Goffman (1963) provided us with an explanation of the operation of stigma in microinteractional contexts. However, his definition and explication of the experiences and processes of stigmatization predate what many consider to be the most major shift in discourse and categorization to develop in the twentieth century – the rise of the language of risk. In this chapter, I discuss the intersections of risk discourse and stigma. Drawing on my empirical research with families affected by incarceration, I illustrate the shift toward structural stigma as an exercise of power and governance. I argue that contemporary “common-sense” understandings and usage of the term stigma emphasize negative individual interactions while ignoring the ways that risk categorizations, even in seemingly benign contexts, create structural disadvantage and serve to “other” stigmatized individuals. Singular focus on stigma at the microinteractional level, particularly in destigmatization campaigns, obscures the pervasive structural stigma couched in the language of risk management that permits systematic marginalization.
I would like to thank Thaddeus Muller for his kind invitation to present this address at the 2018 Couch-Stone meetings of the Society for the Study of Symbolic Interaction with the European Symbolic Interaction Meetings at Lancaster, UK. I also gratefully acknowledge that the ideas presented here have benefitted from lengthy conversations and collaborations with my dear colleagues Chris Bruckert and Chris Schneider. This keynote address draws on and extends earlier theoretical and empirical work presented in two previously published edited collections (Hannem and Bruckert, 2012; Hannem et al., 2019). I have updated the published version of this keynote address to reflect the most recent government hearings and findings with respect to the ion scanner.
Hannem, S. (2021), "Risk, Structural Stigma, and the Exercise of Power: Keynote Address to the 2018 Couch-Stone Symposium and IX Annual Meetings of the European Symbolic Interactionists", Denzin, N.K., Salvo, J. and Chen, S.-L.S. (Ed.) Radical Interactionism and Critiques of Contemporary Culture (Studies in Symbolic Interaction, Vol. 52), Emerald Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 187-204. https://doi.org/10.1108/S0163-239620210000052011
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