Sociology 3701: Outline--Week 13

I. Video: "The Fog of War" in relation to chapters 7 and 8 in T and A

Robert McNamara as an unusal example of Secretary of Defense who has spent the last years of his life acknowledging serious errors in relation to the Vietnam War and trying to figure out what he/we can learn from those errors.

II Social Psychological Autobiographies: What am I looking for?

III . The Social Psychology of Stigma and Deviance

A. Goffman, Stigma: Notes on the Management of Spoiled Identity

1. The establishment of identity norms

"Society establishes the means of categorizing persons and the complement of attributes felt to be ordinary and natural for members of each of these categories. Social settings establish the categories of people likely to be encountered there... When a stranger comes into our presence, therefore, first appearances are likely to enable us to anticipate his category and attributes--his 'social identity"...

2. Evidence of not measuring up to these norms

"Evidence can arise of his possessing an attribute that makes him different from others in the category of persons available for him to be, and of a less desirable kind--in the extreme a person who is quite thoroughly bad, or dangerous, or weak. He is thus reduced in our minds from a whole and usual person to a tainted, discounted one. Such an attribute is a stigma, especially when its discrediting effect is very extensive."

a. Discredited vs discreditable. "Does the stigmatized individual assume his differentness is known about already or is evident on the spot?..."

b. Three grossly different types of stigma

1). abominations of the body

2) blemishes of individual character (or perceived to be such): e.g. mental disorder, addiction, homosexuality (Stigma originally published in 1974)

3) the tribal stigma of race, nation, and religion

Notice how Goffman puts together things we don't ordinarily combine; very characteristic of his social psychology.

c. What unifies these three types is the presence of stigma

"In all these instances the same sociological features are found: an individual who might have been received easily in ordinary social intercourse possesses a trait that can obtrude itself upon attention and turn those of us whom he meets away from him, breaking the claim that his other attributes have on us. He possesses a stigma, an undesired difference from what we had anticipated. We and those who do not depart negatively from the particular expectations at issue I shall call the normals."

3. Goffman's main concern in this book what he calls "mixed situations," situations in which normals and stigmatized are in the same social situation.

a. Often normals and stigmatized alike try to arrange their lives so as to avoid such contacts... (Doctor with ALS who found his friends and colleagues going out of their way to avoid him: Three Parts Love; my father's experience with melanoma)

b. Most striking characteristic of such encounters a sense of uneasiness, of anxiety, of excessive self-consciousness

"Each potential source of discomfort for him when we are with him can become something we sense he is aware of, aware that we are aware of, and even aware of our state of awareness about his awareness; the stage is then set for that infinite regress of mutual consideration that Meadean social psychology tells us how to begin but not how to terminate."

c. The main burden of managing the situation typically falls on the stigmatized individual.

"...during mixed contacts, the stigmatized individual is likely to feel that he is 'on,' having to be self-conscious and calculating about the impression he is making, to a degree and in areas of conduct which he assumes others are not."

1)forced awareness that all kinds of additional assumptions are being made about him, such that his minor accomplishments may be seen as remarkable, and his minor failings seen as a product of his category.

2) Invasions of privacy: "The implications of these overtures is that the stigmatized individual is a person who can be approached by strangers at will, providing only that they are sympathetic to the plight of persons of his kind."

3) Often oscillate between cowering and hostile bravado

4) Two groups of allies

"In some cases, as with the individual who is born without a nose, he may continue through life to find that he is the only one of his kind and that all the world is against him. In most cases, however, he will find that there are sympathetic others who are ready to adopt his standpoint in the world and to share with him the feeling that he is essentially normal in spite of appearances and in spite of his own self-doubts.

a. Others with the same stigma

b. the "wise" ... a spouse or other relative, someone whose occupation brings them into regular contact... bartender in a gay bar, maid in a brothel

4. Moral career: a similar set of learning experiences and a similar series of changes in conception of self that are typical of someone with a particular stigma

a. Those with inborn stigma often initially sheltered by family and friends... during this stage, may often learn and incorporate the standards of "normal" society..don't see yourself as "black," or "handicapped" or "disfigured"... the deaf child learning to speak may believe s/he speaks well

b. Phase two: Learning that you possess a particular stigma and the consequences... often at the point when the individual enters school... if not then, the onset of dating or of getting a job. Blind girl who overheard friend saying: "I like Domenica very much, but I could never go out with a blind girl." Person with cerebral palsy: "Employers were shocked that I had the gall to apply for a job." W.E.B. Dubois exchanging cards with other teens.

c. Stigma may also be sudden, due to accident, disease, discovery. "I suddenly woke up one morning and found that I could not stand. I had polio... I was a greater stranger to myself than anyone... Even my dreams did not know me... I had the very confusing mental and emotional conflict of a lady leading a double life. It was unreal and it puzzled me, and I could not help dwelling on it."

Either way, whether stigma is inborn or of sudden onset, it eventually poses what Goffman calls the central feature of the stigmatized individual's life, the question of whether and to what extent s/he will be accepted.

d. Good adjustment: mostly at the initiative of the stigmatized individual

1) Apparent cheerfulness and tact

"The nature of good adjustment is now apparent. It requires that the stigmatized individual cheerfully and unselfconsciously accept himself as essentially the same as normals, while at the same time he voluntarily withholds himself from those situations in which normals would find it hard to give lip service to their similar acceptance of him."

2) Don't put any burden on normals

For normals, "...it means that the unfairness and pain of having to carry a stigma will never be presented to them; 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, relatively unthreatened in their identity beliefs... A phantom acceptance is thus allowed to provide the base for a phantom normalcy."

These first two strategies probably the shrewdest choice. "For in many cases the degree to which normals accept the stigmatized individual can be maximized by his acting with full spontaneity and naturalness as if the conditional acceptance of him, which he is careful not to over-reach, is full acceptance."

3. Other choices: social isolation (perhaps within a circle of family) or restricting your circle of socialibility to others with your stigma... either way, profound consequences for self, which is heavily shaped by your reactive position.

4. (Instructor, not Goffman)... social movements to normalize status... e.g.. Deaf Culture Movement, Disabled Rights Movement, Gay and Lesbian movement

5. Normal Deviance... here Goffman, in a very characteristic strategy, notes the ways in which his analysis of stigma extends to the so-called normals

"The most fortunate of normals is likely to have his half-hidden failing, and for every little failing there is a social occasion where it will loom large, creating a shameful gap between virtual and actual social identity. Therefore the occasionally precarious and the constantly precarious form a single continuum, their situation in life analyzable by the same framework."

"Further, while some of these norms (identity norms), such as sightedness and literacy, may be commonly sustained with complete adequacy by most persons in the society, there are other norms, such as those asssociated with physical comeliness, which take the form of ideals and constitute standards against which almost everyone falls short at some stage in his life. And even where widely attained goals are involved, their multiplicity has the effect of disqualifying many persons. For example, in an important sense there is only one complete unblushing male in America: a young, married, white, urban, northern, heterosexual Protestant father with a college education, fully employed, of good complexion, weight and height, with a recent record in sports.... Any male who fails to qualify in any of these ways is likely to view himself--during moments at least--as unworthy, incomplete, and inferior; at times he is likely to pass and at times he is likely to find himself becoming apologetic or aggressive concerning known-about aspects of himself that he knows are probably seen as undesirable. THE GENERAL IDENTITY-VALUES OF A SOCIETY MAY BE FULLY ENTRENCHED NOWHERE, AND YET THEY CAN CAST SOME KIND OF SHADOW ON THE ENCOUNTERS MET EVERYWHERE IN DAILY LIVING."

III. Groups: Take a few minutes as individuals to write up with a situation in which some aspect of your self could be viewed as stigmatizing (examples from my family again)... Then meet in groups and talk about the strategies you used to manage those stigmas and whether Goffman's treatment illuminates anything about your experience.