Thursday, December 17, 2020

Excellent Summary: Stigma and Social Identity by Erving Goffman

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

Abstract of Summary: Goffman's article is a review of the subject of the stigma. Goffman develops by defining the concept of stigma, and related concepts. He then describes ways in which a stigmatized person may behave, and the results of mixed encounters (between stigmatized and normal). And then discusses two types of knowers - people who do not have a stigma but are sympathetic to those with stigma. In addition, he discusses the moral development of the stigma holder, and describes four different patterns of socialization of the stigma holder created by the moral development.


Stigma and social identity

The Greeks coined the term stigma, to denote bodily hallmarks, declaring that their subject is an invalid person who has perpetrated according to practice, and should be avoided. Today the term is used in a similar sense, but is attributed to the disgrace itself, rather than to its physical testimony.


Preliminary concepts

According to Goffman, society creates means for classifying people. When a stranger appears, the first glance may make it possible to predict his "social identity." The claims that are presented "in practice" and attribute characteristics to a person in a potential retrospective, are called actual social identity. The classification that can be seen to have actually been called the real social identity.

When there are undesirable characteristics that contradict our stereotypes in relation to what a particular type of individual is supposed to be, and causes a reduction in the value of multi-characterization, it is a stigma (contrast between social-power-of-power and actual-social-identity).

In the term stigma (and its synonyms) there are two options:

The condition of the one whose value was reduced.

The condition of the one whose value may be reduced.


All of these types have the same sociological features:

An individual, who might have been easily accepted by ordinary social contact, has a trait that can make him stand out and keep away from those who meet him, weakening the claim placed on him by his other characteristics.

Ourselves and those who do not deviate negatively from normal sincere expectations.

“Normal” people practice various discriminations that reduce the life opportunities of the stigmatized subject, creating a stigma theory that would explain its inferiority and the danger it represents.

A distinction must be made between fulfilling a norm and supporting it only - here the question of the stigma does not arise, but only where there is a certain expectation on all sides that those in a given category should fulfill a certain norm and not just support it.

It is also possible according to Goffman that an individual will not be able to fulfill what is demanded of him and yet will not be harmed by it - even though he carries a stigma, is not impressed or regrets it.

In America today, however, the individual with the stigma seems to tend to adhere to the same beliefs as us in relation to his identity. Self-hatred and cancellation can only arise when he and the mirror are around.

According to Goffman the main feature of the stigma of the individual with the stigma is "acceptance" - he does not receive the respect that was expected of him due to his social identity, and he responds as an echo to this negative by believing that some of his characteristics do justify it.


The ways in which a person with a stigma reacts to his condition:

A.  direct attempt to correct what he sees as the objective basis of his deficiency (for example plastic surgery).

B. Attempt to improve his condition indirectly by devoting a great deal of personal effort to taking over areas of activity, which are generally considered closed to a person with a disability, physical reasons or liability.

C. Disengagement from what is called reality, and stubbornly trying to use an unacceptable interpretation of the nature of his social identity.

Next part of Goffman's Stigma- summary

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

Erving Goffman's Dramaturgy theory explained

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