Communication and Culture | Stigma: Culture, Deviance, Identity
C333 | 27992 | Seizer, S.

TuTh, 11:15 AM-12:30 PM, Location: TBA
Required film screening: Th, 7:15 PM-10:15 PM

Open to juniors and seniors only
Meets with GNDR-G 302

Fulfills COLL A&H Requirement

Instructor: Susan Seizer
Office: Mottier Hall 150
Phone: 856-1896

Cultural value systems in every society rely on sets of mutually
defining terms -- for example, normal/abnormal, able-
bodied/disabled, heterosexual/homosexual, white/non-white  -- that
largely determine local attitudes of acceptance or ostracism
regarding particular categories of persons. Focusing on social
stigma allows us to understand how specific cultural value systems
affect our most intimate senses of self, and indeed contribute to
our very notions of personhood.

Stigma theory speaks broadly to the nature of the social
relationships that create marked categories of persons, regardless
of the particular attributes devalued. In this class we look both at
theory and at particular cases of devaluation, since attention to
the particularities of a given stigma keys us in to the complex of
cultural values that create it.

The theoretical centerpiece of this course is Erving Goffman’s 1963
study Stigma: Notes on the Management of Spoiled Identity. We will
read this text closely to appreciate Goffman’s insights, and attempt
throughout the semester to update the language he uses to convey his
points by applying his model to more recent historical and
ethnographic case studies of stigmatized persons and groups. Our
primary focus will be on the range and efficacy of the various
strategies available for managing and/or deflating stigma. The role
of the expressive arts in the life trajectories of stigmatized
persons and groups will be explored as one such strategy.

We will focus in particular on artists and activists whose work
addresses contemporary cases of stigma involving class, race,
ethnicity, disability, gender and sexuality. Bi-weekly screenings of
landmark films in the fields of disability studies, black studies,
queer studies, and gender studies supplement regular class meetings.
Online postings on a class-by-class discussion site facilitate
regular and full student participation.