Is Stigma A Stigmatizing Word? A Political Question for Science

Pat Corrigan, Dror Ben-Zeev


Asserting “stigma is a stigmatizing term” is a political statement, a position to which some social scientists may object. They may counter that allowing politics to bleed into an important scholarly question like this will undermine the quality of emerging answers. In this paper, we summarize what many sociologists and philosophers of scientific knowledge maintain; science and its methods are inextricably intertwined with political agenda. We demonstrate this by showing classic examples from astronomy as well as more relevant ones from medicine and psychiatry. Community based participatory research (CBPR) is an excellent vehicle for blending political opinion with scientific method so CBPR principles and practices are briefly reviewed, especially in terms of an anti-stigma research agenda. Ironically, we believe recognizing the limits of science for the stigma-is-a-stigmatizing-word question is by no means freeing for advocates. The community of stakeholders invested in this issue still need to deal with the political realities of their diversity and the challenge of developing consensus about stigma as a term and, more importantly, how to erase it.



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