• Supporting those affected by the misery of stigma and exclusion

Social stigma defined

Social stigma is where someone becomes stigmatized or marginalized by someone else on the basis of an existing social or cultural belief. While social stigma exists wherever there are humans, as a result of ignorance and a lack of knowledge, Social stigma is less apparent in egalitarian societies and more common in societies which are organized according to a perceived hierarchy or structure, such as a monarchy or post-colonial society. Social stigma is more prevalent in periods of cultural, social and economic decline and less common at times of cultural development, social progress or economic prosperity.

Therefore while social stigma is something that humans naturally appear to do as social animals, there are also clear indications that social stigma is also about the desire of a person or a group of people for domination or control over another person or group of people. Therefore social stigma has a lot to do with social privilege and marginalization and access to social, economic and political power.

There are a number of different theories as to what social stigma actually is between different sociologists. Emile Durkheim was a French sociologist who first advanced a theory on social stigma in 1895. and there are different models put forward by Canadian sociologist Erving Goffman, German sociologist Gerhard Falk, and American sociologists Bruce Link and Jo Phelan. The model here used by Qultura is based on the theory and research of Stella Baker, Qultura's founder and Primary Administrator, which is a modified version of the Link and Phelan model.

In this model the actual reality of human individuality across a spectrum, what Stella Baker refers to as actual equality, is disregarded in favour of a belief in a social hierarchy where people are categorized, labelled and stereotyped in accordance with social or cultural beliefs. These beliefs result in various markers, labels and stereotypes which result in the stigma which someone assigns to someone else on the basis of these beliefs.

These markers are based on someone's perception of negative characteristics which are usually assumed to be true based on someone's physical appearance, behaviour, manner of communicating or interacting, or their perceived lifestyle. For it to be stigma the cultural or social beliefs of the person assigning the stigma need to be shared by other people with who there is no connection . Racism is an obvious example of social stigma, as is sexism, homophobia and transphobia, as is ableism.

There are two different social processes going on here which are both linked to the desire for domination and control and therefore they are related to social privilege and also social marginalization. Stella Baker separates these two processes into external social stigma, which is the social process experienced by the person who assigns the stigma to another person. Then there is a second social process which is experienced by the person who is stigmatized, which is termed internal social stigma.