Morris, E. 2012. “Repelling the ‘Rutter’: Social Differentiation among Rural Teenagers.”

Morris, Edward W. 2012. “Repelling the ‘Rutter’: Social Differentiation among Rural Teenagers.” Symbolic Interaction 35(3): 301-320.

  • Low-income, white, rural teens’ management of race and class inequality, creating boundaries to assert uniqueness, but to also avoid being categorized as pejorative “rutter.”
  • Race and class as interactional practice, stigma reduction, credibility earning through differentiation processes
  • How concepts such as “internal othering” and “stigma-theory” (Goffman 1963) create forms of race/class credibility but reproduce inequalities
    • Stigma theory: “an ideology to explain [the stigmatized individual’s] inferiority and account for the danger he represents” (Goffman 1963: 5; here 313).
      • Here, taking forms of assumptions of lacking means, poor decision making, and (inevitable) defiance of moral codes — used by rural students to form sense of personal agency, cast selves as morally upright (in community where economic means were scarce).


  • emergent, evolving micro-level processes as basis for inequalities of r/c/g (Schwalbe et al 2000; also West and Fenstermaker 1995), sourcing from “ongoing interaction and performance” (301) (see also Bettie 2003; Fenstermaker and West 2002; Jackson 2001; Moore 2002). Race and class “discursively rely on each other in obtaining social meaning and perpetuating inequality, especially at the local level and through everyday interactions” (315, see also Hartigan 1999; Moss 2003) — “giving life” to how categories of race and class are modified and reproduced on local, interactional levels.
    • “Categories of inequality can be seen as emergent properties of basic patterns of relationships such as boundary construction and othering” (316, see also Schwalbe et al 2000).


  • Groups construct social/symbolic boundaries “to differentiate, exclude, and elevate themselves in relation to others” (301) (see also Gieryn 1983; Lamont and Molnar 2002; Thorne 1993) – giving light to processes of stigmatization and “othering” that further inequality (Ezzell 2009; Snow and Anderson 2009). Here, “defensive othering” performed by subordinate groups deflects stigma by accepting/agreeing with it, but placing it onto others within their group, rather than themselves (Ezzell 2009; Schwalbe et al 2000), managing threat of stigma (to protect own identity and status). An “internal other” is created to act as an “abject” foil for groups to deflect stigma through differentiation and earn particular status identity as they define themselves in contrast to this (for example, the feminized ‘fag’ used as foil to adolescent masculinity in Pascoe (2007)). Use of “boundary term” (310, see also Wray 2006) as a mode of social distinction.
    • “Interactional processes of differentiation […] serve to motivate identities and inequalities” (315, see also Anderson and Snow 2001)
  • Growth in interdisciplinary whiteness studies – exposes privileges of dominant social categories (Lewis 2004; McDermott and Samson 2005) — whiteness as invisible (Dyer 1997; Lipsitz 1995), monolithic (Kenny 2000), and “normalized” — results in lack of whites’ lack of racial recognition and sustains multiplex forms of white privilege (Frankenburg 1993; McIntosh [1988]/1998; Perry 2002; Staiger 2004).


  • New modes of whiteness studies acknowledge that “whiteness is not a singular, enduring identity, but rather a ‘situated identity’ shaped by context and intersecting modes of inequality” (McDermott and Samson 2005) – complicating whiteness through place, class, etc., offering stigma to non-hegemonic forms of whiteness/white identity.


  • Differentiation through social spaces occupied by “rutters” – both within and outside school – “spatial demarcation” (311) – spatial boundaries inscribed with moral boundaries (as well as family name/reputation).



Anderson, Leon and David A. Snow. 2001. “Inequality and the Self: Exploring Connections from an Interactionist Perspective.” Symbolic Interaction 24(issue): 395-406.

Bettie, Julie. 2003. Women without Class: Girls, Race, and Identity. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.

Dyer, Richard. 1997. White. London: Routledge.

Ezzell, Matthew B. 2009. “’Barbie Dolls’ on the Pitch: Identity Work, Defensive Othering,, and Inequality in Women’s Rugby.” Social Problems 56(issue): 111-131.

Fenstermaker, Sarah and Candace West, eds. 2002. Doing Gender, Doing Difference: Inequality, Power, and Institutional Change. New York: Routledge.

Frankenburg, Ruth. 1993. White Women, Race Matters: The Social Construction of Whiteness. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press.

Gieryn, Thomas F. 1983. “Boundary-work and the Demarcation of Science from Non-Science: Strains and Interests in Professional Interests of Scientists.” American Sociological Review 48(issue): 781-795.

Goffman, Erving. 1963. Stigma: Notes on the Management of a Spoiled Identity. New York: Simon and Schuster.

Hartigan, John, Jr. 1999. Racial Situations: Class Predicaments of Whiteness in Detroit. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Jackson, John L., Jr. 2001. Harlemworld: Doing Race and Class in Contemporary Black America. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

Kenny, Lorraine Delia. 2000. Daughters of Suburbia: Growing Up White, Middle Class, and Female. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press.

Lamont, Michele and Virag Molnar. 2002. “The Study of Boundaries in the Social Sciences.” Annual Review of Sociology 28 (issue): 167-195.

Lewis, Amanda E. 2004. “What Group? Studying Whites and Whiteness in the Era of ‘Color-Blindness.”  Sociological Theory 22 (issue): 623-646.

Lipsitz, George. 1995. “The Possessive Investment in Whiteness: Racialized Social Democracy and the ‘White’ Problem in American Studies.” American Quarterly 47 (issue): 369-387.

McDermott, Monica and Frank L. Samson. 2005. “White Racial and Ethnic Identity in the United States.” Annual Review of Sociology 31 (issue): 245-261.

McIntosh, Peggy. [1988]/1998. “White Privilege and Male Privilege: A Personal Account of Coming to See Correspondences through Work in Women’s Studies.” Pp. 94-105 in Race, Class, and Gender, edited by M.L. Andersen and P.H. Collins. Boston: Wadsworth.

Moore, Valerie Ann. 2002. “The Collaborative Emergence of Race in Children’s Play: A Case Study of Two Summer Camps.” Social Problems 49 (issue): 58-78.

Moss, Kirby. 2003. The Color of Class: Poor Whites and the Paradox of Privilege. Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press.

Pascoe, C.J. 2007. Dude, You’re a Fag: Masculinity and Sexuality in High School. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.

Perry, Pamela. 2002. Shades of White: White Kids and Racial Identities in High School. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

Schwalbe, Michael, Sandra Godwin, Daphne Holden, Douglas Schrock, Shealy Thompson, and Michele Wolkomir. 2000. “Generic Processes in the Reproduction of Inequality: An Interactionist Analysis.” Social Forces 79 (issue): 419-452.

Snow, David and Leon Anderson. 2009. “Identity Work among the Homeless: The Verbal Construction and Avowal of Personal Identities.” American Journal of Sociology 92 (issue): 1336-1371.

Staiger, Annegret. 2004. “Whiteness as Giftedness: Racial Formation in an Urban High School.” Social Problems 51 (issue): 161-181.

Thorne, Barrie. 1993. Gender Play: Girls and Boys in School. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press.

West, Candace and Sarah Fenstermaker. 1995. “Doing Difference.” Gender and Society 9 (issue): 8-37.

Wray, Matt. 2006. Not Quite White: White Trash and the Boundaries of Whiteness. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.


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