Blog #3 – Goffman

Goffman refers to stigma as “bodily signs designed to expose something unusual and bad about the moral status of the signifier”.  The Greeks used the term stigmas in the most literal sense, but today it is more so applied to the disgrace itself rather than the bodily mark of it.  When we spoke about stigmas in class, I thought of the branding tattoos which many Jewish individuals got in concentration camps like Auschwitz.  Authorities of these concentration camps marked prisoners with their serial numbers on different parts of their bodies in indelible ink.  These tattoos would certainly be considered a stigma, however more so according to the original Greek meaning.  The Auschwitz branding would be an obtrusive stigma since it can clearly be seen on the body.  Goffman would then go on to argue that because it is obtrusive it is discrediting.

An example of a non-obtrusive stigma could be applied to a person who has been laid off from their job in the recent economic crisis.  A few months ago, I saw on dateline that employers are not looking to hire others who have been recently laid off due to the crisis; they said the longer a person has been out of work the harder it would be to find a new job.  This could be seen as a non-obtrusive stigma because it is not something you can tell by simply looking at someone but it can definitely be described as an attribute that is discrediting.

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2 responses to “Blog #3 – Goffman

  1. Yes, the distinction between stigmatized individuals who are *discredited* and those who are *discreditable* is critical. The obtrusiveness of the stigma, as you note, accounts for the difference. The branding of concentration camp prisoners in WWII is a useful example. Even though this stigma is *visible*, it’s generally not “obtrusive,” in that it could be concealed in most public situations. A stigma is obtrusive to the degree that it disrupts the normal flow of interaction among strangers.

  2. The stigmas that are in society should be ignored. Everyone should get equal opportunities. This is ideal of course.

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