6
Spoiled Identity and
Gender Difference

STIGMA

While Goffman’s ideas on stigma and gender difference belong to different phases of his intellectual production, they each exemplify the ‘applied’ side of his sociology of the interaction order, exploring the grounds on which persons can find their participation in interaction problematic. These pioneering studies highlight the interactional manifestations of pervasive forms of social disadvantage.

Stigma: Notes on the Management of Spoiled Identity (1963b) has its roots in Goffman’s paper on the mental patient’s moral career, which identifies an ex-patient phase but does not examine it. At the time he was writing this paper (see Goffman 1957c), it is clear that he wanted to link the ex-patient’s difficulties to other categories of person who faced comparable troubles: the disfigured and physically handicapped, the deaf and the blind, the ex-convict, the alcoholic, the addict, the member of an ethnic minority and so on. All these persons frequently find themselves in situations where they are stigmatized i.e. ‘disqualified from full social acceptance’ (1963b: Preface). Although a stigma is defined by Goffman as a ‘deeply discrediting attribute’, he insists that the sociological study of stigma demands ‘a language of relationships, not attributes’ (p. 3), since what will count as a stigma is responsive to the particularities of local contexts. The worries of a professional criminal about being seen entering a library is one example Goffman gives of just how varied stigmatizing attributes can be.

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Erving Goffman
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Table of Contents v
  • Acknowledgements vii
  • 1 - Goffman’s Project 1
  • 2 - Origins and Emergence 12
  • 3 - Interaction’s Orderliness 33
  • 4 - Framing Experience 55
  • 5 - Asylums 68
  • 6 - Spoiled Identity and Gender Difference 84
  • 7 - Self 95
  • 8 - Methods and Textuality 110
  • 9 - After Goffman 125
  • Further Reading 130
  • References 133
  • Index 143
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