The collective/affective practice of cancer survivorship

Br J Sociol. 2019 Sep;70(4):1582-1601. doi: 10.1111/1468-4446.12616. Epub 2018 Nov 8.


Whether within an atmosphere of hope, or amidst relations of fear, the emotions of cancer are unavoidably collectively produced. Yet persistent individualistic paradigms continue to obscure how the emotions of cancer operate relationally - between bodies, subjects, discourses, and practices - and are intertwined with circulating beliefs, cultural desires, and various forms of normativity. Drawing on interviews with 80 people living with cancer in Australia, this paper illustrates why recognition of the collective enterprise of survivorship - and the collective production of emotion, more generally - is important in light of persistent, culturally dominant conceptions of the individual patient as the primary 'afflicted', 'feeling', and 'treated' subject. Building on previous work on affective relations and moral framings, we posit that the collective affects of survivorship inflect what people living with cancer can, and should, feel. We highlight how such things as hope, resignation, optimism, and dread are 'products' of the collective affects of cancer, with implications for how survivorship is lived, felt, and done.

Keywords: Cancer; affect; emotion; moral economy; relationality; survivorship.

MeSH terms

  • Australia
  • Cancer Survivors / psychology*
  • Emotions*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Male
  • Neoplasms / psychology*