Communication and Culture | Theories of Performance in Communication and Culture (Topic: Stigma: Culture, Identity, and the Abject)
C706 | 26087 | Seizer, S.


Th, 1:00 PM-3:30 PM, 800 E. 3rd St. – room 272
Required film screenings: Tu, 7:00 PM-10:00 PM, WY 015

Open to Graduates Only!
Meets with GNDR-G 701

Instructor: Susan Seizer
E-Mail: sseizer@indiana.edu
Office: 800 E. 3rd St. – room 241
Phone: 856-1986

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, contribute to our very
notions of personhood, and inform the way we communicate and engage
with others in the world.

Stigma theory speaks broadly to the nature of the social
relationships that create marked categories of persons, regardless
of which particular attributes are devalued. In this class we look
both at theory and at particular cases of stigmatized persons and
groups, as attention to the particularities of a given stigma keys
us in to the cultural values that create and support it. Since
stigmas do change over time, identifying strategies that have been
effective in creating such change is a primary focus of the course.

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 them, and 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
focus will be on the range and efficacy of the various strategies
available for managing and/or defying stigma.

The role of the expressive arts -- including novels, short stories,
films, and performance art -- in the life trajectories of
stigmatized persons and groups will be explored as one popular
defiant strategy. We focus in particular on artists and activists
whose work addresses contemporary cases of stigma. Weekly screenings
of landmark films in the fields of disability studies, black
studies, queer studies, gender studies, and India studies supplement
regular class meetings; viewing these films is a critical part of
the course.