Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





Lynn Chancer

Committee Members

Thomas DeGloma

Stanley Aronowitz

Eviatar Zerubavel

Subject Categories

Other Sociology | Place and Environment | Politics and Social Change | Race and Ethnicity | Social Control, Law, Crime, and Deviance | Social Psychology and Interaction | Sociology | Sociology of Culture | Theory, Knowledge and Science


Denial, Sociospatial, Sociomental, Psychosocial


This dissertation develops a theory of sociological denial through an investigation of contested social problems. I begin by reviewing the literature on denial, both sociological and psychological, in order to situate the project and exemplify the relevance and need for a sociological theory of denial. Then, through examining three scales of the social, I account for multiple layers of the social structure and denial’s place in each. These scales are the sites at which denial happens: geographic, cognitive, and unconscious. I explore five contested social problems through varied paradigms that allow me to analyze each scale of the structural. I thus look at settler colonialism, Israeli apartheid, mass incarceration, industrialized animal slaughter, and environmental destruction, each through a sociospatial, sociomental, and psychosocial paradigm. I then turn to five organizations that seek to address these contested social problems. I explore their mission statements and campaigns to analyze how they are already engaging with sociological denial and how they could do more. The conclusion offers suggestions for how structural denial can be confronted, emphasizing the need for sociologists and social movement actors to give more weight to the psychosocial, alongside the already prevalent sociospatial and sociomental perspectives.