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American Journal of Cultural Sociology

, Volume 3, Issue 2, pp 280–308 | Cite as

At a close distance: Dropouts, teachers, and joking relationships

  • Anna Lund
Original Article

Abstract

Is student joking in school always a counter-school cultural practice? Paul Willis has shown how ‘the laff’, as a practice, functions to allow students to distance themselves from teachers and schoolwork. But is it possible that joking in school can be an asset for learning and other processes, not simply a problem? Using fieldwork from a school for dropouts located in Malmö, a multicultural city in southern Sweden, I show how teachers and students engage in lively joking relationships, a practice in which both parties tease each other without anyone taking offense. Through an analysis of these joking relationships and the ways in which such relationships can both stabilize a social order and work for social transformation, the article illustrates how a joking relationship can favor emotional identification and cultural extension between teachers and students. Contra our assumptions about the disruptive and countercultural power of ‘the laff’ at school, I show how joking relationships facilitate a bidirectional multicultural incorporation in which behavioral patterns originating from youth and popular culture are used as an embodied resource by teachers.

Keywords

ethnography high school dropouts joking relationships multicultural incorporation Sweden 

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Copyright information

© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Ltd 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Anna Lund
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Cultural SciencesCentre for Cultural Sociology, Linnaeus UniversityVäxjöSweden

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