Claiming “Victim” to Harassment Law: Legal Consciousness of the Privileged


  • Susan Munkres is Assistant Professor of Sociology at Furman University. Please direct all correspondence regarding this article to the author at The author would like to thank the many people who contributed to the development of this article: Kelly Besecke, Nina Eliasoph, Paul Lichterman, Dan Lipson, Lyn MacGregor, and Jason Van Driesche, as well as the anonymous referees for Law & Social Inquiry, particularly Referee A.


Sociologists of law have long been concerned with the effectiveness of rights; the emergence of diversity training in the 1990s spurred renewed attention to questions of how laws are enacted in daily life. Much scholarship has constructed the managerialization of civil rights law and popularization of diversity concepts as diluting efforts to redress structural discrimination. In studying diversity and antiharassment trainings in practice, I argue that these are sites where civil rights find expression of their obligations, and I find that much of the “dilution” of content stems from diversity trainers’ efforts to negotiate with the resistance of trainees to their new obligations under civil rights law. The trainees evince a variable legal consciousness in relationship to this legality of rights-promotion, to which they are being exposed in these trainings; the findings suggest further research is needed into the legal consciousness of the privileged.