Free «Stigma by Erving Goffman» Essay Sample

Stigma by Erving Goffman

The idea of stigma has been a part of society since ancient times. For instance, the Greeks associated stigma with bodily signs that were used to indicate the immoral status of a person. In particular, the slaves and criminals often had signs on their bodies representing their position in the society. During the Christian times, the meaning of the term expanded and included the physical disorders (Goffman 11). Nowadays, the stigma refers more to a person’s disgrace rather than its bodily evidence. As a result, the attempts to analyze the concept of stigma in the social psychology were made before the Goffman’s Stigma was published. However, the sociologist contributed to the expansion of the definition of the phenomenon. Based on the clinical studies, the book provides an opportunity to explore the world from the perspective of a person whom society does not view as a normal.

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In this work, it was interesting for me to discover several definitions of stigma that Goffman provides. In particular, he refers to stigma as “the situation of the individual who is disqualified from social acceptance” (Goffman 11). Besides, he determines stigma as an “attribute that is deeply discrediting” (Goffman 12). At the same time, Goffman underlines that instead of paying attention to the stigmatized attribute, people need to understand the drivers that have transformed a particular characteristic in the negative association. I agree with this statement of the sociologist. There has to be a clear distinction between the supporting of stigma and realizing it. The stigma appears when the society has expectations of how a certain category of people should behave. Instead, there is a necessity to analyze a particular behavior and its consequences. In addition, a stigmatized person has to pay attention to the other members of society. According to Goffman, a person has to adjust to social norms even if they do not seem right (Goffman 16). Otherwise, an individual will experience alienation and consider themselves an abnormal human being.

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It was also interesting to read about several categories that Goffman divides stigmas into. The first group is abominations of the body represented by different physical disorders. The second category includes blemishes of individual character, which are associated with improper moral behavior. Finally, there are tribal stigmas based on the people’s race or religion (Goffman 14). While some of the stigmas can be noticed immediately, such as physical disorders, the others remain hidden until certain circumstances. However, the sociologist underlines that all stigmas have negative effects, such as alienation and discrimination of a person. I agree with the author that certain traits can completely change the attitude of the society towards its member. In particular, people often tend to think that a person with a stigma is not normal. This type of attitude prevents an individual from integration into a society.

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In order to prevent the occurrence of the negative influence of stigmas on both a stigmatized person and the rest of the society, Goffman introduces several approaches. For instance, it is possible to correct the physical disorders with the application of the treatment or surgery (Goffman 19). Besides, people can distract the attention from their stigmas by underlining other qualities. At the same time, there is a chance that stigmas can be used to justify a particular way of life or as opportunity to criticize the society in general. As a result, the measures of the elimination of the stigma’s influence may have a reverse effect and worsen the relationships between the stigmatized and normal people.

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Thus, as long as the issue of the stigmatizing remains relevant in the modern society, it requires public attention. While a stigmatized individual can make an attempt to hide the negative attribute from the others, they cannot hide it from themselves. This can lead to the decrease of the social activity and degradation of a personality.

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