Advertisement

American Journal of Cultural Sociology

, Volume 5, Issue 1–2, pp 261–304 | Cite as

Narrative change, narrative stability, and structural constraint: The case of prisoner reentry narratives

  • David J. Harding
  • Cheyney C. Dobson
  • Jessica J. B. Wyse
  • Jeffrey D. Morenoff
Original Article

Abstract

Cultural sociologists and other social scientists have increasingly used the concept of narrative as a theoretical tool to understand how individuals make sense of the links between their past, present, and future; how individuals construct social identities from cultural building blocks; and how culture shapes social action and individual behavior. Despite its richness, we contend that the narratives literature has yet to grapple with narrative change and stability when structural constraints or barriers challenge personal narratives and narrative identities. Particularly for marginalized groups, the potential incompatibility of personal narratives with daily experiences raises questions about the capacity of narratives to influence behavior and decision-making. In this study, we draw on prospective longitudinal data on the reentry narratives and narrative identities of former prisoners to understand how narratives do and do not change when confronted with contradictory experiences and structural constraints. We identify and describe the processes generating narrative change and stability among our subjects. These findings inform a framework for studying narrative change and stability based on four factors: the content of the narrative itself, the structural circumstances experienced by the individual, the institutional contexts in which the individual is embedded, and the social networks in which the individual is embedded.

Keywords

narrative identity social structure incarceration prisoner reentry 

Notes

Acknowledgements

This research was supported by the Office of the Vice President for Research, Rackham Graduate School, the Department of Sociology; the Joint PhD Program in Sociology and Public Policy, National Poverty Center; and the Population Studies Center of the University of Michigan, which is supported by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development under grant R24 HD041028 and by the National Institute on Aging under grant T32 AG000221. The authors thank Elizabeth Johnston, Andrea Garber, Elena Kaltsas, Madie Lupei, Carmen Gutierrez, Adam Laretz, and Emma Tolman for their excellent research assistance. The authors also thank Sandra Smith, Michele Lamont, and Black Hawk Hancock for their helpful comments on a previous version of this manuscript.

Supplementary material

41290_2016_4_MOESM1_ESM.docx (23 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 120 kb)

References

  1. Abelman, N. (2008) Narrating selfhood and personality in South Korea: Women and social mobility. American Ethnologist 24(4): 786–812CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Alkon, A. H. and Traugot, M. (2008) Place Matters, But How? Rural identity, environmental decision making, and the social construction of place. City and Community 7(2): 97–113CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Andersen, D. (2015) Stories of change in drug treatment: A narrative analysis of ‘whats’ and ‘hows’ in institutional storytelling. Sociology of Health & Illness 37(5): 668-682CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Barker, K. K. (2008) Electronic support groups, patient-consumers, and medicalization: The case of contested illness. Journal of Health and Social Behavior 49(1): 20–36CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Barker, K. K. (2010) The Social construction of illness: Medicalization and contested illness. In: C. E. Bird, P. Conrad, A. M. Fremont and S. Timmermans (eds.) Handbook of Medical Sociology (6th edn). Nashville, TN: Vanderbilt University Press, pp. 147–162Google Scholar
  6. Bell, S. (2000) Experiencing illness in/and narrative. In: C. E. Bird, P. Conrad and A. M. Fremont (eds.) Handbook of Medical Sociology (5th edn), Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, pp 184–199Google Scholar
  7. Biernacki, P. (1986) Pathways from Heroin Addiction: Recovery without Treatment. Philadelphia: Temple University PressGoogle Scholar
  8. Brown, P., Adams, C., Morello-Frosch, R., Senier, L. and Simpson, R. (2010) Health social movements: History, current work, and future directions. In: C. E. Bird, P. Conrad, A. M. Fremont and S. Timmermans (eds.) Handbook of Medical Sociology (6th edn). Nashville, TN: Vanderbilt University Press, pp. 380–394Google Scholar
  9. Bury, M. (1982) Chronic illness as biographical disruption. Sociology of Health & Illness 4(2): 167–182CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Bury, M. (1991) The Sociology of chronic illness: A review of research and prospects. Sociology of Health and Illness 13(4): 451–468CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Bushway, S., Stoll, M.A. and Weiman. D.F. (eds.) (2007) Barriers to Reentry? The Labor Market for Released Prisoners in Post-Industrial America. New York: Russell Sage FoundationGoogle Scholar
  12. Cardano, M. (2010) Mental distress: Strategies of sense-making. Health 14(3): 253–271CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Charmaz, K. (1983) Loss of self: A fundamental form of suffering in the chronically ill. Sociology of Health & Illness 5(2): 168–195CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Comfort, M. (2012) ‘It was basically college to us’: Poverty, prison, and emerging adulthood. Journal of Poverty 16(3): 308–322CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Corbin, J. and Strauss, A. (1991) Comeback: The process of overcoming disability. In: G. L. Albrecht and J. A. Levy (eds.) Advances in Medical Sociology (Vol. 2). Greenwich, CT: JAI Press, pp 137–159Google Scholar
  16. Davis, J. E. (2002). Stories of Change: Narrative and Social Movements. Albany, NY: SUNY PressGoogle Scholar
  17. DiMaggio, P. (1997) Culture and cognition. Annual Review of Sociology 23: 263–287CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Edin, K. and Kefalas, M. (2005) Promises I Can Keep: Why Poor Women Put Motherhood Before Marriage. Berkeley, CA: University of California PressGoogle Scholar
  19. Edin, K. and Nelson, T.J. (2013) Doing the Best I Can: Fatherhood in the Inner City. Berkeley, CA: University of California PressGoogle Scholar
  20. Estroff, S. E., Lachiotte, W.S., Illingworth, L.C. and Johnston, A. (1991) Everybody’s got a little mental illness: Accounts of illness and self among people with severe, persistent mental illnesses. Medical Anthropology Quarterly 5(4): 331–369CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Ewick, P. and Silbey, S. (2003) Narrating social structure: Stories of resistance to legal authority. American Journal of Sociology 108(6): 1328–1372CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Foucault, M. (1977) Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison. New York: Random HouseGoogle Scholar
  23. Fox, K. J. (1999) Changing violent minds: Discursive correction and resistance in the cognitive treatment of violent offenders in prison. Social Problems 46(1): 88–103CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Frank, A. (1995) The Wounded Storyteller: Body, Illness, and Ethics. Chicago: University of Chicago PressCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Frank, A. (1996) Reconciliatory alchemy: Bodies, narratives and power. Body & Society 2(3): 53–71CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Fronzosi, R. (2010) Quantitative Narrative Analysis. New York: SageCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Frye, M. (2012) Bright futures in Malawi’s New Dawn: Educational aspirations as assertions of identity. American Journal of Sociology 117(6): 1565–1624CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Garland, D. (2001) The Culture of Control. Chicago: University of Chicago PressGoogle Scholar
  29. Gibson, B., Acquah, S. and Robinson, P.G. (2004) Entangled identities and psychotropic substance use. Sociology of Health & Illness 26(5): 597–616CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Gibson, D. R. (2011a) Avoiding catastrophe: The interactional production of possibility during the Cuban missile crisis. American Journal of Sociology 117(2): 361–419CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Gibson, D. R. (2011b) Speaking of the future: Contentious narration during the Cuban missile crisis. Qualitative Sociology 34(4): 503–522CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Giordano, P., Cernkovich, S. and Rudolph, J. (2002) Gender, crime, and desistance: Toward a theory of cognitive transformation. American Journal of Sociology. 107(4): 990–1064CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Goffman, E. (1961) Asylums: Essays on the Social Situation of Mental Patients and Other Inmates. New York: DoubledayGoogle Scholar
  34. Goffman, E. (1963) Stigma: Notes on the Management of Spoiled Identity. New York: Prentice-HallGoogle Scholar
  35. Hall, P. A. and Lamont, M (eds.) (2013) Social Resilience in the Neoliberal Era. New York: Cambridge University PressGoogle Scholar
  36. Hannerz, U. (1969) Soulside: Inquiries into Ghetto Culture and Community. New York: Columbia University PressGoogle Scholar
  37. Holstein, J. A. and Gubrium, J. F. (2000) The Self We Live By: Narrative Identity in a Postmodern World. New York: Oxford University PressGoogle Scholar
  38. Holzer, H.J., Raphael, S. and Stoll, M.A. (2007) The effect of an applicant’s criminal history on employer hiring decisions and screening practices: Evidence from Los Angeles. In: S. Bushway, M. A. Stoll, and D.F. Weiman (eds.) Barriers to Reentry?: The Labor Market for Released Prisoners in Post-Industrial America. New York: Russell Sage Foundation, pp. 117–150Google Scholar
  39. Holzer, H.J., Raphael, S. and Stoll, M.A. (2004) Will employers hire former offenders? Employer preferences, background checks, and their determinants. In: B. Western, M.E. Patillo, and D.F. Weiman (eds.) Imprisoning America: The Social Effects of Mass Incarceration. New York: Russell Sage, pp. 205–243Google Scholar
  40. Hyden, L. (1997) Illness and narrative. Sociology of Health & Illness 19(1): 48–69Google Scholar
  41. Jacobs, R. and Sobieraj, S. (2007) Narrative and legitimacy: US congressional debates about the nonprofit sector. Sociological Theory 25(1): 1–25CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Jacoby, A. (1994) Felt versus enacted stigma: A concept revisited. evidence from a study of people with epilepsy in remission. Social Science and Medicine 38(2): 269–274CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Karp, D A. (1996) Speaking of Sadness. Oxford: Oxford University PressCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Kleinman, A. (1988) The Illness Narratives: Suffering, Healing, and the Human Condition. New York: Basic BooksGoogle Scholar
  45. Leverentz, A. (2010) People, places, and things: How female ex-prisoners negotiate neighborhood. Journal of Contemporary Ethnography 39 (6): 646–681CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Leverentz, A. (2014) The Ex-Prisoner’s Dilemma: How Women Negotiate Competing Narratives of Reentry and Desistance. Brunswick: Rutgers University PressGoogle Scholar
  47. Lichterman, P. and Reed, I.A. (2012) Interpretation and explanation in ethnography: A pragmatist approach. Paper Presented at the AJS Conference on Causal Thinking and Ethnographic Research, March 8–9, 2012, University of ChicagoGoogle Scholar
  48. Lofland, J. and Stark, R. (1965) Becoming a world saver: A theory of religious conversion. American Sociological Review 30(6): 862–874CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Lofland, J. and Lofland, L.H. (1995). Analyzing social settings: A guide to qualitative observation and analysis. New York: WadswothGoogle Scholar
  50. Mahoney, J. (1999) Nominal, ordinal, and narrative appraisal in macrocausal analysis. American Journal of Sociology 104(4): 1154–1196CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Mahoney, J. (2000) Strategies of Inference in small-N analysis. Sociological Methods and Research 28(4): 387–424CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Martin, J. L (2010) Life’s a beach but you’re an ant, and other unwelcome news for the sociology of culture. Poetics 38(2): 228–243CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Maruna, S. (2001) Making good: How ex-offenders reform and reclaim their lives. Washington, DC: American Psychological AssociationCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Maruna, S., Wilson, L. and Curran, K. (2006) Why god is often found behind bars: Prison conversion and the crisis of self-narrative. Research in Human Development 3(2&3): 161–184CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. McAdams, D. P. (2001) The psychology of life stories. Review of General Psychology 5(2): 100–122CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. McIntosh, J. and McKeganey, N. (2000a) Addicts’ narratives of recovery from drug use: Constructing a Non-Addict Identity. Social Science & Medicine, 50(10):1501–1510CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. McIntosh, J. and McKeganey, N. (2000b) The recovery from dependent drug use: Addicts’ strategies for reducing the risk of relapse. Drugs: Education, Prevention, and Policy 7(2): 179–192CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. McIntosh, J. and McKeganey, N. (2001) Identity and recovery from dependent drug use: The addict’s perspective. Drugs Education Prevention and Policy, 8(1): 47–59CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Mische, A. (2009) Projects and possibilities: Researching futures in action. Sociological Forum 24(3): 694–704CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Mische, A. (2014) Measuring futures in action: Projective grammars in the Rio+20 debates. Theory and Society 43(3):437–464CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Mishler, E. G. (1984) The discourse of medicine: Dialectics of medical interviews. Norwood, NJ: AblexGoogle Scholar
  62. Moon, D. (2012) Who am i and who are we? Conflicting narratives of collective selfhood in Stigmatized Groups. American Journal of Sociology 117(5): 1336–1379CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Orbuch, T. L. (1997) People’s accounts count: The sociology of accounts. Annual Review of Sociology 23:455–478CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Pager, D. (2003) The mark of a criminal record. American Journal of Sociology 108(5): 937–975CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Pager, D. (2007) Marked: Race, Crime, and Finding Work in an Era of Mass Incarceration. Chicago: University of Chicago PressCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Pager, D, Western, B. and Bonikowski, B. (2009) Discrimination in a low-wage labor market: A field experiment. American Sociological Review 74(5): 777–799CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Pettit, B. and Lyons, C.J. (2007) Status and stigma of incarceration: The labor-market effects of incarceration, by race, class, and criminal involvement. In: S. Bushway, M.A. Stoll, and D.F. Weiman (eds.) Barriers to Reentry?: The Labor Market for Released Prisoners in Post-Industrial America. New York: Russell Sage Foundation, pp. 203–226Google Scholar
  68. Polleta, F., Chen, P. C. B., Gardner, B. G. Motes, A. (2011) The sociology of storytelling. Annual Review of Sociology 37: 109–130CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Rambo, L.R. (1993) Understanding Religious Conversion. New Haven, CT: Yale University PressGoogle Scholar
  70. Reith, G. and Dobbie, F. (2012) Lost in the game: Narratives of addiction and identity in recovery from problem gambling. Addiction Research and Theory 20(6): 511–521CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. Ridge, D. and Ziebland, S. (2006) ‘The old me could never have done that’: How people give meaning to recovery following depression. Qualitative Health Research 16(8): 1038–1053CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. Rose, N. (2000) Government and control. British Journal of Criminology 40(2): 321–339CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. Sabol, W.J. (2007) Local labor market conditions and post-prison employment experiences of offenders released from Ohio state prisons. In: S. Bushway, M.A. Stoll, and D.F. Weiman (eds.) Barriers to Reentry?: The Labor Market for Released Prisoners in Post-Industrial America. New York: Russell Sage Foundation, pp. 257–303Google Scholar
  74. Sampson, R.J., and Laub, J.H. (1993) Crime in the Making: Pathways and Turning Points Through Life. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University PressGoogle Scholar
  75. Schneider, J.W. and Conrad, P. (1980) In the closet with illness: Epilepsy, stigma potential, and information control. Social Problems 28(1): 32–43CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  76. Sharone, O. (2013) Flawed System/Flawed Self: Job Searching and Unemployment Experiences. Chicago: University of Chicago PressCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  77. Simon, J. (2007) Governing Through Crime: How the War on Crime Transformed American Democracy and Created a Culture of Fear. New York: Oxford University PressGoogle Scholar
  78. Silva, J.M. (2014) Coming Up Short: Working-Class Adulthood in an Age of Uncertainty. Oxford: Oxford University PressGoogle Scholar
  79. Small, M. L., Harding, D.J. and Lamont, M. (2010) Reconsidering culture and poverty. Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 629: 6–27CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  80. Snow, D.A. and Machalek, R. (1983) The convert as a social type. Sociological Theory 1: 259–289CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  81. Snow, D.A. and Machalek, R. (1984) The sociology of conversion. Annual Review of Sociology 10: 167–190CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  82. Somers, M. R. (1994) Narrative and the constitution of identity: A relational and network approach. Theory and Society 23 (5): 605–650CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  83. Swidler, A. (1986) Culture in action: Symbols and strategies. American Sociological Review 51(2): 273–286CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  84. Swidler, A. (2001) Talk of love: How culture matters. Chicago: University of Chicago PressGoogle Scholar
  85. Tavory, I. and Timmermans, S. (2013) A pragmatist approach to causality in ethnography. American Journal of Sociology 119(3): 682–714CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  86. Thompson, R. (2012) Screwed up, but working on it: (Dis)ordering the Self through E-Stories. Narrative Inquiry 22(1): 86–104CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  87. Tyler, J.H and Kling, J.R. (2007) Prison-based education and reentry into the mainstream labor market. In: S. Bushway, M.A. Stoll, and D.F. Weiman (eds.) Barriers to Reentry?: The Labor Market for Released Prisoners in Post-Industrial America. New York: Russell Sage Foundation, pp. 227–256Google Scholar
  88. Visher, C. A. and Travis, J. (2003) Transitions from prison to community: Understanding individual pathways. Annual Review of Sociology 29:89-113CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  89. Vaisey, S. (2009) Motivation and justification: A dual-process model of culture in action. American Journal of Sociology 114(6): 1675–1715CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  90. Wacquant, L. (2008) Urban Outcasts: A Comparative Sociology of Advanced Marginality. Cambridge: Polity PressGoogle Scholar
  91. Wacquant, L. (2009) Punishing the Poor: The Neoliberal Government of Social Insecurity. Durham: Duke University PressCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  92. Waldorf, D. (1983) Natural recovery from opiate addiction: Some social-psychological processes of untreated recovery. Journal of Drug Issues 13(2): 237–280CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  93. Watkins-Hayes, C., Pittman, L. and Beaman, J. (2012) ‘Dying from’ to ‘living with’: Framing institutions and the coping processes of African American women living with HIV/AIDS. Social Science and Medicine 74(12): 2028–2036CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  94. Weitz, R. (1991) Life with AIDS. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University PressGoogle Scholar
  95. West, H.C., Sabol, W.J. and Greenman, S.J. (2010) Prisoners in 2009. Bureau of Justice Statistics Bulletin. Washington DC: Bureau of Justice StatisticsGoogle Scholar
  96. Western, B. (2006) Punishment and Inequality in America. New York: Russell SageGoogle Scholar
  97. Williams, G. (1984) The genesis of chronic illness: Narrative re-construction. Sociology of Health and Illness 6(2): 175–200CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  98. Yang, F and Abel, A. (2014) Sociology of religious conversion. In L.R. Rambo and C.E. Farhadian (eds.) The Oxford Handbook of Religious Conversion. New York: Oxford University Press, pp. 140-163Google Scholar
  99. Young, A. Jr. (2004) The Minds of Marginalized Black Men. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University PressGoogle Scholar
  100. Zola, I. (1982) Missing Pieces: A Chronicle of Living with a Disability. Philadelphia: Temple University PressGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Macmillan Publishers Ltd 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • David J. Harding
    • 1
  • Cheyney C. Dobson
    • 2
  • Jessica J. B. Wyse
    • 3
  • Jeffrey D. Morenoff
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of SociologyUniversity of California at BerkeleyBerkeleyUSA
  2. 2.Department of SociologyUniversity of MichiganAnn ArborUSA
  3. 3.Health Services Research and DevelopmentDepartment of Veterans Affairs Portland Health Care SystemPortlandUSA

Personalised recommendations