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A Critical Review of Erving Goffman's Stigma: Notes on the Management of Spoiled Identity, 1963

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Introduction

A Critical Review of Erving Goffman's Stigma: Notes on the Management of Spoiled Identity, 1963. Published by Penguin Books London, 1990. In his preface Goffman states his intentions to use 'popular work' on stigma as a basis for his own review and expansion within his preoccupation of 'social information,' the information an individual directly conveys about himself. The book opens with a letter to a "lonelyhearts" column from a girl born without a nose which concludes 'Ought I commit suicide?' This sets the tone for a book which aims to be a comprehensive and illuminating excursion into the situation of persons who are unable to conform to standards that society calls "normal." The content of this text is fundamentally textual and is clearly elucidated throughout by real-life anecdotes from varied sources. Citations include revered socio-psychological writers and researchers such as Orbach and Henrich and Kriegel, journals such as the Quarterly Journal of Studies on Alcohol and other texts such as autobiographies. This link to recognisable situations is appealing and makes his line of reasoning arrant.

Middle

The analysis of how 'we normals' respond to discredited features and encourage the adoption of a good adjustment is cool and reasoned, but the commentary on this analysis is much more fiery: 'The good-adjustment line. . . means that the unfairness and pain of having to carry a stigma will never be presented to [normals]; it means that normals will not have to admit to themselves how limited their tactfulness and tolerance is; and it means that normals can remain relatively uncontaminated by intimate contact with the stigmatized, [remain] relatively unthreatened in their identity beliefs. It is just from these meanings, in fact, that the specifications of a good adjustment derive' (p. 121 Such expressions of compassion he displays for those who are attacked by society shows Goffman to be a celebrant and defender of the self against society rather than, as might be expected of a sociologist who cites Durkheim, a celebrant of society and social forces. This twist makes for a more exciting read and brings to life what would otherwise threaten to be a rather lacklustre analysis.

Conclusion

constant use buy Weber, Marx, Durkheim and their predecessors, and the new trend for the explanation of the minutiae of social interaction. The terms that he coined are now commonly accepted and his writings are frequently cited. However, most mainstream social science continues to ignore much of Goffman's substantive work. The parts of self that Goffman suggests are reflections of social arrangements are sidelined in favour of individualist research and even the effects of the situation made by the researcher in order to conduct his study is often ignored. Although his work is concerned with sociological concepts rather than character or plot Goffman's work can be as engaging and revelatory as fiction. His sharply observed narrative shatters the surface of everyday life and challenges its sanctity by proving it a social construct. This book delves into our social unconsciousness with a vocabulary of the microworld, through total deconstruction of the self and through a method of analysis which seeks to render powerless the conjectured realism of our society. 1178Words ?? ?? ?? ?? Ellen Slatter Seminar Group: Thursdays 3.30 Tutor: Milena Stateva 1

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