingen att subjektspositioner i grunden är samkonstruerade och att positioner rörande ålder är ytterst relevanta i denna kontext. Paradoxala aspekter av subjektspositioner bidrar med diskursiva resurser vilka kan användas för att hantera ideologiska dilemman och för att hantera frågor rörande autenticitet.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Linköping: Linköping University Electronic Press, 2014. 138 p.
Linköping Studies in Arts and Science, ISSN 0282-9800 ; 617Linköping Studies in Behavioural Science, ISSN 1654-2029 ; 184
Discipline, self-government, subjectivity, subject positioning, forced treatment, youth, normality, morality, humor, ideological dilemmas, resistance, Disciplin, självstyrning, subjektivitet, subjektspositionering, tvångsvård, ungdom, normalitet, moral, humor, ideologiska dilemman, motstånd
National Category
urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-106936 (URN)10.3384/diss.diva-106936 (DOI)978-91-7519-344-1 (print) (ISBN)
Public defence
2014-06-03, I:101, Hus I, Campus Valla, Linköpings universitet, Linköping, 13:00 (English)
Available from: 2014-05-27 Created: 2014-05-27 Last updated: 2014-06-16Bibliographically approved

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