Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Re: Stigma

I have been engrossed in this book for two days. I've been giving a lot of thought to my identity by which I mean how I perceive myself rather than how I consciously project myself in front of others. I have re-created myself: re-named myself, and allowed myself to be the artist I always secretly wanted to be. I wonder if re-creation is really correct here. Perhaps I have merely dropped the people-pleasing fascade that hindered my personal, creative and spiritual growth. The more I focus on artistic endeavors, the less time I waste worring about how I appear to others. And as a result of reading Erving Goffman's book, I will no longer blame myself and feel stupid for taking so long to wise-up!

"The fear that others can disrespect a person because of something he shows means that he is always insecure in his contact with other people; and this insecurity arises, not from mysterious and somewhat disguised sources, as a great deal of our anxiety does, but from something he knows he cannot fix. Now that represents an almost fatal deficiency of the self-system, since the self is unable to disguise or exclude a definite formulation that reads, 'I am inferior. Therefore people will dislike me and I cannot be secure with them.'. . . Lacking the salutary feed-back of daily social intercourse with others, the self-isolate can become suspicious, depressed, hostile, anxious, and bewildered." [p 13.] "By staying indoors and not answering the phone or door, the discreditable individual can remove himself from most of those contacts in which his disgrace might be established as part of the biography others have of him. . . One method of disclosure is for the individual voluntarily to wear a stigma symbol, a highly visible sign that advertises his failing wherever he goes."[p 100.] My collages sometimes serve the purpose of similar disclosure. Damn the biography; it's the autobiography that matters!

I see my own childhood self in this next statement: "One day I sudddenly realized that I had become so self-conscious and afraid of all strange children that, like animals, they knew I was afraid, so that even the mildest and most amiable of them were automatically prompted to derision by my own shrinking and dread." [p 17.]

The author speaks of ". . . advocated codes of conduct. . . for an appropriate attitude regarding the self. To fail to adhere to the code is to be a self-deluded, mis-guided person; to succeed is to be both real and worthy. . ." but allows that ". . . this advice about personal conduct sometimes stimulates the stigmatized individual into becoming a critic of the social scene. . . [becoming] 'situation conscious' while normals present are spontaneously involved within the situation. . ." [p 111.] Hmmm, collage art as indicator of critical situation consciousness. I like that concept. I also like this statement: "Whenever an occupation carries with it a change in name, recorded or not, one can be sure that an important breach is involved bewteen the individual and his old world." [p 58.]

In the last chapter, Goffman finally arrives at the term "deviance" saying: "One such deviation is important here, the kind represented by individuals who are seen as declining voluntarily and openly to accept the social place accorded them, and who act irregularly and somewhat rebelliously in connection with our basic institutions. . . These are the 'disaffiliates'. . . Prostitutes, drug addicts, delinquents, criminals, jazz musicians, gypsies, carnival workers, hobos, winos, show people, full time gamblers, beach dwellers, homosexuals, and the urban unrepentant poor--those would be included. Then there are the folk who are considered to be engaged in some kind of collective denial of the social order. They are perceived as failing to use opportunity for advancement in the various approved runways of society; they show open disrespect for their betters; they lack piety; they represent failures in the motivational schemes of society." [pp 143-144.] He makes special mention of ". . . the quietly disaffiliated hobbyists who become so devoted to their avocation that only a husk remains for civil attachments. . ."


self taught artist said...

wow. sounds like a lot to digest but fascinating.

AnitaNH said...

It's a pretty intense read. I vacillated between feelings of relief and anger. Relief that the social problems I experienced growing up were finally explained as a given, not something I maliciously caused or brought on myself, and anger at the facility with which society and the makers of rules that govern it apply fascile labels to the non-conformist. "Unrepentant urban poor" indeed! Like poverty is an ugly dirty garment that one puts on by choice to piss off the neighbors.