The Sociology of Stigma: A Sociological Review Monograph

We are glad to share the news of a forthcoming Sociological Review Monograph to be edited by Imogen Tyler and Tom Slater, which, all being well, will be published early in 2018. it will include articles by Imogen Tyler, Tom Slater, Jenna Loyd, Anne Bonds, Lynne Friedli, Joanna Latimer, Brigit McWade, João Queirós, Virgilio Borges Pereira, Graham Scambler, Dayna Keene and Gergő Pulay.

Stigma is currently one of the most used but least developed of sociological concepts. This special issue aims to revitalise sociological debates about what stigma is, and the role of stigma in the formation and governance of contemporary societies. We anticipate that this special issue will have considerable appeal to readers of The Sociological Review, and hope it will make a defining contribution to the journal and the discipline.

Scholarship on stigma has been dominated by psychologists. This special issue will wrest stigma away from the individualism and a-historical frame of psychology, returning stigma to sociology through a focus on questions of history, power, capital, value, inequality, culture, ‘race’, disability and social governance.  Through theoretical innovation and detailed empirical case studies of stigma in a range of settings, this issue will be an an essential resource for graduate and postgraduate students, but will also engage policy makers and practitioners/activists, opening up new questions and avenues of research.

Erving Goffman’s Stigma: Notes on the Management of Spoiled Identity [1963] transformed understandings of the social function of stigma. Proceeding from a definition of stigma as ‘the situation of the individual who is disqualified from full social acceptance’ (1990: 9), Goffman explored what a burgeoning psychological literature on stigma might ‘yield for sociology’ (1990: 9). Fifty years after its publication, Goffman’s Stigma remains the most influential treatise on the social function of stigma. It has been pivotal in the development of practical initiatives designed to combat social stigma, for example in programmes designed to reduce the social stigma of conditions such as HIV and AIDS. Since Stigma was published, social and political movements, such as the LGBT and disability rights, have transformed public perceptions and understandings of what might have been considered “spoiled” or “deviant” bodies and behaviours. However, despite sometimes successful practical applications of Goffman’s work, it is striking how little sociological understandings of stigmatisation have developed within the intervening period. Further, it has been argued that Goffman’s interactionist approach to stigma has the effect of neutralizing the social and historical materials he draws upon (see Jameson, 1976). For example, Goffman wrote Stigma during a critical period the black civil rights movement in the US, but while he examines racial stigma, he doesn’t reflect on how social and political upheavals effected by movements for the equality of black humanity might trouble the stigma of “racialised interactions” or consider how stigma is a fundamentally racializing force (see Loyd and Bonds). Moreover, recent research has questioned the effectiveness and politics of (some) anti-stigma initiatives (see Haslam et. al. 2006, Pescosolido and Martin 2015)(see McWade). This troubling of normativity also speak to a longer series of theoretical debates in critical race studies feminist and queer theory, which variously argue against the limited terms of “inclusion” on offer from institutions, states, corporate agents and their mediating agencies. Within these alternative traditions of stigma thinking, there is a concern with reclaiming stigma ‘as a pivotal arena for the politics emanating from different traditions of the oppressed’ (Weheliye 2014, p. 2, see Tyler, McWade and Latimer)

This monograph develops out of the shared research interests of the two editors on the role of stigma in (re)producing social inequalities and injustices in the context of neoliberal capitalism. It aims to bring together sociological research on poverty, racism, disability, stigma and shame, with geographical perspectives on the activation of stigma at different scales (governmental, policy, media industries), recent scholarship on the stigma of place (see Slater, Queirós & Pereira, Keene and Pulay) and analyses of anti-stigma campaigns. In doing, it draws together articles from scholars writing from different global locations and perspectives, variously concerned with stigma as a mechanism of social disenfranchisement in numerous forms and on multiple scales. While the broader literature, particularly the social psychological literature, on stigma is vast in scope, what distinguishes this monograph is its specific focus on stigma as a mode of social governmentality. There have been attempts within social psychology to address the ‘decidedly individualistic focus’ (Link & Phelan, 2001: 366) of existing stigma research. However, this has been hampered by a limited understanding of ‘power’: where power is imagined primarily as a force exercised by individuals – ‘the aims of stigmatizers’ (2014: 24) – rather than conceptualised vis-à-vis the motives of, for example, class-interests, institutions and corporations within a broader unequal political economy of neoliberal capitalist accumulation. Hence, a specific aim of this monograph is to consider how stigma is activated in order to govern populations. This approach has been inspired by Loïc Wacquant’s argument that one of the major characteristics of neoliberalism is conditions of heightened stigmatization for minority subjects ‘in daily life as well as in public discourse’ (2008: 24–5). This argument is supported by research, for example John Hills and Peter Taylor-Gooby in the UK, have detailed a growing stigmatisation of poverty (Taylor-Gooby, 2013; Hills, 2015). Similarly, the ESRC-funded project, ‘Shame, social exclusion and the effectiveness of anti-poverty programmes: A Study of Seven Countries’ (2010-2012) details a marked shift from policies concerned with alleviating poverty shame, to forms of policy making designed to activate stigma in ways which ‘support the unequal distribution of resources in society’ (Walker, 2015, see Friedli below). This monograph seeks to further explicate and examine the role of stigma as as integral form of power and governance in advanced capitalist societies.

Working Titles of articles/chapters:

Neoliberal Stigma Power, Imogen Tyler

The Invention of the ‘Sink Estate’: Stigma and Symbolic Power in English Urban Regeneration, Tom Slater.

Where Do Black Lives Matter?: Race, Stigma, and Place in Milwaukee, Wisconsin,  Jenna M. Loyd & Anne Bonds.

Stigmatising the resistance: the role of psychology in state attacks on “refusal to work” Lynne Friedli

Repelling neoliberal world-making: aging, biopolitics and irresponse-ability, Joanna Latimer

Madness, distress and refusing anti-stigma campaigns, Brigit McWade

Working class youth transitions to adulthood: the impact of territorial stigmatization among young social housing residents in the city of Porto, João Queirós and Virgilio Borges Pereira

Stigma: sign or symptom? A frame for change, Graham Scambler

Prison Stigma and the Decency of Home, Danya Keene

Territorial stigmatization at the margins of the postsocialist urban periphery:  Lessons from Romania, Gergő Pulay

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