, Volume 27, Issue 4, pp 401-416

On the Sociology and Social Organization of Stigma: Some Ethnomethodological Insights

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Abstract

Although “stigma“ has evolved as a remarkably widespread concept in the social sciences, the concept has almost never, as such, been subject to inquiry or overt definition, with the notable exception of Goffman’s insights concerning it. In this paper I topicalize stigma in its use by social scientists and consider its utility in concrete social situations as organized by interactants. My central claim is that “stigma“ has become under-defined and over-used. In making these points I examine two interrelated but distinct issues. The first of these concerns the “meaning“ of stigma as exposed (almost always implicitly) in literature in sociology and other behavioural sciences. My goal here is to ascertain the discursive construction of stigma as a phenomenon that is amenable to study and especially to use as an interpretive and explanatory resource in social and behavioural sciences. As a second topic I consider by way of empirical demonstration the lived experience of persons who have what might be termed a “stigmatizing“ condition–specifically, survivors of stroke–to address the paltriness of “stigma“ as an omniscient summary of their circumstances.