I'm looking through my copy of Howard Becker's Outsiders as I prepare to teach an upcoming session in my Social Psychology course.
I'll share a few quotes from the book:
"The deviant is one to whom that label has successfully been applied; deviant behavior is behavior that people so label" (p. 9).
"Whether an act is deviant, then, depends on how other people react to it" (p. 11).
"Deviance is not a quality that lies in behavior itself, but in the interaction between the person who commits an act and those who respond to it" (p. 14).
"I have been using the term 'outsiders' to refer to those people who are judged by others to be deviant and thus to stand outside the circle of 'normal' members of the group" (p. 15).
"Differences in the ability to make rules and apply them to other people are essentially power differentials (either legal or extralegal)" (pp. 17-18). Click here for a longer quote about groups who have the power to label.
Click here to read an essay by Courtney Anders which speaks to the power of labels and the experience of being made an outsider. During class I'll discuss her essay after going through some of Becker's insights about the sociology of deviance.
I'm using this post to organize my thoughts for teaching. I conclude with a recommendation that Becker's Outsiders and Erving Goffman's Stigma be in your book collection.