Believing in a Positive Future as a Form of Stigma Resistance: Narratives of Denied Expungement-Seekers

Simone Ispa-Landa*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


A large body of work documents how people contest and refute stigmatized definitions of themselves. Yet, research that examines the role of emotion displays in stigma resistance remains sparse. To begin to fill this gap, I analyze follow-up interview data with 17 people who, because of their past felony convictions, were deemed ineligible for expungement, a court-ordered destruction of the criminal record history. Overall, participants seized on the interview setting to challenge stigmatizing definitions of themselves. There were two key ways in which this occurred. First, participants offered optimistic accounts of their future well-being. These hopeful narratives suggested that, although they were aware of how people with criminal records are devalued, they did not accept a view of themselves as damaged. Second, participants drew on emotion displays of anger with the criminal justice system to underscore that they were not deserving of the discrimination they faced. Implications for research on the sociology of stigma and emotions are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1428-1444
Number of pages17
JournalDeviant Behavior
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Law


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