chapter  3
11 Pages

The changing dynamic of stigma

ByElizabeth Whitehead, Tom Mason, Caroline Carlisle, Caroline Watkins

The experience of stigma has a profound effect both in its emotional impact for the individual concerned and in its social repercussions for the marginalised group as a whole. The stigmatising process is rooted deep within human nature and from earliest times to the present day there are examples that are gathered in stories, anthologies and historical accounts of one society or another stigmatising its neighbours (Parkin, 1993). The diversity and complexity of the human capacity to stigmatise is found in numerous symbolic expressive forms via a number of media, from literature and film to news reports. The motives behind the stigmatising process are also extremely complex and often lie deep within individual psyches and culturalised prejudices. In modern times the most profound act of stigma revolves around what is now termed ethnic cleansing. From the mass slaughter of millions of innocent people, merely because they were of another race, creed or culture, or simply because they were different, is stark testimony to the darker side of human nature when the responses to the stigma are left unchecked. Therefore, understanding the cultural complexity of this marginalisation process is a vital step in changing the practice of exclusion (Social Exclusion Unit, 1999).