Professor and Director of Graduate Studies
Ph.D. 2002 University of Cincinnati
The University of Tennessee
912 McClung Tower
Knoxville, TN 37996-0490
Criminological Theory, Narrative Criminology, Harm, Violence, Restorative Justice
Lois Presser is Professor of Sociology at the University of Tennessee. She holds a Bachelor's degree in Human Development and Family Studies from Cornell University, an MBA from Yale University, and a doctoral degree in Criminal Justice/Criminology from the University of Cincinnati. Prior to earning her Ph.D., Dr. Presser worked for 10 years in various sectors of the criminal justice system in New York City. She came to UT Knoxville as Assistant Professor of Sociology in 2002. From August 2020 to July 2025 she is a Distinguished Professor in the Humanities in UT’s College of Arts and Sciences.
Dr. Presser's research concerns the role of language and discursive forms in social arrangements and action, including criminal action, and the promises and problems of restorative justice approaches to crime and other conflicts. She draws on the perspectives of cultural sociology and critical criminology in her work. Dr. Presser's publications have appeared in top journals of criminology and sociology including Theoretical Criminology, Social Problems, Justice Quarterly, and Signs. Her first book, Been a Heavy Life: Stories of Violent Men (2008, University of Illinois Press), explores how violent men construct themselves as decent, heroic, and masculine in the face of stigma and under circumstances of captivity. Her second book, Why We Harm (2013, Rutgers University Press), advances a general theory of harmful action based on the stories we tell. With Sveinung Sandberg she presents the perspective known as narrative criminology in the edited volume, Narrative Criminology (2015, NYU Press). Her other books are Inside Story: How Narratives Drive Mass Violence (2018, University of California Press)and The Emerald Handbook of Narrative Criminology (2019, co-edited with Jennifer Fleetwood, Sveinung Sandberg and Thomas Ugelvik). Dr. Presser is currently at work on a new project that sets out a methodology and methods for determining what goes unsaid in text.
- Criminal Justice
- Gender and Crime
- Juvenile Delinquency
- Restorative Justice (Honors)
- Society and Law
- Sociological Research
- Contemporary Criminologies
- Discourse Analysis
- Foundations in Criminology
- 2019. Fleetwood, Jennifer, Lois Presser, Sveinung Sandberg, and Thomas Ugelvik (Eds.). The Emerald Handbook of Narrative Criminology. Bingley, UK: Emerald Publishing.
- 2018. Presser, Lois. Inside Story: How Narratives Drive Mass Harm. Berkeley and Los Angeles, CA: University of California Press.
- 2019. Presser, Lois, and Sveinung Sandberg. “Narrative Criminology as Critical Criminology.” Critical Criminology 27(1): 131-143.
- 2019. Easterling, Beth, Ben H. Feldmeyer, and Lois Presser. “Narrating Mother Identities From Prison.” Feminist Criminology 14(5): 519-539.
- 2016. Presser, Lois. “Criminology and the Narrative Turn.” Crime, Media, Culture 12(2): 137-151.
- 2015. Presser, Lois, and Sveinung Sandberg (Eds.). Narrative Criminology: Understanding Stories of Crime. New York and London: New York University Press.
- 2014. Rahim Manji, Presser, Lois, and Leigh T. Dickey . "Passivity, Harm, and Injustice." Contemporary Justice Review 17(1):47-62.
- 2013. Presser, Lois. Why We Harm. New Brunswick, NJ and London: Rutgers University Press.