Erving Goffman's Theory Of Social Stigma And Performance Self

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Theories of Erving Goffman

This essay is a critical analysis of the theory of Social Stigma and Performance Self given by the Canadian sociologist Erving Goffman.

In his theory of Stigma, Goffman has done extensive research about individual identity and group relations. He explores the psychology of human mind. He explained the society through the everyday interactions of people. According to Goffman, stigma is a social manager. He believes that society is managed through various stigma. Stigma sets the standard in which a person should act in the society. Basically, it sets the ideal behavior expected out of a person when he/she is interacting in the society. Stigma is the phenomenon whereby a person is looked upon as abnormal
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In the story, we saw how the man who had a severely deformed face and body was tortured and used by people of the society as a means of earning money. We saw how two people used his deformity to their own benefit and made loads of money. We also saw how horribly the people of the society behaved with this man and treated him like he was some freak. People ran after him in a mob and made fun of him. This terrorized the man to such great extents that he lost all his control and blasted out saying that he was no elephant man but a normal human being - a man perhaps. This is an example of stigmatization. The man was stigmatized and known as the Elephant Man because the deformed part of his face resembled the face of an elephant. But no one saw how he was an extremely intelligent and sensitive person behind that face. The movie is a perfect way for us to understand how the concept of stigmatization works and how the stigmatized person feels about all…show more content…
This theory of his was also popularly known as dramaturgical approach. 'This theory of performance self (or dramaturgical approach) is defined as the study of social interaction in terms of theatrical performance. '1 The basic thing which I concluded from reading about Goffman 's theory of performance self is that no one is their true self in the society. Everyone puts on a mask as per the social institution they engage with. Everyday life is like the stage and all we people are the performers. We put on a mask as per the situation we find ourselves in and act accordingly. We keep changing roles and attitudes as per the varying situations and this is what happens in real life as well. This is why I said that no one is their true self. At every point of time, a conflict keeps going on in between the true self of a person and his manifested self. The true self is always wanting to come out but is unable because the everyday interactions influence our behavior and that is not how your actual behavior would be. Social order is not static at all. All are behavior is structured because of the society we live in and interact
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