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Marginality, Stigma, and Communication

Dale Brashers

Subject Communication Studies » Intercultural Communication

People Goffman, Erving

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405131995.2008.x


Goffman (1963) popularized the concept of stigma through his well-cited book, Stigma: Notes on the management of spoiled identity . He defined it as “an attribute that is deeply discrediting,” which reduces the bearer “in our minds from a whole and usual person to a tainted, discounted one” ( Goffman 1963 , 3). Stigmatizing attributes include “abominations of the body,” “blemishes of individual character,” and “tribal stigmas of race, nation, or religion” ( Goffman 1963 , 4). Current research supports the theory that people are stigmatized, and ultimately marginalized, because of mental and physical illnesses; behavior that is considered deviant, immoral, or illegal; and personal characteristics such as race, class, gender, and sexual orientation. Alonzo and Reynolds (1995) , for example, noted that stigma associated with HIV or AIDS comes about because moral judgments often are made about personal responsibility and deviant behavior (e.g., gay sex or drug use) and because the disease is associated with contagion and death (→  Intercultural Communication in Health-Care ). Although Goffman referred to stigma in terms of attributes, he recognized that it was a relational or social concept ; that is, stigma comes about through interactions with others. Several theoretical perspectives reinforce the idea that stigma has a social or group basis. In social identity theory, stigma ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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