Stigma and the Deviant Identity

Authored by: Mindy S. Bradley-Engen

The Routledge Handbook of Deviant Behavior

Print publication date:  June  2011
Online publication date:  April  2012

Print ISBN: 9780415482745
eBook ISBN: 9780203880548
Adobe ISBN: 9781134015580

10.4324/9780203880548.ch23

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Abstract

In sociology, the term identity is generally defined as the way people think about and describe themselves as belonging to particular groups. Stigma refers to the process through which one’s possession of a particular attribute makes one different from others in a less desirable way. A stigmatized individual is one who has been reduced from a “whole and usual person to a tainted, discounted one” in the minds of others (Goffman, 1963: 3). Thus, the concept of a “deviant identity” refers to one’s perception and interpretation of self as atypical or acting beyond the boundaries of normative behavior. A person with a deviant identity is one who has been stigmatized by others, and incorporated that stigma into his/her sense of self. S/he comes to see himself/herself as an “outsider” (Becker, 1963), someone who does not fit in or engages in behavior deemed inappropriate by conventional social norms.

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