Stigma, Power and Inequalities


Stigma book cover

Our Head of Department, Professor Imogen Tyler, has published a new book, called Stigma: The Machinery of InequalityThis is the outcome of a research project on stigma and power which was supported by a Philip Leverhulme Prize

You can watch an animated film below about Stigma which Imogen made with the graphic artist Tom Morris (and Bow & Arrow Productions).

With Tom Morris, she also designed an animated gif to illustrate the central concept of "stigma power", which you can view here.

You can read an excerpt from the Introduction to Stigma on Imogen's blog here.

You can listen to Imogen talk about the book on the podcast 'Surviving Society' here.

Book Description 

The word stigma originated in Ancient Greece to describe the literal stigmatisation (tattooing) of slaves as a humiliating punishment. Throughout history stigma has been employed by the powerful to dehumanise, scapegoat and oppresses individuals and communities. In Stigma: The Machinery of Inequality, Imogen radically transforms received understandings of what stigma is, and what stigma is for, by precisely and passionately detailing ways in which stigma has been deployed to capture, discipline and exploit people. She takes the reader on a journey through centuries of stigma production, deftly weaving together examples which extend from the branding of people as chattel in the trans-Atlantic slave trade, the tattooing of indentured labourers in colonial era India, the badging of the poor in eighteenth-century England, the spectacular eruption of public shaming rituals across Nazi-occupied Europe, and the role of the US civil right movement in contesting the stigma of anti-black racism. Throughout, Imogen draws threads of connection between historical practices of stigmatisation and the rise of a twenty-first century ‘stigma politics’ in which new media are harnessed by the elites to manufacture stigma against Muslims, refugees, disabled people, women, and the 'undeserving poor'. In doing, she provides valuable insights into the current rise of authoritarian nationalisms in the contemporary world, in which the elites secure power through the crafting of divisions. Imogen reveals how stigma gets under people’s skin, transforming the ways in which they think about themselves and others, corroding compassion, and weakening social solidarity. Imogen argues that neoliberal capitalism is characterised by a relentless assault against human dignity, but by recovering forgotten histories of resistance against stigma power, she also teaches us how we can might learn from past struggles to resist the stigma fuelled machinery of inequality.

As part of her stigma research project Imogen also: 

  • made a graphic essay 'From Stigma Power to Black Power' with the artist Charlotte Bailey, which is available to purchase in hard copy for £4 (including p&p) here, or can be downloaded as a PDF for free here 
  • published a monograph 'The Sociology of Stigma' , co-edited with Professor Tom Slater (Edinburgh), which can be purchased here

You can hear Imogen talk about 'The Sociology of Stigma' monograph with Michaela Benson here.

You can also listen to Imogen in conversation with geographer Jenna Loyd (University of Wisconsin, Madison) stigma, racism and place here.

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