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Abstract

Observing patients and providers at St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in Washington DC, Goffman began the development of his basic concepts about how culturally and socially defined ‘difference’ shapes the status, roles, rewards and penalties of mental illness. His first set of articles and the book Asylums offered an overall analysis of the organisations that deal with the positive or negative reorientation of the self as monk, naval officer or physician in the first case, and mental patient, prisoner or labour camp worker in the second. Goffman outlines the pathways, rhythms, social processes and accommodations possible in the moral career of individuals who enter these organisations. And, he considers the critical role of context in shaping entrances, processes and outcomes. The follow-up, Stigma, focused directly on the aftermath of occupying a negatively valued status, where Goffman elaborated the many types, dynamics and effects of the devaluation of identities marked by social circumstances as damaged. In this chapter, the basic framework of Goffman’s ideas about the (1) organisational and community processes affecting identity that follow from mental hospitalisation, and (2) stigma that attaches and often remains after socially devalued labels are attached to mental illness are presented.

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© 2015 Bernice A. Pescosolido

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Pescosolido, B.A. (2015). Erving Goffman: The Moral Career of Stigma and Mental Illness. In: Collyer, F. (eds) The Palgrave Handbook of Social Theory in Health, Illness and Medicine. Palgrave Macmillan, London. https://doi.org/10.1057/9781137355621_18

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