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Stigma

Stigma

Notes on the Management of Spoiled Identity

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From the author of The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life, Stigma is analyzes a person’s feelings about himself and his relationship to people whom society calls “normal.”

Stigma is an illuminating excursion into the situation of persons who are unable to conform to standards that society calls normal. Disqualified from full social acceptance, they are stigmatized individuals. Physically deformed people, ex-mental patients, drug addicts, prostitutes, or those ostracized for other reasons must constantly strive to adjust to their precarious social identities. Their image of themselves must daily confront and be affronted by the image which others reflect back to them.

Drawing extensively on autobiographies and case studies, sociologist Erving Goffman analyzes the stigmatized person’s feelings about himself and his relationship to “normals” He explores the variety of strategies stigmatized individuals employ to deal with the rejection of others, and the complex sorts of information about themselves they project. In Stigma the interplay of alternatives the stigmatized individual must face every day is brilliantly examined by one of America’s leading social analysts.
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  • Touchstone | 
  • 168 pages | 
  • ISBN 9780671622442 | 
  • June 1986
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Chapter 1

STIGMA and SOCIAL IDENTITY

The Greeks, who were apparently strong on visual aids, originated the term stigma to refer to bodily signs designed to expose something unusual and bad about the moral status of the signifier. The signs were cut or burnt into the body and advertised that the bearer was a slave, a criminal, or a traitor -- a blemished person, ritually polluted, to be avoided, especially in public places. Later, in Christian times, two layers of metaphor were added to the term: the first referred to bodily signs of holy grace that took the form of eruptive blossoms on the skin; the second, a medical... see more

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Erving Goffman effectively extends his argument in favor of a diagnosis of deviant behavior which takes account of the whole social situation.
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