Stigma and resonance : their consequences on cancer patients
The aim of this master thesis was to explore and better understand how stigma and empathy are experienced by cancer patients in a local cancer support group in Japan, and what consequences stigma and empathy have on their everyday lives. Empathy is still an undeveloped concept in the field of Anthropology, and what I draw on in this thesis is based on Unni Wikan’s concept of ‘resonance’. The fieldwork was conducted with a local cancer support group called Ippo Ippo in Japan. The main finding showed that the cancer members were involuntarily complicit in nourishing stigma processes towards themselves both inside and outside of the group. In this context, even resonance itself is used as a means for them to differentiate between insiders and outsiders. As a result, they are caught up in a negative spiral where they nourish their own stigma which affects their points of view. What seemed to help alter their perspectives was not the group itself but the fact that the group provided an opportunity for mixed contact with non-cancer members who dared to treat them as peer members and not cancer patients. In order to analyze the finer detail of the resonance aspect of an interaction, I modified resonance, differentiating it into what I call sympathetic resonance and empathic resonance. While sympathetic resonance takes place at the emotional level, empathic resonance is more related to the story (content) level. Thinking of resonance in degrees with two levels allows the researcher to see a clearer picture of what is going on in the moment. The thesis argues for the usefulness of resonance to the anthropologists, both as an analytical tool and as an approach to the subjective world of the informants.
ForlagUniversitetet i Tromsø
University of Tromsø
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