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Stigma: Notes on the Management of Spoiled Identity
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Stigma: Notes on the Management of Spoiled Identity

3.97 of 5 stars 3.97  ·  rating details  ·  1,124 ratings  ·  67 reviews
From the author of The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life, Stigma is analyzes a person’s feelings about himself and his relationship to people whom society calls “normal.”

Stigma is an illuminating excursion into the situation of persons who are unable to conform to standards that society calls normal. Disqualified from full social acceptanc
Paperback, 168 pages
Published June 15th 1986 by Touchstone (first published 1963)
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Sociology Books
62nd out of 326 books — 273 voters
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Emancipatory Theory and Philosophy
10th out of 16 books — 15 voters

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Community Reviews

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This has taken me so long to read, but mostly because other things have gotten in the way. Really, it is the sort of short book that should take an afternoon, well, or a life time. This is a bloody great book.

Stigma is an odd idea. You know, Jesus had stigmata – the marks of his death, and therefore resurrection, branded on his body. They were there for all to see. And this is part of the point of the stigmatised. They have a mark that marks them out from those around them – the normals – and t
The basic distinction Goffman makes towards understanding the literature on stigma (mostly qualitative) is that between virtual and social identity.
I found it useful to cash out this distinction in phenomenological terms as follows. Virtual identity is comprised of those meanings material to an individual person which her whole bodily presence motivates for the other person. The features of the person's bodily presence that motivate these meanings are signs, such as a scar. The presence of a s
Perhaps a bit too intellectual for me overall but quite academically and well written book about the concepts of stigma. Its about what it feels like to be a black dude or a Jewish dude or a gay dude. What and how does labelling yourself with that stigma influence the way you perceive yourself and the way in which you interact in society. Actually I didn’t understand sections of this because I is a little bit dumb innit, but writing this has helped me understand the book better. As a Pakistani / ...more
This is written in an unnecessarily pedantic and obscure (read: Academic English at it worst) style. While the subject is fascinating, the author took great pains to present it in a horrifically dry and unpalatable way.
Данило Судин
Поняття "стигма" та "стигматизація" є загальноприйнятими не тільки в соціології, але і в побутовій мові. Отже, можна було б очікувати, що однойменна робота Ірвіна Ґофмана нічого нового читачу не скаже. Наприклад, читання Орієнталізм нічого нового не дає тому, хто чув дайджестові виклади цієї книги.

Але з цим дослідженням справа зовсім не така проста. По-перше, автор показує, що стигма - це зовсім не ярлик, як деколи припускають певні автори. Стигма - це, перш за все, відчуття вини через наявність
Larry-bob Roberts
I read it at the prompting of Covering, The Hidden Assault on Our Civil Rights, the author of which got the concept of covering (not being totally closeted, but downplaying aspects of one's identity when one is part of a stigmatized group) from this book.

Several of the footnotes about homosexuality reference Evelyn Hooker (whose works could stand to be collected into a book - also, it seems that the documentary on her is not easily available, although there is a short video of her on YouTube.

I w
I read this book because I'm starting a PhD in Sociology this fall and I'd read other Goffman texts, and they had this book at Borders, so I figured it was probably a big deal in Sociology. Overall, I think Goffman uses way too many words to explain his concepts, and the concepts themselves are poorly organized. Really, it could have fit in 1/4 of the pages he used, and it was a short book to begin with. It feels like he didn't make an outline before he wrote it. Parts of it were historically so ...more
These the second Erving Goffman book that I've read this year (the other being "Asylums", please see my review on if interested).
I work as a criminal defense attorney and I read "Asylums" in an effort to gain perspective on the attitudes of institutionalized persons (i.e. convicts). I was suprised by how brilliant "Asylums" was, so I picked up "Stigma". I was similarily impressed with Stigma.

Where "Asylums" dealt with the relationship of individuals and institutions, "Stigma" deals mo
A really great overview of the effects of stigma and how it's produced in society. If you read modern texts on similar subjects, Goffman is cited EVERYWHERE! A lot of the language is quite outdated now, but I liked the personal touch of all the anecdotes throughout.
This book was terribly boring, but it had this one great example in it about how people treat someone when they just find out about their stigma. They made up an example of someone having a quiggle. People won't know what to say so they ask totally inappropriate questions like "how do you bathe with that quiggle?" and then they try to related it to their own life so it wont seem like they're making a big deal out of it, hence "my uncle had a quiggle!" It's totally true and it was really funny. M ...more
Samuel Robb
Apparently a bit of a 'classic', this book published in the US in 1963, makes many interesting observations about the nature of stigma. It uses language that would be anathema today and some of the categories have dated, but the essential reasoning is rigorous and thorough. It covers a broad range of what it calls personal flaws and failings from congenital disfigurement, to deafness, blindness, mental illness, prostitution, homosexuality, criminality, and unappealing racial statuses, such as be ...more
Kressel Housman
A few weeks ago, a woman who teaches psychology at Breuer’s women’s seminary spoke at my Shabbos shiur. She spoke about the interplay between status and stigma, particularly in the frum world. A person can maintain his high status only if other people give him honor, and they will do so if they fear that if they don’t, the high status person will stigmatize them. It’s not the only way to maintain status, of course, but it’s an effective way.

The speaker stirred up our group so much, I just had to
Robert Campbell
Too long, too pedantic, and for the most part just plain boring. However, the insights into the nature and social dynamics of institutions and the way that people label and demonize those who they see as "the other" are unparalleled.
Özgür Öztürk
Kitaptaki açıklama, gözlem ve örnekler güzel olmakla birlikte bu kadar uzun anlatılmaya değer şeyler mi emin değilim. Kitabın 3. 4. ve 5. bölümleri ( 3.Grubun hizasına çekilme ve Ego Kimliği, 4.Benlik ve Benliğin Ötekileri, 5.Sapmalar ve Sapkınlık ) 'bence' asıl önem teşkil eden bölümlerken son 50 sayfaya sıkıştırılmış. Bu bölümlerin öncesindeki tanım ve kamramsal çerceve ise uzun örneklerle 150 sayfaya yayılmış. Özü bozulmaksızın 100 sayfada anlatılabilecek bir mesele esasen. Çok derin olmayan ...more
In many ways the book shows its age. Some of the language--for instance, using the word "normal" to describe non-stigmatized people (implying others are "not normal") sounds odd and--to use a word that wasn't available to Goffman when he wrote--"ableist" today. As is often the case for me when reading sociology books, I was frequently irritated or critical of the way this author, like others in this field, makes sweeping generalizations about how people behave. The beauty and complexity of indiv ...more
Zoi Abrazi
Dear Miss Lonelyhearts— I am sixteen years old now and I dont know what to do and would appreciate it if you could tell me what to do. When I was a little girl it was not so bad because I got used to the kids on the block makeing fun of me, but now I would like to have boy friends like the other girls and go out on Saturday nites , but no boy will take me because I was born without a nose— although I am a good dancer and have a nice shape and my father buys me pretty clothes.
I sit and look at m
Reviewing this book, I'm reminded of being sat in the pub with three lecturers at my university when I was an undergraduate a year or two ago. Conversation was centred on the reading of sociological books and the way in which each sociologist would have a different opinion, one loving a theorist and the other hating him thinking he was completely wrong. At that point, one of the lecturers broke in, "Apart from Goffman. He's just right." To this comment, the other two merely nodded, intonating th ...more
Kathleen O'Neal
I was required to read this book for a graduate seminar on the metaphysics of social identities. It was the first book assigned in the class. I found a lot of the things the book discusses really obvious, whether because the book was written long ago or because I have personally spent a lot of time in queer and/or disabled communities I cannot say. The book is an easy read but it strikes me as very dated in places and nothing in it jumped out at me on an initial reflection as a revelation.

"The individual who is known about by others may or may not know that he is known about by them; they in turn may or may not know that he knows or doesn't know of their knowing about him. Further, while believing that they do not know about him, nonetheless he can never be sure. Also, if he knows they know about him, he must, in some measure at least, know about them; but if does not know that they know about him, he may or may not know about them in regard to other matters" (66).
May 24, 2015 Kate added it
Shelves: 2015
"In our society, to speak of a woman as one's wife is to place this person in a category of which there can be only one current member, yet a category is nonetheless involved, and she is merely a member of it. Unique, historically entangled features are likely to tint the edges of our relation to this person; still, at the center is a full array of socially standardized anticipations that we have regarding her conduct and nature as an instance of the category 'wife,' for example, that she will l ...more
Steven Mccallum
The author uses outdated language in many places which may confuse modern readers. Nevertheless it covers a substantial range of the topic of stigma and explores the qualitative data collected by Ervin Goffman's extensive research. Makes for interesting reading, though may need to be re-read a couple of times to fully grasp the concepts explored on stigmatisation, the effects on the stigmatised and why they are stigmatised.
Stigma was revolutionary when it was written, but may seem a bit dated today - especially in the assumptions about homosexuality.

In the historical context, when stigmas (of any type) were seen as indelible and ultimately personal flaws, this text was incendiary. It systematically examines the way that our society constructs stigmas... and thus exposes exactly how meaningless they are.

For this reason - the easy-to-read rigorous exploding of the idea that stigmas really "mean" anything or have int
Reading this book you have to bear in mind the time it was written in, and ignore some of the language use, and assumptions made about readership. However, the thoughts and theories put forward in this book are some of the best I have read regarding the situation of somebody who is stigmatised in society compared to somebody who adopts a non-stigmatised position. It is interesting in that one person can most likely find truth in both the stigmatised and non-stigmatised positions. There is also e ...more
Aug 14, 2008 Johan rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Sociologists, academics, criminologists
Shelves: sociology
Excellent study in social psychology or in the field of micro level sociology looking at the concept of stigma. Goffman shies away from the term deviance somewhat, instead using stigma as a deeply discrediting feature in an individual that makes other “normal” people categorise the individual as such. Drawing heavily from autobiographical and fictional accounts, this book really made me recognise a lot of social situations regarding the subject, both from the world of movies and novels, but also ...more
Heather Sprouse
Fantastic work for its time.
While Goffman is writing on the very interesting subject of stigma, and while many of the points he makes are interesting and valid I was put off by his writing style and his frequent use of an 'us versus them' approach (for instance, he often referred to "we normals", which i found offensive). While I recognize that this book was written in the 1960s and that it was very progressive for the time, it still didn't do it for me.
Maria B
A dated book with surprisingly slightly-dated ideas about Identity. I enjoyed the mid-century feel of the language and examples used, though some of the examples were harder for me to imagine than others (probably due to the passage of 60 years since the examples were written). The book was brief, which was nice for being one of several required books for one class. Overall a brief, concise, dated but still relevant book.
In Stigma (1963), Erving Goffman discusses the effects of stigma, "the situation of the individual who is disqualified from full social inclusion" (preface), something that makes others believe they are "not quite human" (5). One can respond to stigma through correction, indirect correction, or viewing it as a blessing. Goffman discusses how one manages stigma, through their social, personal, and ego identities.
I read this book while I was preparing a paper for a conference. The book helped me think about how people manage their stigma and their discreditable identities every day. Goffman breaks down the quotidian interactions between people who are trying to conceal, manage or control some aspect of their identity that discredits them. It is a short essay; very easy to get through and very insightful
Dean Tsang
This book was really insightful into the workings of stigma and how it affects us in every day lives. The information in this wasn't too enlightening, but it all made sense, and unlike in those dense critical essays we sometimes come across, Goffman communicates the main issues and points regarding stigma coherently. A recommendation to everyone looking to read into the psychology of stigma.
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Erving Goffman (June 11, 1922 – November 19, 1982) was a Canadian-born sociologist and writer.

Considered "the most influential American sociologist of the twentieth century" (Fine, Manning, and Smith 2000:ix), as a subjective analyst, Goffman's greatest contribution to social theory is his study of symbolic interaction in the form of dramaturgical analysis that began with his 1959 book The Present
More about Erving Goffman...
The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life Asylums: Essays on the Social Situation of Mental Patients and Other Inmates Interaction Ritual - Essays on Face-to-Face Behavior Frame Analysis: An Essay on the Organization of Experience Behavior in Public Places

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“The stigmatized individual is asked to act so as to imply neither that his burden is heavy nor that bearing it has made him different from us; at the same time he must keep himself at that remove from us which assures our painlessly being able to confirm this belief about him. Put differently, he is advised to reciprocate naturally with an acceptance of himself and us, an acceptance of him that we have not quite extended to him in the first place. A PHANTOM ACCEPTANCE is thus allowed to provide the base for a PHANTOM NORMALCY.” 15 likes
“...the issue becomes not whether a person has experience with a stigma of his own, because he has, but rather how many varieties he has had his own experience with.” 6 likes
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