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Addicted to Hate: Identity Residual among Former White Supremacists


The process of leaving deeply meaningful and embodied identities can be experienced as a struggle against addiction, with continuing cognitive, emotional, and physiological responses that are involuntary, unwanted, and triggered by environmental factors. Using data derived from a unique set of in-depth life history interviews with 89 former U.S. white supremacists, as well as theories derived from recent advances in cognitive sociology, we examine how a rejected identity can persist despite a desire to change. Disengagement from white supremacy is characterized by substantial lingering effects that subjects describe as addiction. We conclude with a discussion of the implications of identity residual for understanding how people leave and for theories of the self.

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Simi, Pete, Kathleen Blee, Matthew DeMichele, and Steven Windisch. 2017. "Addicted to Hate: Identity Residual among Former White Supremacists." American Sociological Review (August). http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0003122417728719

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