Henry Selby's ethnographic study of the Zapotec Indians of a small community in the Valley of Oaxaca, Mexico, reveals that the notion of the social basis of deviance is implicit in Zapotec thinking. Zapotecs recognize that crime and deviance arise out of society, and their methods of reducing criminal behavior are based on social networks and their dynamics. Professor Selby's consideration of witchcraft and deviant sexual behavior among the Zapotecs demonstrates how a deeper understanding of the rules upon which their society is based is necessary to an understanding of Zapotec ideas of deviance.
The intent of this study is to show how in a contemporary traditional community the logic of the interactionist approach to the understanding of deviance has been borne out in detail. The transcultural comparisons, in many instances, can lead us to reexamine our own ideas about law and order.
"Henry Selby brings to his study of a traditional anthropological topic—witchcraft—a late development in sociological theory, the so-called labeling, or interactionist, theory of deviance. He brings to sociologists of deviance a number of things: a comparative non-US case to add to the available evidence on deviance, a welcome addition to the slim body of detailed studies of the deviance process; an example of the usefulness, indeed, the necessity, of exploring the ethnosemantics of any area of deviance; a model study of the dynamics of labeling; and important evidence on the relation between the attributes and acts of the person and the labels that the social process attaches to him (especially the question of the validity of those labels)."
—Howard S. Becker, from the Foreword