An Introduction to the Stigmatization Process Anthropology 393 – Cultural Construction of HIV/AIDS Josephine MacIntosh Important Definitions Prejudice: Attitudes which inform cognitive representations (stereotypes) of other individuals or groups based on their social position (Biernat & Dovidio, 2000) Stereotypes: Oversimplified cognitive conceptions or beliefs about individuals who belong to a particular social group or category. Rigid ‘caricaturizations’, often with little basis in reality (Dovidio, Major & Crocker, 2000) Important Definitions Stigma: Characteristic(s) that ostracizes a person from ‘normal’ society and decrease life chances (Link & Phelan, 2001) Discrimination: Actions by others that further reduce life chances by limiting access to jobs, education, earnings, housing, healthcare, etc (Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, 1999) HIV stigma and discrimination: Attaches itself to pre-existing stigmas, to racial stereotypes, or to stigma against sexual minorities (Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, 1999) Goffman’s 3 Types of Stigma Abominations of the body: physical disfigurement, readily apparent, known at first glance Blemishes of individual character: inferred from known records (e.g:, history of mental illness or incarceration), or experience, may be less apparent Tribal stigma of race, nation and religion: hereditary stigmas have the unique potential to discredit entire families, may also be less visible (Goffman, 1963) Social Identity Social identity (rather than social status) includes personal characteristics (such as honesty) as well as social attributes (such as occupation) Virtual social identity: based on assumptions Actual social identity: based on experience Congruence normal social interactions Incongruence disrupted social interactions (Goffman, 1963) Dimensions of Stigma Concealability: Obvious or hidden? Course: Acute? Chronic? Fatal? Disruptiveness: Interaction uncertain? Aesthetic qualities: Fear? Disgust? Origin: Guilty? Innocent? Defenseless? Peril: Contagious? Highly infectious? (Jones et al., 1984; Goffman, 1963) Origins of Stigma “Stigma develops out of an initial, universally held motivation to avoid danger, followed by an (often exaggerated) perception of characteristics that promote threat, accompanied by a social sharing of these perceptions with others. Moreover… stigmas exist primarily in the minds of stigmatizers and stigmatized individuals as cultural social constructions…” (Stangor & Crandall, 2000:62-3) Stereotypes and Prejudices Functional theories: for personal benefit Cognitive economy, self-enhancement, to protect self from harm Describe initial impetus for stigma, but not stigma categories Perceptual: direct observation + cognitive distortion Belief creation Illusory correlations between erroneously paired unique experiences Unusual associated with negative Accentuation Differences exaggerated thru cognitive biases Stereotypes and Prejudices Consensual: to explain conformity among beliefs Social exchange Communication no need for direct experience or cognitive simplicity How socially acceptable is it to hold negative attitudes? Repetition of cultural norms Reflect conformity not individual personality constructs does not fully explain the origins of stigma A Biocultural Framework Highly interdependent, cooperative groups had an evolutionary advantage Forming and maintaining functional groups (generally kinships) became a primary human survival strategy The functionality of a given group depended on sharing, cooperation, mutual investment, and trust Reciprocal prosocial behaviour would enhance chances for survival (Neuberg, Smith & Asher, 2000) A Biocultural Framework Reciprocal, prosocial behaviour would become normative within groups Physical or behavioural characteristics that violate groups standards are seen as a threat Disability Vs. deliberate exploitation of others for personal gain Non-reciprocation based on disability generally less stigmatizing than purposive disregard for group norms A Biocultural Framework Groups are built on a foundation of trust Breeches of trust are perceived as threats Groups thrive when members adhere to social rules and scripts that allow coordinated social action and interaction Liars, cheaters, thieves, traitors = significant threat to grp function Unpredictable and incompetent are stigmatized Survival of group requires reproductive fitness Those exhibiting genetic weakness, behaviours which threaten reproduction, or symptoms of contagious disease are stigmatized A Biocultural Framework In-groups Vs. Out-groups Difference in quality of interactions In-groups: characterized by cooperation, evolutionary advantage benefits all groups members Out-groups: compete with one another, evolutionary advantage goes to one groups or the other Threat from competing groups sets in motion the mechanisms of stigmatization Based on group membership rather that individual behaviours and characteristics A Biocultural Framework Summary Continuance of group depends on trust, sharing, cooperation and mutual investment Functionality and reproductive fitness depends on conformity to social norms Deviation from group norms perceived as threat Implications for HIV/AIDS HIV is: Concealable, fatal, socially disruptive, elicits fear and disgust of the guilty, is seen as perilous Seen as bad for ‘the group’ Is behaviour that is ‘adaptive’ or ‘natural’ from evolutionary standpoint right or justifiable in contemporary society? Especially if we have ways to reduce contact, reduce infectivity and possibly reduce susceptibility?