That joke isn't funny anymore: Humour, jokes and their relationship to social work

Jordan, Stephen (2015) That joke isn't funny anymore: Humour, jokes and their relationship to social work. Professional Doctorate thesis, Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust. Full text available

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Humour can be seen as trivial, peripheral and even an affront to some people in relation to the solemn business of social work. This thesis makes an original contribution to social work practice and thought, by exploring the relationship between jokes, humour and social,work. Jokes are worthy data in themselves to study, and humour is intrinsic to social life. This thesis draws on the extensive body of literature on humour and the history of joke telling. Neither have been studied together in relation to social work. Exposing contradictions in complex social phenomena has a track record as a creative way of knowing. The methodological approach taken reflects the qualitative nature of humour and jokes, and the analysis employed combined psychoanalytic and thematic approaches, in which “thematized meanings” were found across data sets. Social work and social workers occupy a contradictory position in society. The findings here indicate that humour and jokes provide a transitional space which helps social workers manage the contradictions and ambivalences of their work. The jokes made about social workers reflect a profession under attack, and the humour and jokes made by social workers reveal the desire to convey their humanity and to create relationships. Importantly my research shows that whilst there is a danger in humour being used unethically, humour can help social workers attach to their teams and their colleagues, and help build resilience, as a culture of humour within teams creates a nurturing environment, with social workers who will be more likely to stay in the job. Importantly as well humour can help facilitate relationships with service users, and become a tool for service users and social workers to bond.

Item Type: Thesis (Professional Doctorate)
Additional Information: Thesis submitted in partial fulfilment of the Professional Doctorate in Social Work awarded by the University of East London in collaboration with the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust
Uncontrolled Keywords: Professional Doctorate in Social Work, D60
Subjects: Social Welfare > Social Welfare Personnel
Social Welfare > Social Work
Department/People: Children, Young Adult and Family Services

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