Critically discuss the article in relation to the conceptual tools studied in the Deviance module. Introduction Amanda du Toit was labelled as a deviant by society because of her previous murder conviction. Even though she had severed her sentence, she was still a victim of the public’s labelling and stigmatisation. Outside the rule of law she was now a free individual but inside the sphere of society she still remained a deviant.
This essay aims to give the various definitions of deviance putting more emphasis on how it is a social construct and the various theories that are connected to deviance. At the same instance this essay will differentiate crime and deviance showing how the two terms are related to the Amanda du Toit incidence. Lastly this essay aims to discuss the concept of stigma management and labelling and how differently people react to deviant labels that they are given by society. Definitions of Deviance
Deviance is defined as a social construct that identifies and labels acts or behaviour that are regarded as contrary to the norms of society. It is can be created and destroyed by society. For example the act of cannibalism or murder is a deviant act in that it is regarded as being against the norms and the values of a particular society. In this case when Amanda du Toit murdered her younger sister she was labelled as a deviant because murder is regarded as a deviant act in the society that she was in.
Deviance also context specific and thus it differs across different societies. In this sense what is deviant in one society is not deviant in another. However this contradicts with the absolutist definition of deviance which shall be discussed below. The absolutist definition of deviance The absolutist definition of deviance states that there are some acts of deviance that are universally applied regardless of the society that they are placed in. In this respect they are not context specific. There is no argument about what is deviant and what is not.
The act of deviance exist for all times whether it is the past, present or the future. This is the same with what Amanda du Toit experienced. For many societies murder is universally deviant for all times no matter what context it is placed it. Even though Amanda had served her sentence she was still regarded as a deviant because the act of murder is unacceptable to many members of society. The relativist definition of deviance The relativist definition of deviance states that an act is deviant depending on the observer.
This puts emphasis on the fact that deviance is a social construct. The act of murder is deviant universally but the deviant individual is viewed as being deviant by different parts of society. The majority of society viewed Amanda as a murder even though she had served her sentence. Her mother, and other individuals such as the police no longer saw her as a deviant individual showing that the label she had been given was not recognised by everyone in society. Deviant label status
Labelling is when an individual is given a title because of his/her actions. In this instance those that are identified as deviant are given labels by society and these labels become their identities that they are known by. They are given a master status. This becomes more prominent and more consistent that the previous one that the individual had before. Before Amanda murdered her sister she was probably recognised as an innocent blameless girl, this was her previous identity before she committed the act.
After she had murdered her sister she was now known as a murder and the previous label was forgotten by the society. This was her master status and it remained consistent even after she had served her sentence. It was so severe and ruthless that Amanda wished that she had been given the death sentence so that her punishment could end. This was a form of negative deviance in that the act itself was considered in a bad light by the society and it then the response was also negative. Theories of Deviance