Dealing with Class Contempt. Reframing Stigmatization in Mexico City.

Saturday, 21 July 2018
Distributed Paper
Maria Cristina BAYON, Instituto de Investigaciones Sociales, UNAM, Mexico
Social scientists have increasingly recognized the relevance of moral and symbolic dimensions in the persistence and deepening of social inequality. Together with the satisfaction of material needs, recognition, respect, and feeling valued by others, are essential for well-being. Misrecognition includes both material and symbolic deprivations, usually resulting in severe distress, shame and self-contempt.

One of the defining features of the neoliberal rationality is the morbidity of the social sphere, evidenced from the hegemonic perspective toward all things public and collective, recasting social problems as individual problems, blaming the underprivileged for their “own failures”. Representations of most disadvantaged sectors become spatialized; negative valuations are often translated into a pathologization of their spaces (neighbourhoods, schools, streets, etc.) resulting in demonized place images that associate types of places and types of people . Disadvantaged groups are not only aware of the stigma attached to them and their places; they have to deal, respond, and cope with these denigratory images.

In this paper, we analyse the place images and stigma, circulating in the mass and social media, attached to disadvantaged public high schools and neighbourhoods in the periphery of Mexico City. Based on qualitative research –in-depth interviews, newspaper notes, and social media images- conducted by the author, the social perception of both spaces is analyzed through the lens of the stigmatized subjects. We focus on students’ and dwellers’narratives on their experiences and perceptions of (dis)respect, (mis)recognition, and stereotyping, and their implications on school and community belonging. By relying on this two cases, I pursue two complementary aims. First, to dismantle the myths, stereotypes and stigmas on the poor and their places underlying the public discourse. Secondly, to identify the coping mechanisms deployed by disadvantaged residents and students to deal with class contempt and a dominant discourse that stigmatizes and denigrates them, daily and systematically.