Recovery can be applied to contexts outside the mental health domain. We report in this article on a qualitative research study conducted in Brazil on encounters between volunteer “clown therapists” and inpatients of three general hospital clinical wards and their family members. We analyzed patients’ attributions of meaning to their interactions with clowns and how these affected their health and sense of personhood in the context of their hospital treatment and care. Data were collected through observation of clown interventions and interviews with patients. Thematic analysis generated four categories: clown therapists in action, re-signifying hospitalization, re-signification of roles, and getting closer to the unknown. Clowns bring a subversive tone that can stimulate a critical view of the hospital setting and can potentially help patients “recover their citizenship” as well as their health. In addition to being an innovative adjunct to health care, clown therapy can help patients maintain social identity in “total institutions” such as general hospitals.


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pp. 82-100
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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