American Fury: Collective Action and the Politics of Moral Outrage

deadline for submissions: 
January 30, 2022
full name / name of organization: 
Myra Mendible/Florida Gulf Coast University
contact email: 

 

American Furies: Collective Action and the Politics of Moral Outrage

Myra Mendible

 

“Our ability to respond with outrage depends upon a tacit realization that there is a worthy life that has been injured or lost…”

Judith Butler, “Survivability, Vulnerability, Affect”

 

“Outrage has become the signature emotion of American public life.”

Lance Morrow, “America is Addicted to Outrage”

 

Outrage over the so-called “war on Christmas” prompted thousands of furious tweets, posts, and phone calls denouncing Starbucks’ new coffee cup design. Outrage over public schools presumably teaching Critical Race Theory led nine states to ban these offerings (about 20 more have bills pending). Outrage over the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin gave rise to the Black Lives Matter Movement, and what began as an outraged social media post inspired the MeToo Movement. From petty public squabbles about coffee cup designs to the transformative social upheavals of social justice movements, moral outrage is at the root of political and social activism in contemporary US society.

Collective expressions of moral outrage play a critical role in projecting shared values, forming political alliances, shaming and punishing wrongdoers, and mobilizing collectives. Events that prompt widespread moral outrage can reveal a society’s predispositions and judgments, flex the political power of social media, impact policy and law, and inspire new social movements or organized resistance. They can also exacerbate conflicts, generate “pseudo” crises, or sabotage claims about inequities or the legitimacy of redress. Examining the political and emotional dynamics of moral outrage is critical to understanding why certain events spark mass response while others fade with the next 24-hour news cycle.

 This edited collection aims to explore widely circulated expressions of “moral outrage” in the US, considering news events, political platforms, social media posts, and other mediated outrage events in contemporary culture. We especially welcome submissions that analyze a specific incident or act that generated public outrage and collective action. Interested contributors should send proposals of no more than 500 words and a brief bio to Myra Mendible, Professor, Florida Gulf Coast University, mendible@fgcu.edu by January 30, 2022. If accepted, completed essays are due May 30, 2022. Contributors may consider questions such as,

  • How might insights about the psychology of moral outrage offer other ways to interpret responses? Since outrage signals the violation of a moral boundary, how are these boundaries drawn in specific cases, how do they shift and move, and what compels collective action in response to these “violations”?
  • How do tactics such as devaluation and reinterpretation allow perpetrators and their enablers to minimize outrage?
  • What constitutes moral outrage and how does it function in mediating legal judgments, decision-making, mobilizing group activism, or creating new social movements?
  • How do normative appraisals of the victims and perpetrators shape the level of moral outrage expressed?
  • What social predispositions and appraisals mitigate responses or evoke outrage (rather than, say, sympathy or pride) when witnessing outrageous behavior?
  • The role of news outlets, political platforms, or social media in generating “pseudo” outrage events.