This chapter examines Goffman’s development of the concept of stigma (1963) in sociology – arguably among the most recognized and most misunderstood contributions to the sociology of deviance. The aim of the chapter is to clearly articulate Goffman’s concept of stigma and to differentiate his sociological framing from more recent psychological and colloquial use of the term. The chapter will also discuss notable work that has expanded on Goffman’s concept, while maintaining a clear sociological frame.

Situating Goffman’s writing alongside the work of his contemporaries in the field of deviance and within the theoretical tradition of Mead and Cooley, this analysis grounds the concept of stigma as an interactional phenomenon and explores its relationship to theories of identity. Contemporary examples of how the concept of stigma has ‘travelled’ in the social sciences provide opportunities to clarify the scope and boundaries of Goffman’s work and to consider how it has influenced more than a half century of scholarship. Finally, the chapter offers the reader a summary of recent development in stigma theory and discusses the ongoing influence of Goffman in social psychology and the sociology of deviance.