Barnard publishes AJS paper on the "Materiality of Morality"

PhD Candidate Alex Barnard published his paper, Making the City “Second Nature”: Freegan “Dumpster Divers” and the Materiality of Morality, in the January 2016 issue of the American Journal of Sociology

Abstract:  How do people maintain deeply held moral identities in a seemingly immoral social environment? Cultural sociologists and social psychologists have focused on how individuals cope with contexts that make acting on moral motivations difficult by building supportive networks and embedding themselves in communities of like-minded people. In this article, however, the author argues that actors can achieve a moral “sense of one’s place” through a habitus that leverages the material dimensions of place itself. In particular, he shows how one community of radical environmental activists make affirming moral identities centered on living “naturally” seem like “second nature,” even in a seemingly unnatural and immoral urban environment, by reconfiguring their physical world. The author shows how nonhuman objects serve as proofs of moral labor, markers of moral boundaries, and reminders of moral values, playing both a facilitating and constraining role in moral life.