Stigma Management in International Relations: Transgressive Identities, Norms and Order in International Society

Publikation: Bidrag til tidsskriftTidsskriftartikelForskningfagfællebedømt

This article develops a theoretical approach to stigma in international relations and resituates conventional approaches to the study of norms and international order. Correcting the general understanding that common values and norms are the building blocks of social order, this article claims that international society is in part constructed through the stigmatisation of ‘transgressive’ and norm-violating states and their ways of coping with stigma. Drawing on Erving Goffman, this article shows that stigmatisation serves the important function of producing and upholding ideas about ‘normal’ state behaviour. However, states are not passive objects of socialisation, but active agents. Stigmatised states cope strategically with their stigma and may, in some cases, challenge and even transform a dominant moral discourse. A typology of stigma management strategies is presented: stigma recognition, where states identify with the ‘audience of normal states’ and seek to rise above their stigma (illustrated by the case of Germany); stigma rejection, where states deny that they are ‘deviant’ (illustrated by the case of Austria); and finally counter-stigmatisation, where states turn their stigma into an emblem of pride considering themselves superior to the stigmatisers (illustrated by the case of Cuba). Due to lack of agreement on what constitutes normal state behaviour, attempts to impose stigma may even have the opposite effect – the stigmatisers become the transgressive. A focus on stigma opens up new avenues for research on norms, identities and international order.
TidsskriftInternational Organization
Udgave nummer1
Sider (fra-til)143 -­ 176
Antal sider33
StatusUdgivet - jan. 2014


  • Det Samfundsvidenskabelige Fakultet - stigma, Tyskland, Østrig, Cuba, EU, International politik, Goffman, symbolsk interaktionisme, Sanktioner, international orden, Diplomati, Teori

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