The Stigma of Deviant Physical Appearance

Authored by: Druann Maria Heckert

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


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The body—socially constructed—is an important focus of sociology (Synnott 1993). An essential lens through which to examine the body is stigma. Erving Goffman (1963) famously wrote about stigma as a characteristic that is “deeply discrediting,” since the attribute can be viewed by others as some sort of failing on the part of the bearer. Etymologically rooted in Greek, a stigma described a physical marking that carried disgrace; this is akin to stigmata, which were actual physical marks. Among the types of stigma that Goffman presented were “abominations” of the body, or physical deformities. Conjoined twins would fit his criterion here. Kitsuse (1980) expanded stigma to include “genetic stigmata,” such as body or hair color. As an example, obese people are stigmatized.

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