Goffman's Thesis on the Stigmatized Body

1781 Words Jan 24th, 2013 8 Pages
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Sociology of Health Illness and the Body

Goffman’s thesis on the ‘stigmatized body’

Word Count: 1,967

Using two contemporary examples, explore Goffman’s thesis on the ‘stigmatized body’.
The ancient Greeks used stigma to refer to a fault used to expose something unusual about a person’s moral status, a person bearing this stigma would often be described as a blemished person, ritually polluted, and to be avoided, especially in public places. Christians later divided the metaphor into two separate aspects; the bodily signs of holy grace and the medical allusion, which refers to the bodily sigs of physical disorder. Today the term is described using the original literal sense. (E., Stigma: Notes on the Management of
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Through his work he established the differences between transsexualism and trangenderism; he learned that in some situations surgery was necessary to fulfil the desires of certain individuals. Due to his findings there has been a condition named after him known as “Harry Benjamin Syndrome. Harry Benjamin syndrome is a congenital intersex condition that develops before birth, involving the differentiation between male and female. It is believed that one out of every five hundred is born with this condition and thus far it has been deemed impossible to diagnose this condition at birth, causing many children to be raised in the wrong gender role. (Changelings Aspects, 2008) David Oliver Cauldwell, Benjamin’s peer, refers to a transsexual as a sick person, and categorises them as having an illness. In his work Cauldwell even goes as far as to say that this ‘illness’ borders on criminality. Cauldwell’s main work distinguished “biological sex” from “psychological sex” and saw that the latter i determined by social conditioning. Although Cauldwell and Benjamin shared many of the same beliefs with regard transsexuality, their ideologies on the treatment of transsexualism differ greatly. Benjamin’s theory is that surgery could transform a transsexual into a normal man or woman. Cauldwell’s theory is that transsexuality is caused by an abnormality of the mind which cannot be cured by medical intervention. These categories of