Thursday, December 17, 2020

Stigma and Social Identity by Erving Goffman – summary part 2

Stigma: Notes on the management of spoiled identity - ‎Erving Goffman – summary part 2 (part 1 here)

The person with the stigma may use his stigma for "secondary gains," as an excuse for failure. He may also see a blessing disguised in the anguish he went through because of the feeling that suffering can teach the sufferer the essence of life. Similarly, it can lead to a reassessment of the limitations of the normal.

The reactions of the normal and of the stigmatized are those that can occur for continuous periods of time, or in isolation from regular contact. Goffman is interested in "mixed moments" - the moments in which stigmatized and normal people are in the same "social situation", meaning that there is an immediate physical presence of both.

The very predictable possibility of such contacts may cause normal and stigmatized people to organize life in such a way as to avoid such encounters, and this is likely to be more detrimental to stigmatized people.


When they meet, both parties will have to face the causes and consequences of the stigma directly.

The person with stigma may feel insecure about how normal people will recognize and accept him, and feel that the usual method of interpreting everyday events has been undermined as his achievements may be interpreted depending on the circumstances as signs of considerable and noteworthy ability. At the same time he feels that tiny failures may be interpreted as an expression of his stigma-marked variance. When the stigma of the stigma is visual, he may feel that being present among the normal exposes him to an invasion of his privacy. Goffman argues that an individual with the visible stigma has special reasons for feeling that mixed social situations tend to have frightening and unrestrained interactions.

As a result, the attention of both parties may secretly withdraw from its social goals, and "self-awareness" and "post-awareness" occur, manifested in a pathology of interaction difficulties.


Belonging and knowing

As stated, according to Goffman the gap between the possible and actual alienation of the individual may cause his detachment from society and himself. However, he will usually find that there are others who support him: 

1.The partners in his stigma - among them the stigma holder can use his disadvantage as a basis for organizing life. On the other hand, he may find that the stories of his fellow sufferers bore him. Whether or not the stigma owners crystallize into the community, there may be agents who have represented the stigma and will have the support of the stigma owners. Most often these agents will serve as spokespersons and representatives before a public of normals.

2.The knowers - normal people whose special situation made them know the secret of the life of those who have the stigma and relate to the,. Well-known people are the borderline people, in front of whom no maimed individual should feel ashamed or exercise self-control. Types of person who knows:

A. a person whose knowledge comes from working in an institution, who takes care of the needs of those with a certain stigma (like doctors).

B. a person associated with a stigma through the social structure - a relationship that causes the wider society to relate in some ways to both people (like spouses). For the most part, the tendency of the stigma to spread from the individual with the stigma to those close to him, is the reason why these connections are avoided.

Those who know (those with a stigma of respect) can understand both the person with the stigma (referring to the stigma as a natural thing) and regular people (in his willingness to carry a burden that is not his own he imposes excessive morality).

Next part of the summary>

See also: The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life by Erving Goffman

Erving Goffman's Dramaturgy theory explained

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