Spectres of Goffman: Impression management in the Irish welfare space

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Whelan, Joe
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The Goffmanian thesis of stigma occurring as an aspect of “spoiled identity” has arguably provided the dominant theoretical understanding of social stigma over the past half century. Yet, there have also been strong critiques of Goffman’s thesis of stigma which range from concerns with the micro-personal nature of his work to question marks over the corpus of materials used by Goffman when originally theorizing stigma. Recent scholarly contributions have theorized a more structural understanding of the role and function of stigma and this, in turn, has arguably forced the question of whether or not Goffman’s thesis of stigma has now become redundant in terms of its application in the social sciences. This paper intends to explore this question by offering a juxtaposition of the theoretical and the empirical. To meet this task, the paper first engages in a theoretical discussion of the Goffmanian thesis of social stigma. Crucially, however, original research, conducted in Ireland, is also presented. This empirical material shows that, despite the very valid concerns with Goffman’s theory of stigma, much of his analysis with respect to impression management is borne out in lived experience. In doing so, aspects of the Goffmanian thesis of impression management as a response to the potential for stigma are affirmed thus demonstrating the continuing applicability of this theoretical strand. New understandings of impression management are also advanced.
Stigma , Welfare , Impression management , Goffman , Ireland
Whelan, J. (2020) 'Spectres of Goffman: Impression management in the Irish welfare space', Journal of Applied Social Science. doi: 10.1177/1936724420983578
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