Challenging Dominant Discourses: Peer Work as Social Justice Work

Stacey L. Barrenger, Victoria Stanhope, Kendall Atterbury

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


People with mental illnesses are overrepresented in the criminal justice system, and discourses concerning the medical model, criminalization, and criminality dominate the intervention landscape for this population. Using a critical postmodern lens, 45 in-depth interviews with peer specialists who had incarceration histories were analyzed to understand how they approach their work. Peer specialists with incarceration histories constructed new identities through their training and peer work by valuing experiential knowledge. Even in the face of power differentials, they challenged dominant discourses directly and indirectly and advocated for various forms of help for the people with whom they worked.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)185-205
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Progressive Human Services
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2 2018


  • Critical postmodernism
  • dominant discourses
  • incarceration
  • mental illness
  • peer specialists

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Sociology and Political Science


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