Love, Stigma, and Resistance: “Therapeutic Microaggressions” in a Prisoners' Wives' Support Group

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This article derives from ethnographies of therapeutic interventions in a support group for prisoners' wives in Israel. The study's main inductive findings reveal that love and the emotion work of prisoners' wives are constructed as the primary site for achieving the clinical objective: modifying the prisoners' wives' spoiled self and encouraging their adoption of a psychological self. The findings reveal a dramatic clash between the therapeutic emotion work of love that the group facilitators proposed and the collectivist emotion work to which the prisoners' wives subscribed. These forms of emotion work are associated with ethnic hierarchies and experiences of stigmatization by the prisoners' wives during the therapeutic sessions. In this context, the article suggests the concept of “therapeutic microaggressions” to describe how interactions in clinical sessions can reinforce inequality.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)102-125
Number of pages24
JournalSymbolic Interaction
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Feb 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 Society for the Study of Symbolic Interaction. All rights reserved.


  • emotion work
  • love
  • microaggressions
  • stigma
  • support group
  • therapeutic love

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Nursing
  • Social Psychology
  • Education
  • Communication
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • General Social Sciences


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