Narrative Criminology

Understanding Stories of Crime

336 pages

1 table

July, 2015

ISBN: 9781479823413



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Lois Presser is Professor of Sociology at the University of Tennessee. She is the author of Why We Harm and Been a Heavy Life: Stories of Violent Men.

All books by Lois Presser

Sveinung Sandberg is Professor in the Department of Criminology and Sociology of Law, University of Oslo. His work has appeared in journals such as Sociology, British Journal of Sociology, British Journal of Criminology, Theoretical Criminology, and Sociology of Health & Illness.

All books by Sveinung Sandberg

Stories are much more than a means of communication—stories help us shape our identities, make sense of the world, and mobilize others to action. In Narrative Criminology, prominent scholars from across the academy and around the world examine stories that animate offending. From an examination of how criminals understand certain types of crime to be less moral than others, to how violent offenders and drug users each come to understand or resist their identity as ‘criminals’, to how cultural narratives motivate genocidal action, the case studies in this book cover a wide array of crimes and justice systems throughout the world.          
The contributors uncover the narratives at the center of their essays through qualitative interviews, ethnographic fieldwork, and written archives, and they scrutinize narrative structure and meaning by analyzing genres, plots, metaphors, and other components of storytelling. In doing so, they reveal the cognitive, ideological, and institutional mechanisms by which narratives promote harmful action.  Finally, they consider how offenders’ narratives are linked to and emerge from those of conventional society or specific subcultures.  Each chapter reveals important insights and elements for the development of a framework of narrative criminology as an important approach for understanding crime and criminal justice.  An unprecedented and landmark collection, Narrative Criminology opens the door for an exciting new field of study on the role of stories in motivating and legitimizing harm.


  • “This is a most interesting, rather eclectic collection of papers presented within an allegedly new category of ‘narrative criminology.’  Essentially, the editors maintain the importance of storytelling for a better understanding of ‘crime,’ and, of course, are quite right to do so.  Summing Up: Highly recommended.”


  • “[The book] is positioned to draw on insights and methods from a vast field of inquiry and make the case for narrative as an important and putatively neglected perspective for understanding matters of crime and justice.  In this volume, Lois Presser and Sveinung Sandberg bring together a set of contributions designed to do just that.”

    Cultural Sociology

  • "These essays provide a fascinating sense of the different perspectives narrative criminologists bring to understanding crime."

    Critical Criminology

  • “This is an impressively global collection of case studies. Together these demonstrate the flexibility, ubiquity and enduring utility of the concept of narrative for criminology. It is shown to be both an analytic tool for scholars and a resource shaping action and belief in the lifeworld. By exploring and highlighting these two properties this book provides a valuable service to cultural criminology.”

    —Philip Smith, author of Punishment and Culture

  • “Lois Presser and Sveinung Sandberg are onto something with this smart, beautifully organized collection of rich essays, each showing the importance of the ‘narrative turn’ not only to sociology and across disciplines, but to criminology. The collection shows how people involved with crime, and criminologists ourselves, use narrative all the time even though, until now, we may not have known why.This book is bound to be the ‘go to’ volume about the centrality of stories to the criminological enterprise.”

    —Lynn Chancer, author of High Profile Crimes: When Legal Cases Become Social Causes