Addicted to Hate: Identity Residual among Former White Supremacists

Pete Simi, Kathleen Blee, Matthew DeMichele, Steven Windisch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

52 Scopus citations


The process of leaving deeply meaningful and embodied identities can be experienced as a struggle against addiction, with continuing cognitive, emotional, and physiological responses that are involuntary, unwanted, and triggered by environmental factors. Using data derived from a unique set of in-depth life history interviews with 89 former U.S. white supremacists, as well as theories derived from recent advances in cognitive sociology, we examine how a rejected identity can persist despite a desire to change. Disengagement from white supremacy is characterized by substantial lingering effects that subjects describe as addiction. We conclude with a discussion of the implications of identity residual for understanding how people leave and for theories of the self.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1167-1187
Number of pages21
JournalAmerican Sociological Review
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 1 2017


  • addiction
  • culture
  • identity
  • racism
  • symbolic interactionism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science


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