At the 2013 SSSI Conference in New York the winner of the Graduate Student Paper Award was Announced:
The winner is Amanda Gengler, Brandeis University, for her paper: “Keep Your Hope, Keep Your Faith: Hope Work and Emotional Threat Management among Families of Seriously Ill Children.”
Amanda’s paper draws on ethnographic case studies with families of seriously ill children to examine how parents worked individually and in collaboration with others to manage the difficult emotions inherent in negotiating the illness process, and to maintain hope that their children would regain health and survive life-threatening conditions. These efforts could be hindered, however, if they confronted information or reflected appraisals that did not allow them to construct hopeful narratives of progress for themselves and others. Parents worked to ward off such emotional threats by 1) seeking or limiting their exposure to different types of information, 2) strategically steering social interactions with others, and 3) surrendering control of their child’s medical treatment to doctors, to God, or both. Her findings point to the importance of preemptive emotion work in shaping social networks and decision-making among those facing profoundly difficult situations for extended periods of time.
We also awarded an honorable mention to Gareth M. Thomas, Cardiff University, for this paper, Cooling the Mother Out: Revisiting and Revising Goffman’s Account.
Gareth’s paper revisits Erving Goffman’s important yet neglected metaphor of “cooling the mark out.” Drawing on a study of mothers whose child has Down’s syndrome, Gareth explores the value of Goffman’s essay, in conjunction with his wider corpus, for capturing how mothers interpret their child’s diagnosis as a loss and rectify this breach by constructing an acceptance of their new situation. Mothers can be cooled out in three ways: 1) blowing her top (a physical display of grief); 2) accessing “coolers” (sympathetic others who provide support), and; 3) constructing a “courtesy identity” (a positive public association with the child). The accounts provided by mothers highlight how Goffman’s contentions can be enriched by acknowledging the gendered, temporal, and public character of a loss. His paper, thus, can be read both as a celebration and critical revision of Goffman’s theoretical contribution.