UCL Philosophy


Allison: Stigma, Stereotype, and Self-Presentation

5 July 2023

Euan Allison: Stigma, Stereotype, and Self-Presentation (2023), Journal of Applied Philosophy

How should we interpret the popular objection that stigmatised subjects are not treated as individuals? The Eidelson View claims that stigma, because of its connection to stereotypes, violates an instance of the general requirement to respect autonomy. The Self-Presentation View claims that stigma inhibits the functioning of certain morally important capacities, notably the capacity for self-presentation. I argue that even if we are right to think that stigma violates a requirement to respect autonomy, this is insufficient to account for the full weight of the charge that stigmatised subjects are not treated as individuals. We need the Self-Presentation View to explain a special threat to agency. I then address the worry that focusing on a concern with being treated as individuals opens the door to the suggestion that treating as superior can be just as morally troubling as stigma. This objection is fatal for the Eidelson View. But the Self-Presentation View has a number of resources for deflating the worry. We should not exclude the possibility of a moral symmetry between some cases of stigma and some cases of treating as superior. Rather, we should provide a nuanced account of the circumstances in which either phenomenon is detrimental for self-presentation.