Ontologies of Blame and the Cultural Value of Accountability: Formerly Incarcerated Women’s Narratives
Uniting the perspective of narrative psychology with feminist and narrative criminology, we analyzed interviews with 58 formerly incarcerated women. We identified four distinct ontologies of blame that the women used to characterize the events, actors, and circumstances that resulted in their incarceration. We argue that these four ontologies of blame—personal responsibility, socioeconomic exclusion, relational caregiving associations, and compromised decision-making—each derive from the dominant U.S. cultural value of accountability that accords great social, moral, and personal weight to accepting responsibility for, and expressing willingness to endure the consequences of, wrongdoing. Our findings suggest that academics and therapeutic practitioners could assist the formerly incarcerated women with whom they work by encouraging a critique of dominant cultural values; by expanding accountability from the individual to the community; by situating accountability in past, present, and future contexts; and by facilitating ontologies of security. Online slides for instructors who want to use this article for teaching are available on PWQ’s website at http://journals.sagepub.com/page/pwq/suppl/index.
Psychology of Women Quarterly
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)
Dewey, Wesely, J. K., Epler, R., Connolly, C., Zare, B., & Bratton, R. (2018). Ontologies of Blame and the Cultural Value of Accountability: Formerly Incarcerated Women’s Narratives. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 42(1), 88–104. https://doi.org/10.1177/0361684317733284