Sociology 2259 Lecture Notes - Erving Goffman, Identity Management, Witch-Hunt

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9 Feb 2013
Goffman & Stigma – Chapters 1-2
Stigma: a deviant label applied to an individual by society
The situation of an individual who is disqualified from the “norm”
Stigmatization: process of exclusion through which an individual labelled as deviant becomes
an “outsider”
Dramaturgical Approach: life is a stage, where our performances always involve the
presentation of self
Impression Management: making oneself appear in the best light possible
2 Types of performances:
Front Stage—how we appear to others when we are in public
Back Stage—who we really are without the public around
We as a society categorize people or schemes of people based on our first impression of them
Usually categorize within the first 30 seconds based on how they look/talk/behave/etc
Stigma: Notes on the Management of Spoiled Identity
Discusses the structural preconditions and effects and “stigma”
Contrasts personal identity management vs. external social identity management
Examines how the “stigmatized” interact with “normals”
Examines the socialization of the “stigmatized”
How do the “stigmatized” experience their stigmas?
How does society experience the “stigmatized”?
How should “stigma” be studied?
Chapter 1:
Usage of “Stigma”
Early Greek usage of the term “stigma” referred to physical markings of the body used for
slaves, criminals, and traitors so that other people would know they are deviants
Later, Christian usage of the term “stigma” focused on:
Indicators of holy grace—somebody was engaging in something deviant (ex. Witch hunt)
Physical disorders (medical)
Goffman identifies 3 types of “stigma”—more about the meaning behind labelling someone
1. Body (physical)
2. Character blemish (personal)
3. Tribal (social)
We as a society impute/attach meaning to all three of these stigma types
Any stigma does not independently has any meaning—only when society attaches a label to
it when they are different from the norm
The “Normals”
Normals: those who don't depart negatively from particular social standards
People considered to be normal and not deviant by our normative standards
Tyranny of the Norm: the expectation of normals that everybody will always conform to
define standards at any given time at any given issue
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People try to live up to these confined norms
Mixed Contacts: when normals and the stigmatized in the same physical setting/social
situation and are interacting with each other
How the stigmatized and the normals manage their contact when they are in a mixed setting
Being “on”: means that when you are in a mixed setting with normals and stigmatized, the
stigmatized are constantly aware that the normals are constantly watching them
Managing your behaviours because there is always a chance that the normals will find out—
a self-consciousness
Stigmatized always managing their behaviours
Stereotypes & Attributes
Stereotypes: normative expectations that we have in society
Composites of social categories available for classification AND their linked attributes
A “shorthand” for anticipating and expecting certain behaviours of others
We categorize people based on normative expectations
Attributes: develops meaning relative to stereotypes
The qualities attached to a stereotype
These qualities develop meaning (ex. A handicap may have people thinking they can't
participate in certain physical activities)
Social Identity
Imputing: attributing meaning onto something/someone
Social Identity: an individual's category and attributes
Personal attributes
Structural attributes
Based on normative expectations (stereotypes)
Virtual Social Identity: society's characterization of an individual based on that first
An identity that society gives an individual—within that first 30 seconds of meeting them
Actual Social Identity: the category & attributes we posses in reality
It's our own social identity of ourselves
Management of a Spoiled Identity: occurs when there is a gap/disjuncture between the virtual
and actual social identity
Gap between what society thinks of you and what you think of yourself
What is Stigma?
A label appended to you
An attribute that separates you from others in society
A label that is discrediting/negative
A language of relationships between you and “normals”
About the reaction from others that make you deviant
Discreditable vs. Discredited stigmas:
Discreditable Stigma: a stigma that is invisible at first impression, but it has the potential
to be noticed
Ex. If you are a pothead—has the potential to be noticed if you have red eyes and seem
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really out of it
Discredited Stigma: a stigma that is obvious and visible at first glance
Ex. Your face is disfigured
Ascribed Stigma vs. Achieved Stigma
Ascribed: something that you are born with
Achieved: something that you develop later in life
Master Status: an attribute (real or imagined) by which others identify you
Your stigma becomes your controlling identifier
Overshadows other statuses
Gestalt of Disability: for many disabled individuals, their disability (stigma) is all
encompassing and takes over every part of their life
Can also be applied to stigmas that may not be a physical disability
Managing Stigma
Impression Management: making oneself appear in the best light possible—managing the
impression you're giving to “normals”
People with a discredited stigma have to deal with
Tension Management: managing how much you reveal about your stigma and to whom
People with a discreditable stigma have to deal with
Quiggle: when curiosity of normals develops around the “stigmatized” individual—can violate
personal space
The stigmatized person is always wondering if people are aware they have a stigma
Responses of the Stigmatized
1. Physically remove stigma
2. Withdrawal—ex. Deflection
Similar to retreatism where the individual literally retreats from society
About experiencing shame for that stigma
3. Avoidance
Dividing social worlds—can avoid certain situations
Infinite regress—back-and-forth avoidance (denying the stigma in certain situations)
4. Acceptance
Affirm status—using their stigma to do good and not have it stop them (ex. Terry Fox)
Hostile Bravado—being very hostile with people for not accepting their stigma
5. Hook or excuse
Using a stigma for a secondary gain—to get out of something
6. Seek out sympathetic others
Sympathetic Others
In-group vs. Out-group
In-group—the stigmatized
2 types of “Sympathetic Others”:
1. The “Own”
Those who share the same stigma as you and can relate to you
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