21 Eylül 2011 Çarşamba

Self, Mind, Hitler, Society: Goffman's Stigma

The personality of the individuals and their unique selves are often constituted by the society, for many sociologists. Therefore, individuals, since they know the rules of the “game”, adjust their personality to the society in order to live together. Yet, this process of adjustment is a quest to create “ideal-types” in the society, then, the ones who do not success (willingly or unwillingly) in this process are stigmatized. Since, all of our actions, beliefs and roles are being judged according to the “perfectly, correctly construction” principle (the perfectness and correctness are defined according to the “dynamic” norms of the society), ones having mental, physical or ethno-religious differences are stigmatized. The reaction of others to these “deviations” destroys the normal identity of stigmatized person and because the reaction is received repeatedly it is considered as a process –just like the self–.

Michel Foucault’s bio-power seemed to me very connected to this idea of stigma. Industrial capitalism brought “efficiency” to our life as a main target to achieve. In this respect, standard, controllable, productive and consumer individuals have been “normalized” by the bio-power. For instance, for many nations “long-living, white, ‘protestant’, middle class man” is a model in their discourses. This legitimizes the disapproval or marginalization of any other persons who do not fit in these criteria.

In my opinion, the Holocaust was the ultimate form of stigma; millions of people killed because of being “different” than Aryan race, and millions more were killed being “not proper” Aryan. But, this article shows something beyond this unfortunate illustration, that is; all societies do actually have some “Hitler feelings” and will of stigmatizing. Two lessons we should learn from stigma, bio-power and Holocaust: first; we always have to look at what and who is behind the “normative, normal, and ideal”. Second; individuals have the same power as the ones who constituted “normal”, each individual can resist unless there is full and absolute control among them.

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