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Cadaver Stories and the Emotional Socialization of Medical Students
Frederic W. Hafferty
Journal of Health and Social Behavior
Vol. 29, No. 4, Theme: Continuities in the Sociology of Medical Education (Dec., 1988), pp. 344-356
Published by: American Sociological Association
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2136868
Page Count: 13
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Cadaver stories are narratives describing "jokes" played by medical student protagonists on unsuspecting and emotionally vulnerable victims. In these stories, medical students physically (and thus symbolically) manipulate whole cadavers or certain cadaver parts–often extremities or sexual organs–for the dual purpose of shocking their intended victims and deriving humor from their victim's distress. The victims in cadaver stories are either lay people or what the narratives portray as emotionally vulnerable medical students. Cadaver stories circulate most freely among medical student aspirants and initiates, and are told as true accounts of actual events. They are also told with the expectation that peers will view their telling as a source of humor. In this paper, cadaver stories are viewed as part of the oral culture of medical training. Two questions are raised: Under what conditions do we find these stories being told (and thus what do these stories, and their telling, tell us about the experience of anatomy lab)? What functions are served by the telling of cadaver stories? A central focus of this paper is the role of cadaver stories in the emotional socialization of medical students.
Journal of Health and Social Behavior © 1988 American Sociological Association