Ethics@Noon: Ashley Rubin

Ethics at Noon

Deviance, Deviants, and Dirtbags: Toward a Neo-Institutional Criminology of Rock Climbing

Sociologists have long recognized that all social groups have their own sets of rules and norms and thus their own sets of deviants. Unfortunately, the sociology of deviance itself has become rather deviant in recent decades, relegated to criminology, where it is likewise a fairly marginal topic (when it is considered separately from criminal activity). In this project, I first describe the various reasons why deviance studies has become marginalized (especially in US sociology), focusing on the problem of a lack of theoretical vigor. Next, I outline a new approach to studying deviance, building on the neo-institutional tradition from organizational theory. I illustrate this approach using the case of rock climbing. After contextualizing rock climbing as a sport that began as a marginal, countercultural, and deviant endeavor that has since become mainstream, I trace the evolution of rock climbing ethics—focusing on the right way to climb and the right way to be a climber. I then apply neo-institutional theory to several specific episodes from the 1950s to today to understand how field-level dynamics help render certain activities deviant or normal. This neo-institutional framework distinguishes between rational considerations and cultural-cognitive considerations in ethical debates about the right way to climb and the right way to be a climber. It also explores the role of funders, regulators, experts, and particularly successful climbers in resolving these questions. Although rock climbing is a unique and rather colorful sport, many of the issues that come up will be familiar not only to other sports but also to other areas of leisure, work, and social life.

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Ashley Rubin
University of Toronto

Wed, Feb 13, 2019
12:30 PM - 02:00 PM
Centre for Ethics, University of Toronto
200 Larkin