The Sociological Review Monographs 66/4
The Sociology of Stigma
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July 2018 | 216 pages | SAGE Publications Ltd
Stigma is not a self-evident phenomenon but like all concepts has a history. The conceptual understanding of stigma which underpins most sociological research has its roots in the ground-breaking account of stigma penned by Erving Goffman in his best-selling book Stigma: Notes on the Management of Spoiled Identity (1963). In the fifty years since its publication, Goffman’s stigma concept has proved productive in terms of furthering research on social stigma and its effects, in widening public understandings of stigma, and in the development of anti-stigma policies and campaigns. However, the conceptual understanding of stigma inherited from Goffman often side-lines more structural questions about where stigma is produced, by whom and for what purposes. To address this gap, this monograph argues that we need to develop new understandings of the social function of stigma. In returning to stigma this monograph was motivated by a consideration of how reconceptualising stigma might assist in developing better richer understandings of pressing contemporary problems of social decomposition, inequality and injustice. This monograph includes contributions from scholars across Europe and North America, variously concerned with rethinking stigma as a mechanism of disenfranchisement in different forms and locations. It brings together research on poverty, racism, and mental health, and examines the activation of stigma at multiple scales (governmental, policy, media industries) and in different times and places (territorial stigma). Through a range of methodological approaches and drawing on different kinds of data (interviews, ethnographic, media analysis, policy documents, archival research), the papers in this monograph together produce new insights into how stigma functions as a form of power, contributing to a fuller understanding of stigma as a ‘cultural and political economy’.