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While the structure of subjective experience has been a topic of considerable theoretical discussion within symbolic interactionism and phenomenological sociology, until recently little empirical work has been done on this topic. We examine the experience of stuttering as the basis for a conception of the stutterer's self as an interaction between an "I," a "Me," and an "It." The "It" is conceived as both the basis for a stutterer's identity and as an autonomous source of action which interrupts speech. This suggests that the locus of action or agency within the self be reconceived and that greater attention be given to the dialectical process through which lived experience and culture shape each other. Besides stuttering, this formulation can potentially shed light on experiences of self associated with phenomena such as addiction, neurological disorders, multiple personalities, and "spirit" possession. /// Malgré que l'expérience humaine et ses manifestations diverses en terme des composants de "soi" ont été souvent l'objet de discussion théorique, peu de travaux empiriques s'y sont penché dans la littérature interactioniste et phénoménologique. Ce travail prend pour objet l'expérience de bégaiement comme interaction entre le "je," le "moi," et le "ça." Le "ça" est conçu à la fois comme fondement de I'identité du bègue et comme source autonome de l'interruption de la parole. L'analyse suggère que le local de l'action à même du "soi" doit être repensé ainsi qu'une plus grande attention soit accordée au processus dialectique selon lequel l'expérience vécue et la culture se fondent. Notre formulation de la problématique pourrait également éclaircir d'autres expériences de "soi" telles les toxicomanies, les désordres neurologiques ou de personnalité ainsi que les expériences mystiques.
The "I," the "Me," and the "It": Moving beyond the Meadian Conception of Self
Author(s): Michael Petrunik and Clifford D. Shearing
The Canadian Journal of Sociology / Cahiers canadiens de sociologie
, Vol. 13, No. 4
(Autumn, 1988), pp. 435-448
Published by: Canadian Journal of Sociology
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The "I," the "Me," and the "It": Moving
beyond the Meadian conception of self*
Michael Petrunik
Clifford D. Shearing
Abstract. While the structure of subjective experience has been a topic of considerable theoretical
discussion within symbolic interactionism and phenomenological sociology, until recently little
empirical work has been done on this topic. We examine the experience of stuttering as the basis
for a conception of the stutterer's self as an interaction between an "I," a "Me," and an "It." The "It"
is conceived as both the basis for a stutterer's identity and as an autonomous source of action which
interrupts speech. This suggests that the locus of action or agency within the self be reconceived and
that greater attention be given to the dialectical process through which lived experience and culture
shape each other. Besides stuttering, this formulation can potentially shed light on experiences of
self associated with phenomena such as addiction, neurological disorders, multiple personalities,
and "spirit" possession.
Resumen. Malgr6 que l'experience humaine et ses manifestations diverses en terme des composants
de "soi" ont 6t6 souvent l'objet de discussion thdorique, peu de travaux empiriques s'y sont pench6
dans la littrature interactioniste et phdnomenologique. Ce travail prend pour objet l'exp6rience de
begaiement comme interaction entre le "je," le "moi," et le "ga." Le "ga" est congu a la fois comme
fondement de l'identitd du begue et comme source autonome de l'interruption de la parole.
L'analyse suggere que le local de 1' action a meme du "soi" doit etre repens6 ainsi qu'une plus grande
attention soit accordde au processus dialectique selon lequel l'experience v6cue et la culture se
fondent. Notre formulation de la problematique pourrait dgalement dclaircir d'autres experiences
de "soi" telles les toxicomanies, les d6sordres neurologiques ou de personnalit6 ainsi que les
expdriences mystiques.
* This is a revised version of a paper presented at the Conference on Deviance in Cross-Cultural
Context, University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Ontario, June, 1984. The authors would like to
thank John M. Johnson, David Altheide, and the reviewers for their helpful suggestions. Please
address all correspondence and offprint requests to Professor Michael Petrunik, Department of
Criminology, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, Ontario, KIN 6N5 or Professor Clifford Shearing,
Centre of Criminology, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, M5S 1Al.
Canadian Journal of Sociology 13(4) 1988 435
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While the reality referred to by the phrase "social construction of reality"
presents itself, or is experienced, as both "objective" and "subjective" (Berger
and Luckmann, 1967) sociologists have tended to limit the boundaries of their
analysis, at least implicitly, to objects of experience that are socially accessible
and thus have a public status.' Consequently, subjective experience has gener-
ally been regarded as essentially a psychological domain about which sociology
has little to say beyond perfunctory references to Mead, Cooley, and sometimes
Schutz. Higgins (1980) makes this point with respect to the deaf, Scott (1968) the
blind, Schneider and Conrad (1980) epileptics, Kotarba (1977) and Hilbert
(1984) pain, and Manning and Fabrega (1972, 1973) physical illness.
This aspect of the Durkheimian legacy which limits sociological analysis to
external social fact,2 is evident even in the work of sociologists whom one might
expect would address subjective experience directly. An example is Scheff's
Being Mentally II (1966), a book whose content belies its title. A more accurate
title would have been Becoming a Mental Patient as Scheff's central concern is
the effect of societal reaction on the status and behaviour of those labeled
"mentally ill" and not on the subjective experience of mental illness. This
sociological neglect of experience is noted by Siegler and Osmond (1974: 70)
with reference to labeling theory:
Those using the conspiratorial model [Siegler and Osmond's pejorative term for the labeling
perspective], while filled with righteous indignation about abuse of mental patients have shown
very little interest in finding out how psychiatric diseases appear to those who actually have them.
The best known sociological approach to subjectivity is George Herbert
Mead's analysis of the structure of consciousness, in particular his description
of the way in which intentionality is experienced. In identifying the "I" and the
"Me" as fundamental "parts" of consciousness Mead provided for the notion of
an internal dialogue that has been used in the work of symbolic interactionists as
a theoretical basis for the construction of social action (Blumer, 1968). In this
use of Mead's ideas the implicit assumption has been that while the "I," or the
experience of the self as subject, provides the basis for the construction of social
reality this "I" is itself unconstituted. Such a conception is also fundamental to
the philosophy of Edmund Husserl whose work has become the basis for a
1. Exceptions include developments in phenomenological sociology (e.g., Psathas, 1973) and
existential sociology (Douglas and Johnson, 1977; Kotarba and Fontana, 1984).
2. The Durkheimian legacy is, of course, not quite as straightforward as this suggests. Durkheim's
ideas changed considerably between his early positivistic writings, for example, The Rules of
the Sociological Method, which conceived of social facts as things, and his more mature
thinking in The Elementary Forms of Religious Life. In his later writing Durkheim extends his
conception of the obdurate character of social life to encompass experience in a manner which
is not possible within his positivistic writings (Stone and Farberman, 1967). Durkheim's early
conception, however, has had, and continues to have, an enormous influence on sociology's
conception of its subject matter and it is to this influence that we refer.
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a second critical line of thought on the structure of conciousness (Schutz, 1967;
Berger and Luckmann, 1967; Garfinkel, 1967).
While the Meadian terminology used here - "I," "Me," and "It" - does
overlap the Freudian tripartite framework ("ego" means "I" and "id" means
"it"), their conceptual status is significantly different. Freud's framework is a
"scientific" device for making sense of subjectivity. Bettelheim (1982: 53) notes
that to refer to the aggregate of drives which he regards as the ultimate source of
motivation, Freud chose the personal pronoun 'it' (es) and used it as a noun (das
Es). He goes on to say that "What he [Freud] called the 'I' refers primarily to the
conscious, rational aspects of oneself" (1982: 55). Although Bettelheim criti-
cizes the choice of the Latin terms "ego" and "id" in English translations as un-
necessary and unfortunate jargon this usage does capture the analytic character
of the terms. In our view, the Meadian tradition better reflects subjective
experience than does the Freudian tradition. The "I" and the "Me" refer to the
experience of a locus or source of action (subjective) and identity (objective)
While an analysis based on the Freudian tradition might be possible and
useful, we have chosen in this paper to build on the Meadian framework. By
noting that people can and do experience an interior source of action and locus
of control that is "not-I" and that is in conflict with "I" we seek to expand on
Mead's experiential analysis. The "It" is given a conceptual status similar to the
"I." Both are viewed as sources of action. What differentiates the "I" and the "It"
is the experience of the "It" as an alien source of action that struggles with the
While our conception is analytically different from Freud's itparallels certain
neo-Freudian ideas such as Schachtel's notion of alienation. Schachtel (1961:
78) writes:
By making some quality or circumstances real or exaggerated or imagined the focal point of a reified
identity, I look upon myself as though I were a thing (res) and the quality or circumstance were a
fixed attribute of this thing or object. But the "I" that feels that I am this or that, in doing so, distances
itself from the very same reified object attribute which it experiences as determining its identity and
very often as a bane on its life.... I do not feel that I am doing this or that or failing to do it but
that there is something in me or about me, or that I lack something and that this, once and for all,
makes me this or that, fixes my identity.
In this paper we examine stutterers' experience of stuttering to show how they
structure conciousness as they struggle to make sense of their speech behaviours.
In doing so we extend earlier work (Petrunik, 1974, 1982; Petrunik and Shearing,
1983) in which we developed the ideas of Lemert (1967) and Goffman (1963,
1967) to examine how stutterers manage the awareness that others have of them.
After describing our research strategies and data, we examine, in turn,
stuttering as behaviour and experience, stuttering as the expression of an
autonomous inner force or "It," and the self-definition and management prac-
tices of stutterers. We conclude with a discussion of the implications of our
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analysis for a sociological analysis of the structure of subjective experience.
The research
The evidence for this paper is based on data gathered from an earlier study
(Petrunik, 1977) which involved participant observation of stutterers in a variety
of social settings, focussed interviews, and research diaries kept by several
informants. To update this research we have made use of our own experience
with stuttering and observations of other stutterers in a variety of settings. We
have also collected autobiographical accounts of stuttering in books, the press,
and otherpublications. These published accounts (e.g., Patrusky, 1976; Lapidus,
1981) have a special value for they provide highly articulate and sensitive
statements of experiences stutterers share. Throughout the research our own
personal experience of stuttering, apart from being a source of data, has proven
invaluable in allowing us to identify and understand the experiences of others.3
Stuttering as behaviour and experience
Stuttering has an exteral aspect for both stutterers and their audiences. It is
external in the sense that it is visible behaviour which non-stutterers recognize
as stuttering. For stutterers, however, this external aspect is only the "tip of the
iceberg" (Sheehan, 1970: 263-264). Beneath it there is a vast interior experiential
domain that is not directly accessible to observers. Both the exterior and the
interior aspects are experienced by the stutterer as obdurate and given.
As behaviour, stuttering is typically associated with speech that is character-
ized by blocks, repetitions, prolongations, orhesitations. "Blocks" are stoppages
in the flow of speech. Some examples of blocks might be transcribed as follows:
I went to the ..... store.
I went to the st ..... ore.
I went to the ss .....tore.
In the course of a block stutterers frequently freeze whatever other action they
are engaged in, thereby extending the block from speech to other movements of
the body. For example, one stutterer we observed blocked as he was about to tap
ash off his cigarette with his finger. During the few seconds he was engaged in
his block, his finger remained poised an inch or so above his cigarette. The finger
came down and tapped the ash into the ash tray the moment he continued with
the rest of the word.
"Repetition" and "prolongation" refer to the repeating of sounds, syllables,
words, or phrases more than the "normal form" (Cicourel, 1970) requires (for
example, "plllllease," "nnnnnow," "gooood"). "Hesitations" are pauses or
breaks between words or sounds that are sometimes accompanied by filler
sounds or words (for example, "ah," "er," "um," "like," "well").
3. See Petrunik and Shearing (1983) and Pctrunik (1982) for a more complete description of the
settings and methods used in this research.
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Although stuttering4 varies considerably, both temporally and situationally,
several patterns have been identified (Petrunik, 1977: 34-37; Schwartz and
Carter, 1986: 21-23):
1. Stutterers invariably speak fluently when they speak in unison with others
including other stutterers.
2. Stuttering typically does not occur when a stutterer sings.
3. Most stutterers are fluent when they speak to themselves, to animals, to infants
and very young children.
4. Most stutterers tend to stutter more frequently, and more severely, when they
speak before large audiences.
5. Many stutterers stutter more when speaking to people they perceive to have
higher status or authority than themselves.
6. Many stutterers stutter more under the stress of fatigue or illness and less under
the influence of alcohol, certain drugs, and hypnosis.
As experience, stuttering's most fundamental feature is its unintentionality:
stutterers experience stuttering as something that happens to them rather than as
something they do. The nineteenth-century poet, Martin Tupper, captures this
strikingly in his poem, "The Stammerer's Complaint" (Hunt, 1863: 3).
Has't ever seen an eagle chained to the earth?
A restless panther to his cage immured?
A swift trout by the wily fisher checked?
A wild bird hopeless strain its broken wings?
Or ever felt, at the dark dead of night,
Some undefined and horrid incubus,
Press down the very soul, and paralyse
The limbs in their imaginary flight
From shadowy terrors in unhallowed sleep?
The constant galling, festering chain that binds
Captive my mute interpreter of thought;
The seal of lead enstamped upon my lips,
The load of iron on my labouring chest,
The mocking demon, that at every step,
Haunts me, and spurs me on - to burst in silence.
4. There is some evidence that the use of the category "stuttering" (or its equivalent in other
languages) is a culturally relative phenomenon. Several observers have pointed to the absence
or rarity of stuttering "behaviour" in certain - chiefly North American Indian - societies and
the absence of a specific term to denote such behaviour. A good summary is provided in
Bloodstein (1981: 103). Some observers have reported an absence of stuttering among certain
North American Midwest Indian tribes such as the Utes, the Shoshone, and the Bannock
(Johnson, 1944a, 1944b; Snidecor, 1947). Other studies (Clifford, 1965; Lemert, 1967: 135;
Sapir, 1915; Stewart, 1959; Van Riper, 1946) have noted that this is by no means true for all
North American Indian tribes. Both Lemert and Stewart found that tribes (particularly those on
the Pacific Northwest coast of Canada) which encouraged competition and stricter child-rearing
practices, and which placed more emphasis on self-control, reported more instances of
stuttering. Lemert (1967: 146) also offered a similar explanation for a higher incidence of
stuttering among Japanese than Polynesians.
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One of our respondents expressed this sense of lack of control as follows:
I was in French class and getting along quite well. I stutterered but not too badly. The word came
out without too many contortions. Then one day it just hit me from out of the blue. I had to read a
passage in class and the words literally would not come out. It was like being suddenly gripped by
a strange force. The next day I was okay again.
Stuttering as an autonomous inner force
Central to this experienced absence of intention is the sense that the interruptions
in speech are caused by some mysterious magical force. This sense arises as
stutterers search for an account which will make sense out of their failure to
control speech. The experience of loss of control over speech is, for stutterers,
profoundly puzzling. "Why," they ask themselves, "can I not do what most other
people have no trouble whatever doing? What is it that makes me different?"
This process is most visible when children first become aware that they cannot
properly control their speech. For example, Shearing's son, after a period of
minor repetitions that he appeared barely to notice found quite suddenly, when
he was seven years old, that words and sounds were not forthcoming on demand.
Afraid and bewildered he tured to his parents to ask: "What's happening? Why
can't I speak? I want to speak but I can't."
Such questions are posed in the cultural and experiential context in which
actions that normally are intentional are expected to have a subjective locus. That
is, these questions "are located in the procedures people employ to understand
their experiences, and in the cultural resources, categories, and folklore they
summon to do so" (Hilbert, 1984: 369). This framework directs stutterers to seek
a subjective locus for stuttering in attempting to make sense of what is happening.
Their search can be expressed as follows: "What is taking over my speech
mechanism? What is this force that I have to struggle against to speak? If 'I' am
not doing this what is?"
The conclusion stutterers reach in dealing with this puzzle is that there is
another locus of action within consciousness which is "not I."5 Stutterers thus
5. The stutterer's conclusion is frequently disputed by speech pathologists and other therapists who
see it as in need of correction. The semantogenic approach to stuttering, which has been
influenced by General Semantics (Johnson, 1944a; 1944b) uses reports of the absence of
stuttering in certain societies to argue that the beliefs and language practices of stutterers should
be considered as crucial determinants of their experience. Stutterers are told that they do their
stuttering and that stuttering does not happen to them. They are discouraged from speaking
about stuttering as a force that overpowers them and encouraged to focus on what they do in a
behaviourally specific way to produce stuttering. For example, rather than say "I had a block
on a word," they are told to attend to the specific actions they did to produce the "block"
(Williams, 1957). On a more general level are the philosophies of self-transformation such as
Werer Erhard's est and the Gurdjieff system. Erhard contends that while humans are typically
"machines" that respond to strict laws of cause and effect they can, through a process of
transformation akin to the Zen Buddhist experience of satori, transcend this level of being and
recognize themselves as the source or creators of their experiences and activities (Bartley,
1978). Gurdjieff views self in the average person as an ongoing multiplicity of "I's" fleetingly
manifested one after the other. Through special disciplines, however, a master self or "I" can
be developed which relates to this stream of "I's" as their constant observer (Ouspensky, 1949).
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often come to conceive of, and experience, their unintended interruptions in
speech as the work of an inner force which possesses them and, somehow, wrests
control of speech away from the "I." One stutterer vividly described the
experience of possession that this account produces as follows:
What really scares me is when I start to say a word and find myself saying the same syllable over
and over again and I can't stop or when I find myself making a yard of an s sound when I only want
a quarter inch of it. I get petrified when I fear this sort of thing is going to happen. I feel as helpless
as a ventriloquist's dummy. Something, somebody else is in charge of my mouth and I can't do
anything about it. (Van Riper: 1971: 158-9)
This sense of stuttering as an autonomous inner "thing" was also revealed in the
remarks of a six-year-old boy. "When I stutter... the feelings are in my head ...
that's where the stutter is ...."
Although this "thing" or "It" is experienced as alien to the "I" (or the self as
subject) its relationship to the "me" (or the self as object) is more problematic.
The "It," while frequently disowned, comes, by force of its periodic intrusive-
ness into the stutterer's life, to be incorporated into the stutterer's consciousness
as the basis of a central, if unwanted, identity or master status. Evidence for the
inclusion of stuttering as a central identity is found in some stutterers' reports of
discomfort during intermittent periods of fluency. For example, the comment of
a stutterer who relapsed after a fluent period.
I'm glad that period of false fluency is over and I'm my old stuttering self again. Every new sentence,
every new word I spoke, I thought would suddenly come out in the horrible stuttering way and when
they didn't the pressure grew. I felt like a fake talking so easily and I knew it couldn't last. Odd as
it may seem, now that I've relapsed, I feel calmer, more of a peace, though I'm sorry it's gone. (Van
Riper, 1971: 213)
In summary, for stutterers the self is experienced as consisting not only of an
"I" and a "Me" but an "I," a "Me," and an "It." This "It" is for them every bit as
real as the "I" and the "Me." Like the "I" it is a source of action but one which
is both independent of and antagonistic towards the "I."
When stutterers refer to "their stuttering" they have two references in mind:
the social object, the unintended extemal behaviour of stuttering, that they share
with others generally and an experience of an alien source of agency that they
share with other stutterers. The behaviour called "stuttering" is, for the stutterer,
the expression of the work of the "It" as it takes control of speech.
This "It" is experienced as a strangely intangible beast, which sometimes lies
dormant in some unknown lair of the body or mind, allowing the "I" to take
control over speech. When this happens words and phrases flow freely and
effortlessly. At any moment, however, the "It" may leave its lair, and inexplica-
bly seize control, overpowering the "I" with such force the stutterer can only
blink and splutter wordlessly.
But have you ever begun to speak and found a word stuck in your throat, your tongue paralyzed,
unable to move? You see those around you give you looks that say, "Spit it out! Say something!"
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You try to force the word past your lips, but it lodges deeper and deeper. Finally, after an age, you
utter a sound... not a word, but something, anything, that will pass for an answer and let you relapse
into an aching silence. That is the world of the stammerer, a world I knew so well. (Lapidus, 1981:
This description has implications for our understanding of the structure of
the self and consciousness. The first is that the structure of the self reflects the
experience of intentionality; as this changes so does the self. The second, is the
relation between the experience of self and culture. The experience of self as
agent should not be conceived as simply given. Rather it is experienced in terms
of the interpretive frames culture provides (Geertz, 1973; MacAndrew and
Edgerton, 1969). Yet the experience of self is not simply a reflection of culture.
Experience and culture are inextricably related. Each is ground for the other.6
The notion of the self as having, under certain circumstances, an alien and
latent locus of action - an imp in a bottle as it were - has implications for self-
definition, the management of "illness," "disability," and other "conditions"
and thus for "deviance" as a theoretical category.
Self-definition and management
The experience of stutterers we have described is as fundamental to their self-
definition as the behaviour which led others to label them as stutterers. Most
stutterers have had the experience of being accepted by others as fluent speakers
while at the same time feeling that their fluency was a facade, a denial of their
"true" stuttering self, which they accomplished through a variety of artifices
(word and situation avoidance, word substitution, fillers, and so on). The
experience they report is one of the "I" managing to get the better of, and for a
period, outsmarting the "It." Some stutterers, whom clinicians refer to as interi-
orized (Douglass and Quarrington, 1952), use these artifices with such skill that
they are rarely identified by others as stutterers; even by close intimates, such as
husbands, wives, and children.
Dr. A., a surgeon in his late 20's, was married for over a year and eventually divorced without ever
telling his wife about his stuttering. He stated that he took great pains to conceal his stuttering with
his colleagues and patients because he felt they would see his stuttering as a sign of nervousness and
question his competence as a surgeon. (Petrunik, 1977: 75)
This phenomenon of people who do not stutter, but who nonetheless see
themselves as stutterers because they experience an "It" within the self that seeks
to take control of speech away from the "I," provides evidence in support of the
argument that it may not be rule-breaking that is critical in the definition of
deviance but the perception of an inner essence or presence which may be
6. As Lemert (1987: 9) cogently notes: "I can do no better than to repeat Cottrell's revised Cooley
dictum in regard to the relation of symbolic and physical factors affecting human behavior [and
we would add presumably human experience]. If we give to the set of factors that influence
choice the term value there is no way that values and material things can be set apart as being
independent of one another. They evolve together."
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expressed through visible deviance (Katz, 1972). It goes further than Katz,
however, in suggesting something about the nature of this presence, the way in
which it is experienced and how this experience is communicated to others.
The experience of "stuttering" as an inner presence lies at the heart of
stutterers' management practices. In managing stuttering, by concealing, avoid-
ing, or struggling with the "It" what stutterers do, in part, is to engage in a process
of self-interaction. This is akin to the process of communicating with oneself that
Mead and Blumer (1969: 5) describe except that, instead of the interaction being
between the "I" and the "Me," it takes place between the "I" and the "It." This
is a critical distinction because, in the latter case, the interaction is between two
acting parts of the self rather than between an active and a passive element (the
subjective "I" and the objective "Me"). As an interaction between two loci of
action it is not so much a "conversation" as a battle in which the spoils are the
control of speech.
What's it like to stutter? Think of yourself on the highway. It's dark. You're in a hurry. No traffic.
You step on the gas. Suddenly, out of nowhere, directly in front of you, looms the terrifying back
of a huge truck. Horror.
Slam on the brakes. Spin the wheel, swerve, pray.
Anything - anything to keep from colliding. The truck is the word that looms ahead of a stutterer.
You can't always tell what word it will be. But suddenly you see one that could spell trouble. Is it
too late to dodge? The collision doesn't kill. But you die a little. Because it produces the worst
feelings of... shame.
I remember the time in high school more than 20 years ago, when, as president of the honor society,
I had to address a school-wide assembly.... The first sentences went smoothly enough. Then came
the truck, driven by my spiteful imp. A mad, spittle-drenched collision before 500 awed witnesses.
(Patrusky, 1976: B-8)
Managing stuttering is a process in which the "I" attempts to outwit,
outmanoeuvre, and/or overpower the "It." Normal speech is thus, for the
stutterer, a fragile fagade which depends on the "I's" ongoing ability to subjugate
or elude the "It."
Always, danger lurks. Somewhere that dread, mocking imp crouches, ever ready to pounce and
deliver an exquisitely timed kick to the shins, certain to screw things up, then to disappear. So I
remain a shade off balance. I can never be sure. (Patrusky, 1976: B-8)
To communicate more effectively, and influence the identity imputations of
others, stutterers attempt to develop an understanding of the circumstances in
which the "It" is likely to take over speech. This frequently involves classifying
words, sounds, and situations in terms of whether they are likely to be trouble-
some. Thus, stutterers identify certain words and sounds as "hard" and certain
situations as "difficult." They also identify circumstances and contexts that seem
to make the "I" more vulnerable to the "It." For example:
When I'm tired I always stutter. Whenever I'm sick or run-down I stutter more. If I have to introduce
myself in front of a group, I just freeze up and can't get a word out. Using the telephone, especially
when someone else is present, is murder. My heart just pounds.
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On the basis of this self-knowledge of how the "It" behaves stutterers plan their
lives so that they will be able to avoid words, situations, and circumstances
associated with stuttering.
Such premeditated management is, however, inherently limited both because
most stutterers typically feel that the "It" is not entirely predictable and because
they constantly encounter situations in which avoiding "It" proves to be difficult.
As a result, in addition to the pre-planned strategies for dealing with "It,"
management typically takes the form of moment-to-moment encounters be-
tween "I" and "It" (Petrunik and Shearing, 1983). Ben Patrusky eloquently
describes the stutterer's daily experiences:
If you met me, you wouldn't necessarily find out I stutter, or whatever it is that I do. I've fooled
people. I know how to camouflage. A dangerous word is coming up? Quick, use another one.
Experts say some stutterers have pretty good vocabularies. Surely, dodging, substituting, is the
reason. If speaking were tennis, I'd dance around my weak backhand to favor my more sure
forehand. (1976: B-8)
In assessing the significance and generality of our analysis of the experience of
stuttering, it is useful to consider other instances in which people experience a
lack of control over their bodies. These fall along a continuum where one pole
is occasional and slight loss of control and the other regular and substantial loss
of control. At the lower end of the continuum are the experiences most people
have in which they momentarily lose control over some part of their body and do
something they had not intended, for example, tripping on a stair, letting a glass
slip from their hands, accidentally knocking into something, forgetting what they
planned to say. Such incidents are typically accounted for as momentary
clumsiness, being under pressure, exhaustion, stage fright, and so on. In such
accounts what is suggested is that "I" failed to give proper attention to its activity
and as a result something happened which was not intended. Given the occa-
sional nature of this loss of intentional control this account makes sense within
the context of cultural assumptions about the nature of the self. At the other end
of the continuum where losses of control are substantial and chronic (e.g., a
neurological disorder), the accounts provided suggest, not inattentiveness on the
part of the "I," but some other alien force that confronts the "I." The way in which
this force is conceptualized depends on the cultural context and the range of
available interpretive frames. For example, in contemporary western societies
the categories of epilepsy, psychosis, Latourette's syndrome, "phantom limbs,"
and a variety of other disorders (Sacks, 1983, 1984, 1985) are used in construct-
ing scientifically legitimate, "rational" accounts indicating that this trouble-
some, disruptive force has a physical basis. In the absence of clear physical
indicators notions such as functional psychosis or multiple personalities may be
used to impute a scienticially legitimate cause (Crabtree, 1985). Alternatively,
more controversial explanations which stretch outside the western scientific
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frame may be used, for example, the force may be conceptualized as an evil spirit
which possesses the self or a non-western theory of physical causation may be
drawn upon, for instance, acupuncture theory. While such interpretations have
received little sociological attention they have been widely acknowledged in
popular and occult literature, oriental philosophy, and in such marginal and con-
troversial scientific disciplines as parapsychology.7
Stuttering, as a type of "socio-motor disorder,"8 is located somewhere near the
mid-point of the above continuum. Although the language of personal accounts
sometimes suggests a possession-like experience, stutterers usually report
experiencing the "It" as an aspect of the self that has partial control over their
speech rather than as a distinct and separate personality. This experience of self
is both grounded in the experience of stuttering and constructed in the context of
cultural assumptions about stuttering, the nature of the self, and intentionality
(Johnson, 1944a; 1944b). A framework is provided which gives meaning to both
the failure of stutterers to control speech and the practices they use - both
reflexively and deliberately - to cope with their inability to speak.
A final implication has to do not with the experiencing of stuttering per se, but
with how this experience informs our understanding of self-construction gener-
ally. In the view of Mead, Schutz, and Garfinkel we become most fully conscious
of objects in our environment when they become problematic in some way. They
surprise us, creating an impulse which is resolved via conscious thought and
definition. The stutterer experiences multiple loci of subjective control (agency)
when control of speech is problematic. Those of us without stuttering, or some
kindred disorder, are likely to be less aware of our own sense of agency and how
we construct it because it is not usually problematic. What stuttering demon-
strates is how closely tied the subjective experience of agency is to control over
conduct. When this control is problematic the process whereby our sense of self
agency is constructed can become visible.
What generalizations should we draw from our analysis? First, stuttering draws
attention to the importance of considering the subjective experience of deviance
as well as its symbolic designation by the self and others, in understanding the
development of deviant identities and deviant life styles. The dialectic of the
stutterer's experience and the construction of inner essences or agents within the
7. See for example, the discussion of the "Brookfield demons" in Pfohl (1985: 16-19) and, more
generally, Crabtree (1985).
8. Bloodstein (1975: 6-7) refers to stuttering as a type of socio-motor disorder characterized by
tension and disintegration of fluency and cites parallel phenomena in writing, playing a musical
instrument (trumpet, piano and violin "stuttering" have all been noted), and manual signing by
the deaf. He refers to a study of the deaf in which the symptoms of socio-motor disturbance were
"repetitions of signs, repetitions of initial letters in finger spelling, 'involuntary' interjections
of 'extra-movements' in finger spelling, and hesitations in finger spellings."
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self are, in the framework we present, as much the purview of the sociologist as
behaviour or externally located social facts.
Second, our analysis provides insights into the experience of self associated
with a variety of phenomena where the locus of subjective control is problematic.
Finally, this analysis of problems of agency or locus of subjective control
helps provide a better understanding of the process of self-construction gener-
ally. The study of the "unusual" illuminates that which is "usual" (Garfmkel,
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... As with the mushi and nayee " desisters had restoried themselves to believe that their formerly criminal self "wasn't me." The self that did it was in William James' terms, not the I (the selfas-subject, who acts) nor the Me (the self-as-object, that is acted upon), but what Petrunik and Shearing (1988) called the It, an alien source of action (Maruna 2001: 93). Even without the cultural resource of a mushi, restorative justice might therefore help Western wrongdoers to write their "It" out of the story of their true ethical identity. ...
... Specifically, a releasee may claim that their "past self," who committed the crime, "wasn't really me"-"The offending came from out there, not inside" (Maruna, 2001, p. 93). Maruna applies Petrunik and Shearing (1988) concept of "the It"-a foreign source of activity existing outside oneself that influences a person to do certain things, perhaps despite their purported better judgment-to his idea of the redemption script. Returning to the case of Jake, it was not truly Jake committing the crime-it was "Jake on drugs." ...
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Despite awareness that a criminal record negatively affects employment prospects and that releasees are likely to internalize the stigma of their criminal history, the ramifications of such processes remains underresearched in the context of labor force participation after imprisonment. Building on past scholarship on disclosure, we examine how disclosure serves as a form of stigma management—thereby allowing people to exert some semblance of control over how they are viewed by others, particularly in light of new media technologies. Unique to our study is that we followed releasees (although there was attrition due to death, parole revocation, and recidivism) over three years. This opportunity provided insight into how releasees’ use of disclosure changed with experiences on the job market and over time as participants increasingly disassociated their current identity from their prison experiences and criminal history.
... The notion that a juvenile needs to avoid people, places, and things can be interpreted as the juvenile viewing the danger as lurking elsewhere, rather than emanating from themselves. Maruna (2001), drawing on Petrunik and Shearing's (Petrunik & Shearing, 1988) paper examining how stutterers conceptualize their stammers, suggests that offenders often conceptualize their offending as "being carried away by situations and circumstances" (p. 93), which serves to separate the "It" from the "I" and "Me," enabling offenders "to protect themselves from the internalization of blame and shame" (p. ...
Conference Paper
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Purpose: Risk assessment has become an important tool of forensic social work. As incarceration may increase a juvenile’s exposure to criminogenic influences, and lead to a greater disconnect from pro-social supports, the implementation of validated risk assessment tools may increase the Parole Board’s confidence to release more juveniles early on parole, rather than relying on habits, traditions, and guesswork. One such risk assessment instrument, The Structured Assessment of Violence Risk in Youth(SAVRY), was adopted by New Jersey’s State Parole Board in 2009. The SAVRY instrument guides assessors through a list of 24 risk factors grouped under the domains of historical risk, social/ contextual factors, individual/ clinical factors, and six protective factors. Completion of the instrument leads to the generation of an overall “risk summary,” where the assessor concludes that the juvenile poses a low, moderate or high risk of future serious violent behavior. Despite the potential utility of risk assessment tools, empirical research has not yet examined the actual impact of risk assessment instruments upon practice. Given the limitation in literature, this quasi-experimental study evaluates the outcome of this statewide risk assessment implementation, and hypothesizes that juveniles who were assessed by SAVRY would be more likely to receive parole than those who were not. Methods Study data were drawn from 445 parole case files, of which 236 juveniles had received a SAVRY risk assessment, and 209 had received no assessment. The two groups were drawn from all juveniles who were evaluated for parole between 2009 and 2011. The groups were matched on age, gender, ethnicity, sentence length, seriousness of offenses, and risk of reconviction. A survival analysis using cox proportional hazard modeling was employed to assess whether SAVRY-assessed juveniles were likely to be released earlier than non-assessed juveniles, controlling for juveniles’ offense seriousness, risk of reconviction, age at release, and race/ethnicity being covariates. Results The majority (93.7%) of juveniles were male. On average, they were released at age 18.2 years. African Americans comprised 67.6% of the sample, followed by Hispanics (20.2%), and Caucasians (11.7%). The average sentence received was 22.9 months, with 42% of juveniles committing a violent offense, 19.8% a drug-related offense, and 15.5% an offense of robbery without physical contact with the victim. Survival analysis results show that juveniles assessed by SAVRY were 1.71 times (95% CI, 1.300, 2.258; p< .0001) more likely to receive parole than those who were not assessed. Age at release was a significant predictor, as was the risk of reconviction, and offense seriousness score. The ethnicity of the juvenile was not a significant predictor of parole release. Implications: These findings support the use of risk assessment instruments in juvenile justice decision-making. Juveniles who received a risk assessment are more likely to be released early on parole than those who did not. The SAVRY instrument appears to guide Parole Board decision-makers along a carefully constructed path of risk factors, encouraging probabilistic rather than possibilistic thinking.
... 11. Building on Mead's understanding of the self as the interior dialogue between an 'I' and a 'Me', Petrunik and Shearing (1988), in their study of stuttering, identity the 'It' as an experienced internal but alien source of action that struggles with the 'I'. 12. ...
My research is based on lifestory interviews I conducted with men in prison for violent crimes. Having been deemed fitting objects of punishment, they were enjoined to speak of themselves as responsible, self-xpossessed agents who could have acted differently. Yet narrating their lived-through experiences, many struggled to convey their own victimization, suffering and powerlessness. Strewn throughout their narratives I found fragments, gaps, inconsistencies, false starts, pauses, switches between discourses, self-interruptions and frame breaks. This ‘narrative debris’ is evidence of the way the prison experience, and the language associated with it, make it difficult for these men to talk in direct ways about their situation. Not being able to talk directly about this means they are less likely to be able to think about it, which in turn means that they are less likely to see it as their responsibility. What is paradoxical, of course, is that it is the official discourse of the prison - which explicitly desires them to take such responsibility - that makes it so difficult for them to do so
... Furthermore, even after treatment, stuttering can be physically and emotionally exhausting because for many individuals it requires constant monitoring to control severity (Kalinowski & Dayalu, 2002;O'Brien, Packman, Onslow, & O'Brien, 2003). Even when speaking fluently, people who stutter may place more importance on monitoring for signs of negative reactions in the listener and how they themselves (the person who stutters) are speaking, rather than listening to what is being said (Petrunik & Shearing, 1988). ...
Unlabelled: Stuttering has been found to deteriorate quality of life in psychological, emotional and social functioning domains. It is reasonable to assume then that stuttering would also be associated with economic consequences that may also challenge quality of life. Remarkably, the personal financial costs associated with stuttering in adults has rarely if ever been explored or investigated in the fluency disorders field. This study involved an assessment of the personal costs of stuttering and an investigation into determinants that may influence spending. Two hundred adults who stutter participated in this study. Findings indicated that the average total cost was around $5,500 (median cost $4,165) in 2007/08 Australian dollars over a 5-year period. Major financial items included costs of direct and indirect treatments for stuttering, self-help, stuttering related conferences, and technology. Financial costs were not significantly influenced by the sex of the person, annual income, or by how severe the person stuttered. However, those individuals younger than 60 years old spent significantly more on treatment related costs, while those with elevated levels of social anxiety spent significantly less than those with lower levels of social anxiety. Quality of life implications associated with stuttering are discussed. Educational objectives: The reader will be able to: (a) describe the method for assessing the direct financial costs of stuttering over a 5-year period; (b) describe the financial personal cost of stuttering for adults who stutter; (c) describe the relationship between factors like sex, age, severity of stuttering and financial costs; and (d) describe the relationship between social anxiety and the financial cost of stuttering.
Purpose In the current study, stuttering was conceptualized as a concealable stigmatized identity (CSI). The purpose of this investigation was to determine if four specific stigma-identity constructs that contribute to variability in psychological distress among people in other CSI groups also contribute among adult who stutter (AWS). Method 505 AWS completed an online survey that included measures of four stigma-identity constructs in addition to general demographics and measures of self-rated stuttering severity, distress, and adverse impact of stuttering on quality of life. Hierarchical regression was performed to determine the extent that stigma-identity constructs explained variability in psychological health outcomes among AWS. Self-rated stuttering severity was investigated as a moderator in these relationships. Results The stigma-identity constructs accounted for a significant proportion of the variability in distress (∼25%) and adverse impact of stuttering on quality of life (∼30%) among AWS. Further, the constructs of salience, centrality, and concealment were positively predictive of distress and adverse impact of stuttering after controlling for demographics and neuroticism. Compared to the other predictor variables (self-rated stuttering severity, demographic characteristics, neuroticism, and the three other stigma-identity constructs), concealment was the strongest predictor of adverse impact of stuttering on quality of life. Finally, self-rated stuttering severity was a moderating variable. Conclusions The results from this study suggest that there are useful applications in conceptualizing stuttering as a type of CSI. Speech-language pathologists should be aware of the relationships that stigma has with psychological health outcomes among AWS and should consider the implications for intervention.
The Peacebuilding Compared project deployed South Asian data to conclude that war tends to cascade across space and time to further war, crime to further crime, war to crime, and crime to war. This article is an analytic sketch of crime as a cascade phenomenon. Examining crime through a cascade lens helps us to imagine how to more effectively cascade crime prevention. Like crime, crime prevention often cascades. Braithwaite and D’Costa (2018) show how peacemaking can cascade non-violence, how it cascades non-violent social movement politics, and vice versa. Seeing crime through the cascade lens opens up fertile ways of imagining macrocriminology. Self-efficacy and collective efficacy are hypothesised as catalysts of crime prevention cascades in such a macrocriminology. Australian successes with gun control and drunk driving point to the importance of explicitly connecting evidence-based microcriminology to a macrocriminology of cultural transformation. More structurally, building collective efficacy in families, schools and primary work groups may cascade collective efficacy into neighbourhoods and vice versa. The microcriminology of hot-spot policing might be elaborated into a macrocriminology of inkspots of collective efficacy that cascade and connect up.
This article presents a review of the lisping research literature with the aim of providing a framework for the consideration of the sociolinguistics of lisping. We consider, in turn, the nature of lisping, the construction of identity through speech, the nature of stigma, and, in particular, stigma associated with communication disorders and especially lisping. Further, we examine two aspects of the literature on lisping in more detail: lisping as minor bodily stigma and lisping and the internet. We conclude that experiential research on identity construction at the level of the individual, and stigma theory at a collective speech community level, support the case for viewing the sociolinguistics of lisping as a legitimate field of study and establishing a framework for acknowledgment of and further investigation into the self-identified adult who lisps.
Symbolic interaction theory focuses on the social production of shared experience via symbols. People interact with one another and, in so doing, continually recreate lived reality as experienced by participants. All knowable reality, including one's “self,” is given form and meaning via social exchange. The self develops in successive stages, and self-sentiment relies on the interpretation of others' reactions. Shame and embarrassment feature heavily as well, as avoiding these unpleasant emotions is the foundational goal of social actors.
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This is a study of how stutterers cope with their disability. We examine strategies used to manage interactional order and identity by concealing, revealing, or disavowing stuttering. This offers insights into the way people manage disabilities: the articulation of premeditated and spontaneous tactics, and how management strategies shape, and are shaped by, the experience of disability.
Possession and Multiple personality disorder have up to now been see as extraordinary aberrations of the human mind--the frightening experiences of a few unfortunate victims. Multiple Man throws new light on these phenomena, revealing that possession may be much more common than has been believed, and that multiple personality disorder may simply be an unusual form of multiple consciousness we all experience.
According to the societal reaction perspective, the reactions of the nondisabled are the key to understanding the physically disabled. Consequently, stigmatization has been emphasized in explaining the often awkward and inhibited encounters between the disabled and the nondisabled. Stigmatization, though, cannot fully explain interaction between the disabled and the nondisabled. Through a qualitative analysis of encounters between the deaf and the hearing, 1 demonstrate that disabilities are also disruptive when they cause the assumptions and routine practices which usually successfully maintain interaction to become problematic. Coping strategies are attempts to compensate for those assumptions and practices which have failed. The reactions of the nondisabled are important in understanding the physically disabled, but in more complex ways than the societal reaction perspective has so far suggested.
Pain folklore is inadequate to make sense of chronic pain. As a result, chronic pain sufferers feel frustrated and socially isolated. They encounter further difficulties in social settings, where problems regarding the management of pain remain unsolved. They cannot find refuge in retreating to certain knowledge of their private inner states, for their troubles are located not in pain but in language and culture. The problems of chronic pain sufferers suggest a form of suffering which transcends physical pain.
In this paper we extend and modity the metaphor of being in or out of the closet to analyze how people manage information to control the stigma potential of epilepsy. Based on 80 depth interviews, our analysis offers an “insider's” perception of stigma. We demonstrate how concealment strategies can be learned from coaches, that strategies for concealment vary, and that rather than simply indicating a situation one is in or out of, the closet of epilepsy has a revolving door. We also find, paradoxically, that both “instrumental telling” and concealing can be means to the same ends. We conclude by discussing how being in the closet with illness doubly isolates individuals from one another.