Humorous narratives as relational practice in a football team

31 May 2024
Room D1

Humorous narratives as relational practice in a football team

Humorous narratives, characterised as an extended period of talk in which a participant relays an event containing humorous incongruity (Archakis & Tsakona, 2012), are a pervasive interactional practice. The typical structure of a humorous narrative comprises asymmetrical access to the conversational floor, wherein one participant relays the narrative, while the others provide minimal feedback, typically in the form of continuers, which display the recipient’s attention and understanding (Stivers, 2008).

This asymmetry in conversational turns poses a significant challenge for interactional achievement approaches to communication (e.g. Arundale, 2020), which view phenomena as non-additive processes dynamically constructed in interaction. Given that there is little space to negotiate these phenomena during the narrative proper, how do participants employ narratives to interactionally enact different processes? This issue is arguably exacerbated in the case of interpersonal relationships, given that they are fundamentally dyadic, interactional affairs (Arundale, 2021).

In this study, using interactional data collected using ethnographic methods from an amateur football team, I document two practices by which participants overcome the difficulty posed by the functional pressures of humorous narratives to engender interpersonal relationships. Using Arundale’s (2020) Face-Constituting Theory (FCT), which foregrounds the dialectically linked relational qualities of connection and separation, I demonstrate how participants use both the post-narrative space, exploiting the symmetrical turn-taking that it offers, and responding stories (Sacks, 1992), to enact relationships.

The analysis demonstrates that, via these two distinct practices, participants manipulate the humorous incongruity present in the narrative to engender varying degrees of connection and separation. They construct connection by aligning with events in the narrative as humorously incongruous, while concurrently indexing separation by competitively negotiating different aspects of the incongruity. I conclude by considering the applicability of the analysis to other areas of humorous narratives so far unexplored.