Academic Writing, Essay, Sociology, Book Review

Book Review: Erving Goffman’s Stigma

Notes on the Management of Spoiled Identity, 1963

5 min readMay 12, 2018
Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

In Erving Goffman’s book, Stigma — Notes on the Management of Spoiled Identity, he focuses on the social situations where people classified as ‘normal’ and ‘stigmatised’ [or ‘deviant’] come together and the many different processes and complex methods that are incorporated into this relationship between the two groups of people, including their social and personal identity.

Goffman illustrates his arguments through the use of many comprehensive and wide-ranging quotes from people who are most commonly stigmatised such as.

The homosexual, the ex-mental patient, someone who is blind or deaf, someone who has a disfigurement of some kind and those with a disability.

The experiences people who are stigmatised often have are commonly related to the ‘others’ in society placing their concern on their stigma [or ‘deviance’] rather than the individual’s personality as a whole.

Goffman states his main aim in the Preface to his book as offering a review of some popular work on Stigma to see what validity it has in Sociology.

In his first chapter on ‘Stigma and Social Identity’, Goffman argues that it is society that creates the means of placing people into categories that best suit the ‘attributes’ the individual has and, that are ‘natural’ for the particular category they are fitted into.

It is social settings that establish the categories of people who are likely to be found there.

Highlighted by Goffman are discrepancies between an individuals ‘virtual’ [a characterisation imputed on the person, ‘in effect’] and ‘actual’ [the category and attributes the individual can be proved to possess] identity, if this is known…




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