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Construction and Management of Stigma Based on a Voluntary‐Achieved Status


Symbolic Interaction

Published online on


Previous research on stigma has focused on ascribed personal attributes that are either impossible or difficult to change. Less is known, however, about how people voluntarily join stigmatized groups and manage stigma based on an achieved status. This paper sought to answer this question by focusing on stigma management strategies used by a Humans vs. Zombies (HvZ) gaming organization in a southeastern university. Data were collected through four months of fieldwork and twelve interviews with HvZ gamers and moderators. Results showed that gamers' decision to join the group reflected their effort to strengthen a sense of moral worth. Furthermore, in order to keep receiving this benefit and minimize potential costs, they used three strategies to manage their stigma based on the voluntary, achieved status: (1) by “othering” stereotypical members; (2) by challenging the stereotype; and (3) by reappropriating the stigma. As they employed these strategies, gamers drew on social discourses available in the organizational and life course context.