Making the city “second nature”: Freegan “dumpster divers” and the materiality of morality

Alex V. Barnard

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    How do people maintain deeply held moral identities in a seemingly immoral social environment? Cultural sociologists and social psychologists have focused on how individuals cope with contexts that make acting on moral motivations difficult by building supportive networks and embedding themselves in communities of like-minded people. In this article, however, the author argues that actors can achieve a moral “sense of one’s place” through a habitus that leverages the material dimensions of place itself. In particular, he shows how one community of radical environmental activists make affirming moral identities centered on living “naturally” seem like “second nature,” even in a seemingly unnatural and immoral urban environment, by reconfiguring their physicalworld. The author shows how nonhuman objects serve as proofs of moral labor, markers of moral boundaries, and reminders of moral values, playing both a facilitating and constraining role in moral life.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)1017-1050
    Number of pages34
    JournalAmerican Journal of Sociology
    Issue number4
    StatePublished - Jan 2016

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Sociology and Political Science


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