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May 20, 2009

On Stigma

Stigma is a crucial concept in the medical humanities, and few have mined the inquiry for as long and as effectively as Arthur Kleinman.  He has a co-authored editorial(with Rachel Hall-Clifford) on stigma in the current Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health(one of my favorite journals).  Here is the first paragraph:

The concept of stigma has undergone important shifts in definition and characterisation since its initial articulation by Erving Goffman in the 1960s. Here, we contend that the study of stigma has focused too heavily on psychological approaches and has neglected to sufficiently incorporate understandings of stigma and stigmatised individuals as embedded in local moral contexts. What exactly is encompassed by the conceptual umbrella of stigma is far more than a compelling theoretical question, since definitions of stigma directly inform efforts to empirically research and combat stigma.

There are few concepts in medical anthropology I am more attracted to than that of "local moral worlds."  Indeed, it figures prominently, though in slightly altered usage, in my dissertation (more details on the latter forthcoming).  In addition, having read numerous short pieces by Kleinman in various journals over the last few months, I marvel at his ability to pack such meaning and erudition into such small spaces.  Concision is a skill I am still working on, as readers of this blog know full well.

In any case, do read Kleinman and Hall-Clifford.


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