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Stigma, Identity & Resistance

MAN 20050

Laura Mitchell

on 30 November 2015

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Transcript of Stigma, Identity & Resistance

work without value
Work and Social Status
Weber argued that class, or economic standing, was not the only determinant of influence and behaviour in society, but that status or
, conferred by other members of society was an important element in understanding social relationships and behaviour. Weber understood status as originating in diverse social beliefs or attitudes such as those of religion, beauty or honour.
Mary Douglas, an influential British anthropologist in
Purity and Danger
, writes:
As we know it, dirt is essentially disorder. There is no such thing as absolute dirt: it exists in the eye of the beholder. If we shun dirt, it is not because of craven fear, still less dread of holy terror. Nor do our ideas about disease account for the range of our behaviour in cleaning or avoiding dirt. Dirt offends against order. Eliminating it is not a negative movement, but a positive effort to organise the environment.
(Douglas 1964:2)
What types of work are taboo or 'unworthy'?
Ackroyd & Crowdy (1993) The Case of the English Slaughtermen
Blood, mess and disorder are all stigmatised in contemporary British society. Prestigious work is clean, well paid, 'white-collar' and tidy.
Yet there are exceptions - surgeons, veterinarians, medical researchers. These jobs are all highly ordered.
Stigma and Identity
Erving Goffman (1963) made studies of stigma in society, and examined how we tend to make assumptions about people from their observable characteristics; their features, behaviours, clothing and mannerisms. He argued that from these observations we interpret symbols to build a 'virtual identity' in our perceptions and expectations, which may be different to the individual's actual identity.
Goffman defined stigma as an attribute which causes the person 'to be reduced in our minds from a whole and usual person to a tainted, discounted one' (1963:3).
Dirty Work
Workers could be stigmatised because of the work
The work can be polluted by the status of the worker
rubbish collection
manual labour
care work
tax collectors
sewage work
domestic workers
abortion clinicians
Who does the dirty work?
Because of the low prestige of 'dirty work', it tends to be poorly paid and done by those at the bottom of the class and economic hierarchy. This often includes groups such as women, immigrant workers, the disabled, ethnic minorities and those of discredited heritage (e.g. caste differences).
can 'stigma' be resisted?
is dirty work just disorder?
whose interpretation defines work as 'polluted'?
...or dirty workers?
But do these groups themselves identify the work as valueless?
the cultural counter-coup
Ackroyd and Crowdy's slaughtermen created 'alternative identities' by re-interpreting the meaning of being covered in blood and guts as a display of masculine bravado

But it is unclear how well this held up to the opinions of others. Ackroyd (2007) compares this with the similar identification of coal dust as the sign of a virtuous worker and community member in mining towns, which is an interpretation much more widely (though locally) accepted
Goffman argued that the social world of the stigmatized was difficult as such groups are often dissociated from the rest of society, but that stigmatized individuals would often find support from their 'own' and those 'wise' to their situation. The 'wise' are those individuals who are normal, ie, not bearers of the stigma, but who have an intimate knowledge of the life of a person with the stigma.
Goffman identifies three types of stigma:

stigma of character

stigma of the physical body

stigma of group identity
e.g. homosexuality, alcoholism, cowardice, unemployment, radical politics
e.g facial deformities, birthmarks, white hair
e.g. race, religion, gang membership
This third type of stigma is highly important for thinking about stigma and work, as it is associative, i.e it is perceived as 'contagious'
As well as individual characteristics, Goffman discussed how social symbols can signify
as opposed to
Which paradigm is this?
What would a structuralist perspective on this look like?
Full transcript