Everyone Is NOT Doing It: Abstinence and Personal Identity

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University of Chicago Press, 2006 - Social Science - 223 pages
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Labels like vegan, virgin, or nonsmoker get thrown around to identify forms of abstinence, but for many abstainers such labels are also proud declarations of who they are. Setting aside the moral debates and psychological assessments surrounding abstinence, Jamie L. Mullaney here asks why it is that the act of not doing something plays such a crucial role in the formation of our personal identities. 

Based on interviews with individuals who abstain from habits as diverse as sex, cigarettes, sugar, and technology, Everyone Is NOT Doing It identifies four different types of abstainers: quitters; those who have never done something and never will; those who haven't done something yet, but might in the future; and those who are not doing something temporarily. Mullaney assesses the commonalities that bind abstainers, as well as how perceptions of abstinence change according to social context, age, and historical era. In contrast to such earlier forms of abstinence as social protest, entertainment, or an instrument of social stratification, not doing something now gives people a more secure sense of self by offering a more affordable and manageable identity in a world of ever-expanding options.
  

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Contents

Introduction
1
THE SOCIAL SHAPE OF ABSTINENCE
17
Seeing NotDoing Time Place and Language
19
Historical Frames of Abstinence
35
Contemporary Abstainers
64
You Gotta Run the Whole Tape Pathways to Abstinence
82
DOING NOTDOING
103
Determining What Counts Abstinence Thresholds
105
Fence Building
130
Negotiating Abstinence Strategies
146
Verbal Performances of Abstinence
157
Conclusion
172
Appendixes
183
Notes
195
References
207
Index
217

Fire Walking
119

Common terms and phrases

About the author (2006)

Jamie L. Mullaney is assistant professor of sociology at Goucher College.

Bibliographic information