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Chapter 13

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University of Guelph
SOC 2070
David Stanley

Chapter 13 Physical Characteristics as Deviance SOC*2070 (DE)  Erving Goffman’s stigma (1963) focuses on the grading system of stigma based on behavior, belief, and physical characteristics. o Stigma: the manifestation or outward appearance of an inner deficiency, one that either has been or may be noticed, which results or would result in infamy and dishonor o Stigma and deviance are closely related concepts (difficult to distinguish them) o Goffman: someone that’s been stigmatized is a “blemished person,” a person who is “disqualified from full social acceptance”  The person with a stigma is not quite human  A single sin houses a multitude of other sins  Possession of one deviant trait may have a generalized symbolic value, so that the bearer possesses other undesirable traits allegedly associated with it o To be stigmatized is to possess a contaminated or discredited identity  Interactions with normal will be strained, tainted, awkward, and inhibited o Highly stigmatized people walk along two paths:  To resist or reject their stigmatization by forming subcultures or collectivities of persons who share their characteristics, and to treat their difference from the majority as a badge of honor (i.e. homosexuals)  Internalization: the stigmatized person holds the same negative feelings toward themselves and their disvalued trait as the majority does o Goffman distinguishes stigma that manifests itself in physical characteristics from stigma that appears as violations of notions of proper behavior and belief  Physical stigma: abominations of the body  Behavior and belief: blemishes of individual character perceived as weak will, domineering or unnatural passions (i.e. mental disorder, imprisonment, alcoholism) o Ned Polsky argues that Goffman missed the fact that he and some other sociologists excluded from their definition of deviance “people who were not morally stigmatized” (excluded various kinds of people such as those usually ugly according to society’s standards of physical attractiveness, but whose condition was recognized as “not their fault”) o Polsky is wrong because many negative definitions of statuses are entirely unearned (i.e. child born out of wedlock) o Lutz Kaelber’s “disability as deviance” demonstrates that the Nazi regime accused the mentally and physically disabled—feebleminded, schizophrenic, epileptic, deaf, “criminally insane,” and others possessing chronic neurological disorders and exterminated them without mercy th  In the first half of the 20 century, as a result of the eugenics movement, all states n the U.S passed a law that mandated that people with an unacceptable Chapter 13 Physical Characteristics as Deviance SOC*2070 (DE) appearance, low IQ, mental disability, criminal tendencies and moral degeneracy be involuntarily sterilized so that they could not produce defective children and place an undue burden on morals o This policy was supported by two American presidents: Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson o Between 1907 and 1941, 60,000 disabled people were sterilized in the U.S  Haredim: among the Jewish ultraorthodox, it is believed that if a woman does not perform a monthly ritual to cleanse herself after menstruation, she may bear children with birth defects Abominations of the Body  Babies born with deformities in earlier eras were referred to as “monsters” o Throughout ancient times, many deformed children were killed or were left to die o Abominations of the BodyGoffman: violations or aesthetic norms and physical incapacity  Aesthetic norms represent standards that dictate how people ought to look: their height, weight, attractiveness, coloration, the possession of the requisite limbs and organs (no more, no less)  Albinos stigmatized and treated as blemished, tainted  Physical incapacity is made up of bodily
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