Date of Award

Summer 2019

Document Type

Open Access Dissertation



First Advisor

Mathieu Deflem


This dissertation uses a grounded theory perspective to uncover the process of white women who find self-empowerment in the appropriation of historically stigmatized identities and rhetoric surrounding a self-described witch identity. The sample in this study included 13 white women who self-identified as witches across varying socioeconomic and geographical lines. The four main research questions that guide this research study are: 1) what sociologically relevant factors lead women choosing to self-identify as a witch?; 2) what components does the process of choosing to identify as a witch entail?; 3) what meanings do self-identified witches attach to their and others’ depictions of witches in popular culture?; and, finally, 4) what experiences do self-identified witches have with agents of social control?

Of the 13 respondents, 10 were interviewed via Zoom, a video and audio recording app, and then professionally transcribed. The remaining 3 interviews were conducted via email, with follow up emails for clarification and more detail. The interview findings were analyzed following the logic of grounded theory, which included a journal for notes throughout the entire research process, memo writing, initial coding, thematic coding, and some axial coding.

The main findings of this dissertation are discussed focusing on the following findings based on the self-reported experiences of self-identified witches: 1) self-identified witches create self-empowerment from being able to control their bodies and the environment around them; 2) this self-empowerment can be strengthened significantly through the development and understanding of their own non-conformity, particularly in politics; 3) in some cases (particularly those with lower status in education and socio-economic status), comparing themselves with others, and ultimately ranking themselves as “better” than these others, makes respondents feel stronger and gain status back.; 4) popular culture depictions of witches does not necessarily play a role in self-identified witches own construction of their identity, but it plays a strong role in their view of how other’s view them (Mead’s “generalized-other”); 5) they respond to their construction of the generalized other and ultimately adjust their own behaviors in based on their perceptions’ of how others view them due to a fear of social control such as, rejection, being laughed at, being viewed as dangerous or scary, and the negative impact it could have on their jobs.

Included in

Sociology Commons