Stigma, identity and power: Managing stigmatized identities through discourse

Sammy Toyoki, A D Brown

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We analyse how men incarcerated in Helsinki Prison managed through talk their stigmatized identities as prisoners. Three strategies are identified: ‘appropriation’ of the label ‘prisoner’; claiming coveted social identities; and representing oneself as a ‘good’ person. The research contribution we make is to show how inmates dealt with their self-defined stigmatized identities through discourse, and how these strategies were effects of power. We argue that stigmatized identities are best theorized in relation to individuals’ repertoires of other (non-stigmatized) identities which they may draw on to make supportive self-claims. Prisoners, like other kinds of organizational participants, we argue, have often considerable scope for managing diverse, fragile, perhaps even contradictory, understandings of their selves.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)715-737
Number of pages22
JournalHuman Relations
Issue number6
Early online date10 Dec 2013
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2014


  • Stigma
  • identity
  • identity work
  • discourse
  • prisons
  • prisoners
  • power


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