Self-negation by Mustafa Emirbayer (2024)

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Theory and Society


This paper presents a new approach to theorizing and empirically investigating a phenomenon variously described by sociologists as internalized oppression or symbolic violence. Located at the intersection of internal worlds and external reality, the intrapsychic and the interpersonal and social, this object of inquiry—here termed self-negation—is crucial to many forms of societal domination. The paper explores its inner workings, analytically disaggregating it into an array of psychosocial processes drawn from the psychoanalytic theory of the defenses. Much of the work’s originality consists in showing how these processes operate across multiple systems of domination and drive many and varied outward manifestations of the phenomenon.