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.
- identity work