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Exploring stigma, identity gaps, and consumption

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Title: Exploring stigma, identity gaps, and consumption
Author(s): Crosby, Elizabeth
Director of Research: Otnes, Cele C.
Doctoral Committee Chair(s): Otnes, Cele C.
Doctoral Committee Member(s): Fischer, Eileen M.; Viswanathan, Madhu; White, Tiffany
Department / Program: Business Administration
Discipline: Business Administration
Degree Granting Institution: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Degree: Ph.D.
Genre: Dissertation
Subject(s): stigma identity consumption race and gender
Abstract: A stigma “refers to an attribute that is deeply discrediting” (Goffman 1963, 3). The stigmatized characteristic or trait labels the possessor as different from what is considered “normal” in some way. More specifically, in order for stigmatization to occur, the attribute in question must be connected with one or more negative stereotypes (Jones et al. 1984). Because stigma has often been an outcome rather than the basis of research in consumer behavior, researchers need to attain a better understanding of how stigmatization and consumption interact. A more in-depth analysis is needed to explore both how consumption creates and perpetuates stereotypes, as well as how people utilize it to manage stigma. This dissertation explores the complex interrelationships among stigma, identity, and consumption. Stigma negatively affects how possessors of an undesirable trait are viewed by those around them and by society; as such, it exerts significant influence over people’s identity. Simply put, stigmatization affects not only how individuals perceive themselves, but also how they feel others perceive them; or will perceive them, if their stigma is discovered (Crocker, Major, and Steele 1998). Individuals may face stigmatization of physical, mental, behavioral, or social characteristics. Common stigmatized attributes include race, class, gender, religion, and consumption decisions (e.g., being a Goth). Research finds that stigmatization can significantly affect individuals’ physical, mental, emotional, behavioral, and social well-being. In this dissertation, I explore African-American women’s lived experiences with stigmatization. Specifically, I explore how the interaction of race and gender affect stigmatization, how stigmatization affects identity, and how individuals manage multiple stigmas. I examine how stigmatization can create identity gaps as well as how these women manage the identity conflicts. It is important for consumer behavior scholars to understand how consumption can exacerbate and even contribute to the creation of stereotypes as these effects can lead to significant consumer welfare implications. Furthermore, in studying how stigmatization affects identity, I offer a more comprehensive understanding of how individuals can use consumption to manage their stigma and the identities they project to those around them.
Issue Date: 2012-05-22
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/2142/30940
Rights Information: Copyright 2012 Elizabeth Crosby
Date Available in IDEALS: 2012-05-22
Date Deposited: 2012-05
 

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