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Deviant Selves, Transgressive Acts and Moral Narratives: The Symbolic Interactionist Field of Transgression, Crime and Justice

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Abstract

This chapter on crime, transgression, and justice focuses on interactional meaning-mak ing processes that shape the moral narratives of a range of actors such as perpetrators, police, and judges. These narratives include processes such as labeling, stigmatization, and criminalization. These processes are about (1) degrading, dominating, and excluding, and (2) their narrative counterparts, which focus on resisting the othering claims of moral narratives. This chapter focuses on two fundamental contributions of symbolic interaction to this field: the labeling perspective, and the ethnographic approach studying the social construction of moral meanings in everyday interactions. I will also describe two themes: (1) violence, the perspective of the “badass,” and (2) the criminal-justice system as a labeling machine. This chapter shows that because of its theoretical and methodological tools, symbolic-interactionist studies are well equipped to listen to voices of marginalized groups and show their agency in their fight for justice.