Stigma/ Erving Goffman

Erving Goffman study about stigma is an attribute to almost everyone. In my opinion one way or the other we stigmatize most people in our life and in our path. I work with individuals intellectually disabled. We label them and let it be noted that most often the same reason why we label them we reflect traits that are similar “ normal “display the same traits. When we stigmatized a person we cause them to feel that they don’t belong in our society and not accepted and they have to go through a structured lifestyle to adjust and be somewhat accepted.
Goffman tries to make us understand what people who are stigmatized feel about themselves and others opinion of them like “Lady Sovereign”. Why they are stigmatized and how they are coping in this society that rejects them and what is it they are projecting or showing that signify or categorize those as such.
I serve a young lady who’s cognitive level is low and with an IQ of 64. She is very sweet and respectful, able to care for activity of daily living and independent living skills. She refuses to partake in any activity that involve other disabled and she only wants to be amongst those who are normal (that is to say without a diagnose). As matter a fact she refers to others like her as “those people” when in public she will not speak so that she is not discovered and regarded as disabled. According to Goffman she is acting as a “disidentifiers” in order to try to pass as “normal.” I know it’s hard for her because she wants to belong to this society without the label.
I often hold conversation with that young lady in attempts to get her enrolled in programs that would be beneficial and allowing her to enhance her reading and community integration skill however she always refuse as she feel that she will be judge or seen as disabled and therefore not accepted which is what Goffman refers to as “Discredited” on the other hand she is“discreditable” if the disability is unknown to others. She wants to pass for a normal person.
This young lady also prefers to go to a regular private clinic versus a clinic that serves the disabled population so she is not seen as such. Goffman would refer to her reflecting “Desidentifier”
As a society we tend to really label people and make them feel unwanted. I suggest we get educated before we become like those who pass judgment. Everyone deserves a fair chance. No one wanted to be born with a problem or disability. Ignorance is sad and makes others sad.


2 responses to “Stigma/ Erving Goffman

  1. Beautiful post, T. You skillfully deploy all of Goffman’s concepts in a moving case study. When your client refers to “those people” it says a lot about what it means to have a (“discreditable”) stigma, to be determined to “pass.” It’s a kind of alienation from yourself, something like a “double consciousness.”

  2. This reminded me of an interview the historian Barbara Fields describes in her book, Racecraft. Her subject was a middle-aged white man, a father, a skilled worker whose once-steady income and copious overtime had declined to the point that he was receiving food stamps. Yet when he saw people lining up at discount stores after their EBT was re-upped, he would voice contempt for “those people.”

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