In one of his earlier works, Goffman (1952) borrowed the term ‘mark’ from the jargon of criminality — in which it indicated the victim of a fraud — to refer more generally to someone who had just undergone a loss of status. In the paper Goffman investigates the problem of ‘cooling sthe mark out’, namely smoothing over the offence and preventing the victim from taking revenge on the offenders. As in the rest of his work, Goffman is interested here in the management of the public persona, which is equally a concern of society as it is of the individual, and in the actions performed in the moment-by-moment monitoring and adjusting of one’s relative status. Becoming a ‘mark’ and later receiving a ‘stigma’ (1963) are for Goffman essentially relational processes:

The term stigma, then, will be used to refer to an attribute that is deeply discrediting, but it should be seen that a language of relationships, not attributes, is really needed. An attribute that stigmatizes one type of possessor can confirm the usualness of another, and therefore is neither creditable nor discreditable as a thingin itself.

(1963, p.12, our italics)


Teenage Mother John Benjamin Marked Identity Interview Situation Legitimate Peripheral Participation 
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© Alessandra Fasulo and Roberta Piazza 2015

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