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An Examination of Oppositional Student Behavior against School Norms in the Context of Erving Goffman’s Theory of Stigma

The primary objective of this study is to examine student behavior characterized as either “abnormal” or “deviant” according to school norms in the context of Erving Goffman’s theory of stigma. The main focus of the study is to determine whether or not individuals who, as a result of exhibiting deviant behavior in school outside of certain behavior patterns regarded as acceptable and not measuring up to a desired behavioral standard, have been labeled and stigmatized by both their teachers and their peers as possessing a ‘spoiled identity’ are inclined to continue these behaviors as a result of having been stigmatized in this manner. This study was designed in accordance with the principles of qualitative research design, structured as a case study, and completed using the deviant case sampling method. The participant in the study was one (1) 11th grade student who was enrolled in a vocational high school for underachieving students in Sultangazi, a high-poverty district located in the periphery of the Istanbul metropolitan area. The participant had been branded as a troublemaker and stigmatized by his teachers and peers as a result of both his physical appearance and his behavior. The data found in the study was gathered during the 2018-2019 academic year in three stages. The research findings revealed that the student had internalized the label ‘mafya’ [literally meaning ‘mafia’ in Turkish but more accurately translated as ‘thug’] that had been affixed to him and sought to engage in behavioral patterns that would warrant this label more and more frequently. In other words, the label applied to this student turned into a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Goffman, Stigmatization, School Norms, Stigma, Deviance/Deviant


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