Crowdfunding Chemotherapy: Worthiness, Reciprocity, and Community on GoFundMe



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title



In this project, I ask how successful medical crowdfunding campaigns mobilize discourses of worth and community to imbue charitable giving with notions of reciprocity, as well as how the news media participate in such discursive processes. In addition to discourse and narrative analysis of ten medical crowdfunding campaigns on GoFundMe, I examined 130 newspaper articles pertaining to medical crowdfunding. 82 of these articles discussed (and often critiqued) medical crowdfunding as an emergent phenomenon, and the remaining 48 focused on specific (usually local or regional) campaigns. My findings suggest that campaigners shy away from explicit discussion of the political-economic context (i.e. healthcare reform and inequality) that underlies their motivations for fundraising, in favor of narratives that emphasize social support and community-building. The growing prevalence of medical crowdfunding campaigns reflects the precarity of the current moment, but such campaigns are also generative spaces in which worthy biomedical subjects and valued citizens are produced. Reciprocity between donors and beneficiaries is aspirational and facilitated by the affective labor of campaign organizers and the narratives they create.



anthropology, crowdfunding, worthiness, reciprocity, charity, community, precarity, affect, healthcare, narrativity, digital media