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Stigma Machines: Public Lecture at the Centre for British Studies Humboldt Uni Berlin

Activity: Talk or presentation typesPublic Lecture/ Debate/Seminar


Public Lecture, Centre for British Studies Stigma Machines In their 2017 annual report Amnesty International detailed ‘a global trend towards angrier and more divisive politics’, in which ‘the idea of human dignity and equality’ was ‘under vigorous and relentless assault from powerful narratives of blame, fear and scapegoating, propagated by those who sought to take or cling on to power’ (Amnesty 2017). It is the thesis of my current research that stigma is a productive intersectional lens through which to understand better these prevailing social conditions of ‘division and dehumanization’. In this talk I will introduce my forthcoming monograph, Stigma Machines, which develops a new historically informed account of the social and political function of stigmatization as an instrument of social policy and constituent mechanism of the state’s coercive apparatus. To reconceptualise stigma in ways that explicate its function as a form of political power Stigma Machines draws on the long penal history of stigma, including material practices of penal tattooing, branding and badging and contemporary forms of symbolic violence. Stigma Machines draws on an extensive body of archival research, social history, political speeches, policy documents and media representations to examine how stigma politics is exercised through dehumanizing classificatory practices. Stigma is crafted and activated to govern populations on multiple scales and in diverse sites. The governmental practices examined in Stigma Machines include: institutional and technological practices of stigma power exercised by governments, judiciary and police; forms of “stigmacraft” employed by “stigma industries” such as think tanks, public relations, news media and entertainment corporations; everyday stigma interactions such as racist, disablist and misogynistic hate speech.

External organisation

NameHumboldt University, Berlin