Department of Sociology
University of Tennessee
Lois Presser is Professor of Sociology at the University of Tennessee. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Human Development and Family Studies from Cornell University, an MBA from Yale University, and a doctoral degree in Criminal Justice/Criminology from the University of Cincinnati. Prior to earning her Ph.D., Dr. Presser worked for 10 years in the criminal justice system in New York City. She worked with and on behalf of both offenders and victims of crime.
Dr. Presser’s research concerns the role
of language and discursive, especially story, forms in social
arrangements and action, including criminal and other harmful
action, and the promises and problems of restorative justice
approaches to crime and other conflict. She draws on the perspectives
of cultural sociology, critical criminology, and discourse
analysis. Her work has appeared in top journals of criminology
Her first book, Been a Heavy Life: Stories of Violent Men (2008, University of Illinois Press), explores how violent men construct themselves as decent, heroic, and masculine in the face of stigma and under circumstances of captivity. Her second book, Why We Harm (2013, Rutgers University Press), advances a general theory of harmful action based on narratives. Her third book is the co-edited volume, Narrative Criminology, with Sveinung Sandberg (2015, NYU Press), which sets out the narrative criminology paradigm theoretically and empirically. Her most recent book, Inside Story: How Narrative Drive Mass Harm (2018, U California Press) asks how stories compel us, to the point that we are capable of imposing great suffering.