Dead honest judgments: Emotional expression, sonic styles and evaluating sounds of mourning in late modernity

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8 Scopus citations


How do late-modern people morally evaluate behavior in emotionally-laden situations? To answer this question, a cultural sociology of morality should explore both cultural contents and social contexts that inform their employment. The article studies how Israelis ethically evaluate loud mourning performances. In line with 'moral polytheist' repertoire theories, it identifies three moral logics available to them, which are typical of late-modern morality: the authenticity, self-control and therapeutic ethics. I explain why some of these logics may be used flexibly to support contradictory claims, whereas others prescribe their usage. I also explore what constrains choice within the repertoire. While moral judgment is internally structured by cultural structures (moral logics), its application is informed by social structure: as moral evaluation of others is always self-definitional, it is shaped in relation to self-identifications, boundary drawing and stereotype threats. Finally, contrary to Boltanski and Thévenot's On Justification, I suggest that people do not always strive to achieve virtuosity in any single moral world, but also seek to avoid moral worthlessness in all moral worlds simultaneously. Studying the interaction between cultural codes (the moral/discursive structures of critique and justification) and social structures (in relation to which identification claims are made) may enhance our understanding of lay morality.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)153-185
Number of pages33
JournalAmerican Journal of Cultural Sociology
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 Jun 2013
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2013 Macmillan Publishers Ltd.


  • authenticity
  • emotions
  • ethnicity
  • moral repertoire
  • morality
  • mourning


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