Stigma and Social Identity
What is Stigmatization?
Today the term is used like the original sense but applied more to the disgrace than to the
When a stranger comes into our presence then first appearances attribute his category and
social identity to use a term better than social status because personal attributes such as
honesty and structural ones like occupation.
The term stigma refers to an attribute that is deeply discrediting but it should be seen that a
language of relationships not attributes is really needed. An attribute that stigmatizes one
type of possessor can confirm the usualness of another and therefore is neither creditable
nor discreditable as a thing in itself.
A stigma is then really a special kind of relationship between attribute and stereotype (note:
some attributes discredited)
Does the stigmatized individual assume his differentness is known about already or is
evident on the spot or does he assume it is neither known about by those present nor
immediately perceivable by them? In the first case one deals with the plight of the
discredited in the second with that of the discreditable.
Three different types of stigma may be mentioned. First there is an abomination of the body
the various physical deformities. Next there are blemishes of individual character perceived
as weak willed, domineering or unnatural passions, treacherous and rigid beliefs, and
dishonesty these being inferred from a known record of, for e.g. mental disorder,
imprisonment, addiction, alcoholism, homosexuality, unemployment, suicidal attempts, and
radical political behavior. Finally there are the tribal stigma of race nation and religion these
being stigma that can be transmitted through lineages and contaminated all members of a
Individual who might have been received easily in ordinary intercourse possesses a trait
that can obtrude itself upon attention and turn those of us whom he meets away from him
breaking the claim that his other attributes have on us. He possesses a stigma an undesired
differentness from what we anticipated.
By definition we believe that a person with stigma is not quite human and on this
assumption we exercise varieties of discrimination through which we effectively reduce his
life chances. Use stigma theory to explain inferiority and terms such as crippled bastard etc.
as a source of metaphor and imagery
How does the stigmatized person to his situation? In some cases it will be possible for him
to make a direct attempt to correct what he sees as the objective basis of his failing as when
a physically deformed person undergoes surgery a blind person eye treatment etc.
The stigmatized individual can also attempt to correct his condition indirectly by devoting
much private effort to the mastery of areas of activity ordinarily felt to be closed on
incidental and physical grounds to one with his shortcomings by relearning or learning
Uncertainty does not arise from the stigmatized not knowing which of the several
categories he will be placed but also where the placement is favourable from his knowin