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Heroic Efforts The Emotional Culture of Search and Rescue Volunteers by Jennifer Lois

Heroic Efforts The Emotional Culture of Search and Rescue Volunteers


Heroic Efforts The Emotional Culture of Search and Rescue Volunteers by Jennifer Lois

Winner of the 2006 Outstanding Recent Contribution Award from the American Sociological Association, Sociology of Emotions Section Many search and rescue workers voluntarily interrupt their lives when they are called upon to help strangers. They awake in the middle of the night to cover miles of terrain in search of lost hikers or leave work to search potential avalanche zones for missing skiers, snowboarders, and snowmobilers in blizzard conditions. They often put their own lives in danger to rescue stranded, hypothermic kayakers and rafters from rivers. Drawing on six years of participant observation and in-depth interviews, Jennifer Lois examines the emotional subculture of Peak, a volunteer mountain-environment search and rescue team. Rescuers were not only confronted by physical dangers, but also by emotional challenges, including both keeping their own emotions in check during crisis situations, and managing the emotions of others, such as those they were rescuing. Lois examines how rescuers constructed meaning in their lives and defined themselves through their heroic work. Heroic Efforts serves as an easy to understand sociological introduction to the ways emotions develop and connect us to our surroundings, as well as to the links between the concept of heroism and other sociological theories such as those on gender stereotypes and edgework.


[Lois] examines how rescuers construct meaning in their lives and define themselves through their risky, demanding work.

-Seattle Times Lois takes readers inside the social world of search and rescue volunteers, offering sociological insight into topics such as gender, emotions, and identity.

-American Journal of Sociology Heroic Efforts began as a dissertation, but ends as one of the best book on emotions I have read in years. If you want a glimpse into the power of really good ethnography and the reason we need both qualitative and quantitative research, this book will provide you with both entertainment and sagacity.

-Contemporary Sociology Jennifer Lois'outstanding in-depth ethnography of mountain search and rescue teams yields insight not only into the specific heroic culture of rescue workers, but also more generally into that of other risk-takers such as firefighters, police officers, and ER doctors. Lois focuses on the way emotions drive some and impede others, how difficult emotions are handled in crisis situations and released afterwards, and the emotional currency or repayment between heroes and those they rescue. She skillfully shows the way heroism intertwines with masculinity, producing an organizational culture stratified by gender. Finally, she discusses the transference of the hero identity from the group to individual members and their subsequent self-effacement in a culture of false modesty when interacting with their support community.

-Patricia A. Adler,University of Colorado at Boulder

About the Author

Jennifer Lois is Associate Professor of Sociology at Western Washington University.

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Book Info

Publication date

1st April 2003


Jennifer Lois

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New York University Press


233 pages


Occupational & industrial psychology



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