Marginal People in Deviant Places

Ethnography, Difference, and the Challenge to Scientific Racism
Janice M. Irvine
How twentieth-century ethnographers captured the diverse social worlds of outsiders
This title is open access and free to read on the web A free online version is forthcoming


Marginal People in Deviant Places revisits early- to mid-twentieth-century ethnographic studies, arguing that their focus on marginal subcultures—ranging from Los Angeles hoboes, to men who have sex with other men in St. Louis bathrooms, to taxi dancers in Chicago, to elderly Jews in Venice, California—helped produce new ways of thinking about social difference more broadly in the United States. Irvine demonstrates how the social scientists who told the stories of these marginalized groups represented an early challenge to then-dominant narratives of scientific racism, prefiguring the academic fields of gender, ethnic, sexuality, and queer studies in key ways.  In recounting the social histories of certain American outsiders, Irvine identifies an American paradox by which social differences are both despised and desired, and she describes the rise of an outsider capitalism that integrates difference into American society by marketing it.
Janice M. Irvine is Professor of Sociology at the University of Massachusetts.

Product Details

  • 6 x 9.
  • 296pp.
  • 26 illustrations.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Paper
  • 2022
  • Forthcoming
  • 978-0-472-05538-8

  • $39.95 U.S.

  • Open Access
  • 2022
  • Forthcoming
  • 978-0-472-90265-1



  • sociology of deviance; history of sociology; history of ethnography; scientific racism; deviance studies; queer theory; queer studies; sociology of stigma; Chicago School; sociology of place; ethnographic places; social differences; culture wars; outsider capitalism; better stories; social knowledge production; modern outsiders; strangers and marginality; deviance studies; conformity and deviance