Cultural Criminology and the Carnival of Deviance

An Interactionist Appreciation
  • Daniel Dotter


There have been longstanding conflicts between scientific theories and more humanistic perspectives in the history of deviance studies (Matza 1969; Schur 1980). As well, in recent decades the trajectory of this history has been influenced by the development of criminology and criminal justice (Dotter 2004). With this backdrop, the present paper has three purposes. First, I will argue that interactionist labeling remains today a crucial theoretical perspective for the study of deviance and crime. With regard to the former, interactionism has arguably been the primary theoretical focus for nearly a century (Becker 1963/73; Faris 1970). As such, the centrality of a causal model of deviance (i. e., “why” questions, of the antecedents to misbehavior) has, especially since the 1960s, been continually challenged by various interactionist perspectives examining the meaning context of deviance as stigmatization (Douglas 1984; Goffman 1963/86). Mainstream criminology, and more recently the field of criminal justice, have always had a primary place for scientific and rationalistic models (Akers and Sellers 2009); the perspective of cultural criminology has developed as a counter-argument to the dominant “boring” causal analysis of the mainstream, as well as its largely uncritical acceptance of classical and neo-classical legalisms (Ferrell and Sanders 1995; Ferrell, Hayward, and Young 2008; Hayward and Presdee 2010).


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© VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften | Springer Fachmedien Wiesbaden GmbH 2011

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  • Daniel Dotter

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