Sociology 2259 Lecture Notes - Erving Goffman, Normal Distribution, Ingroups And Outgroups

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9 Feb 2013
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Goffman & Stigma – Chapters 4-5
Chapter 4:
Examines how the stigmatized individuals is both “normal” yet “stigmatized” from various
perspectives
We are all characters in the “social stigmatization drama”
Important to understand both points of view (the stigmatized vs. the normal)
Stigma management is a general feature of social life, a process that occurs whenever identity
norms arise
Examines how the concept of “Deviance” is useful for studying the bridge between the study of
“stigma” and the general study of the social world
Stigmatizing Stigmas!
Important to understand the different types of stigma...not all stigmas are the same, or even
comparable
Also depends on who they're interacting with
What types of stigmas does society focus on?
Mental illness, sexual orientation, drug use, etc
Other stigmas that most people wouldn't really consider to be stigmas off hand
Tattoos, piercings, talking too much, etc.
When most people conceive the idea of stigma...they focus on very stigmatizing stigmas -->
those that result in “unease” in almost any social situation
Goffman: This is an inaccurate portrayal of the concept of “stigma”
To Goffman, normals represent an ordinary deviation from the mean
This makes the “fully and visibly stigmatized” even more so discredited
Argues that most people aren't normal at all—just an idealized norm
The “Normal Curve”
Identity norms (rules/expectations on how we should) breed:
Deviance
Conformance
Can examine “stigma” using the idea of the “normal” curve
Closest to the centre = normal deviations (more common stigmas) from the mean
Outliers = uncommon deviations from the mean
The Normative Predicament
Normative Predicament: problem of unsustained norms and possible outcomes of that
predicament
The result of identity norms breeding both deviations and conformance
When someone doesn't fit into the certain norms that we have in society
3 orientations/places in which a stigmatized individual may wish to locate themselves to handle
the predicament:
1. Support/accept society's dichotomy (us vs. them), and participates as much as possible
in “normal society”, but defines oneself as not fitting into the expected norms
2. Alienates/withdraw oneself from society, and become disconnected from “normal”
society
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