Spoiled group identities and backstage work: A theory of stigma management rehearsals

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How do persons with a stigmatized identity learn potential responses to discrimination and harassment? Drawing on three and a half years of ethnographic data, this paper demonstrates how members of a group of Muslim American youth are socialized in locally dominant stigma management strategies through stigma management rehearsals. Stigma management rehearsals are small group interactions through which leaders and members encourage their peers to adopt normative stigma responses. I identify two rehearsal types that vary in their socializing function as well as in their temporal orientation toward stigmatizing incidents. In direct preparation rehearsals, individuals anticipating a stigmatizing encounter are quickly taught the normative response. In deep education rehearsals, stigmatizing incidents set in the past or hypothetical future are used to teach justifications underlying local responses and to allow for the private expression of publicly inappropriate responses. These findings suggest that intragroup dynamics and backstage processes are important considerations when investigating issues of stigma and stigma management.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)291-309
Number of pages19
JournalSocial Psychology Quarterly
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2011


  • Muslims
  • discrimination
  • stigma
  • stigma management
  • temporality

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology


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