Violent Offenders, Moral Selves: Constructing Identities and Accounts in the Research Interview

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This article considers the research interview as a site for the construction of identities. In recent decades, identity has been conceptualized as something forged through the telling of life stories. To the extent that storytelling is a situated process, self-identification is as well. Using data from qualitative interviews with men who perpetrated violent crimes, I describe the narrated identities of these men, and clarify ways in which the men assimilated the research interview into their narrated identities. First, the fact and the nature of the interview were used to signify something about the moral self. Second, many of the research participants solicited and/or inferred my evaluation of them. The evaluation provided an outside opinion that was invoked or rejected to make self-claims. Third, the moral self and struggle were enacted during the interview. The men used the interview to exclude themselves from a problematic social group, “violent offenders.” The research encounter was a venue for doing social problems work and social problems resistance.

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