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"I don't know why they call it the Lake District they might as well call it the rock district!" The workings of humour and laughter in research with members of visually impaired walking groups

By Hannah Macpherson


Humour and laughter are socioembodied phenomena which may be evident in interview, ethnographic, or other social research settings. In this paper I argue that we should engage with humour and laughter in our research accounts, rather than simply relegate these themes to the brackets in our transcripts. Drawing upon doctoral research carried out with members of specialist visually impaired walking groups, I show how laughter and humour form a temporary sonic element to the landscapes they pass through and how laughter and humour are used to negotiate the relations\ud between sighted guide and walker, relieve nervousness, and subvert stereotypes. I argue that recognition should be given to laughter and humour as both a conscious reflective strategy and a `nonrepresentational' embodied and contagious phenomenon, for laughter and humour are intimately connected both to the subject positions of walkers with visual impairments and to the embodied, muscular practice of walking itself. I note that, while humour is a useful individual coping strategy that gives people with blindness a sense of liberation from a notion of `the blind' as subjects of pity, laughter and humour can also betray a certain pessimism, sometimes used as a way of coping with, rather than actually challenging, some of the subtle prejudices that they face as users of rural space

Topics: L700 Human and Social Geography
Publisher: Pion
Year: 2008
OAI identifier: oai:eprints.brighton.ac.uk:6031
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