How did you get your stigmata
Stigma management of street newspaper saleswomen
In empirical research on stigma management strategies, stigma groups are mostly imagined as more or less homogeneous. The differences between the stigmatized and the associated variations in stigma management have so far been ignored. For this reason, the present work extends Erving Goffman's concept of stigma with Pierre Bourdieu's theory of capital. On the basis of qualitative interviews with saleswomen of street newspapers, both similarities and differences in dealing with the stigma of homelessness are examined. What they have in common is that all saleswomen only manage their individual stigma and not that of their group. At the same time, however, there are also large differences in capitalization that influence the choice of stigma management strategies. People with higher economic and cultural capital can distance themselves from the stigma more effectively than less privileged saleswomen.
In the literature on strategies of stigma management, stigmatized groups are imagined to be more or less homogeneous. The differences between stigmatized individuals and diverging strategies of stigma management have been ignored. For this reason, this paper extends Erving Goffman’s concept of stigma management with Pierre Bourdieu’s theory of capital. Drawing on qualitative interviews with vendors of street papers, the present article investigates both similarities and differences between them in dealing with the stigma of homelessness. What they have in common is that they only manage their individual stigma and not that of their group. At the same time, however, there are also major differences in the endowment with capital that influence the choices of stigma management strategies. Vendors with more economic and cultural capital can distance themselves more effectively from the stigma of homelessness than less privileged vendors.
The appearances of street newspaper sellers in squares, in front of supermarkets or in S-Bahn and U-Bahn trains are part of everyday life in many German cities. The shop assistants for these newspapers are often associated with homelessness, but not all shop assistants are actually homeless. The sale of newspapers is usually intended for socially marginalized people (Kulke 2015: 10). The vast majority of saleswomen have had homelessness in their life, but not all of them live on the streets or in shelters for the homeless. In some studies it has already been shown that these activities not only enable shop assistants to improve their material situation, but also experience social recognition and increase their self-esteem (Bono 1999; Kazig 2001; Kulke 2015; Scheufele & Schieb 2016). But the fact that saleswomen are also confronted with stigmatization and have to react to them was not addressed in any of these works.
There is already some work that addresses the stigma management of the homeless. In particular, ethnographic research from the USA describes the everyday effort to establish a “normal” life in the face of extremely precarious conditions (Duneier 2001; Liebow 1993; Jencks 1994). But the desire to live according to socially recognized standards cannot be realized due to a lack of resources. In addition, the literature shows that the attempt to minimize the stigma of homelessness often leads to a reproduction of the stigma, regardless of whether one tries to hide from the public because of the blemish (Harter et al. 2005), one's own Accepting stigmatized status (Snow & Anderson 1987), copying the behavior of “normal people” (Rochelle & Kaufmann 2004) or, conversely, actively serving stereotypes about the homeless (Lindemann 2007). In all of these studies, the homeless are viewed as a more or less homogeneous group. Systematic differences in the choice of stigma management strategies are not discussed.
This is where the present work begins. An extension of Erving Goffman's (1967) concept of stigma management by Pierre Bourdieu's (1982, 1992) capital theory makes it possible not only to work out strategies of stigma management, but also to analyze their unequal distribution. The stubborn and creative responses to stigmatization should be given just as much importance as internal power relations and social inequalities. These differentiations within a group of stigma bearers should be traced back to street newspaper saleswomen in Berlin. Street newspaper sellers in particular have to expose themselves to the public. Dealing with potential stigmatization can thus be observed particularly well.
First, the conceptual framework of this work will be presented with Erving Goffman's concept of stigma management and Pierre Bourdieu's theory of capital (Chapter 1). The methodological procedure is described in the second chapter. In the third and fourth sections, the central results of the work will be presented. These consist on the one hand in the basic similarities of the stigma management of street newspaper sellers (Chapter 3) and on the other hand in a typology that expresses the decisive differences in stigma management (Chapter 4). Finally, the central empirical results should be summarized again.
1 Conceptual Framework
The stigma of homelessness represents an enormous social flaw. In the long-term study “German Conditions”, Wilhelm Heitmeyer identifies homelessness as one of twelve fundamentally discriminatory group affiliations (Heitmeyer 2008: 18 ff.). The stigma of homelessness has two dimensions. On the one hand, there is the allegation of physical neglect. As early as the 19th century there was a fundamental distinction between simple poverty, which is accepted as a natural result of the capitalist system, and pauperism, which manifests itself in a criminal and brutalizing crowd and is viewed as a physical danger to the social order (Dean 1991 : 174). The second dimension of this stigma consists in the assumption of pathological consumption and behavior patterns. Homeless people are not simply seen as poor, but as "undeserving poor", that is, as unworthy poor (Gans 1995: 36). Due to supposedly pathological consumption patterns and irresponsible lifestyles, the homeless are made responsible for their social situation themselves. The stigma of homelessness thus has a physical and a cultural dimension.
In order to be able to answer the question of how actors deal with this flaw, one should fall back on Erving Goffman's (1967) concept of stigma management. Goffman understands a stigma to be a highly discrediting quality. It appears when there is a discrepancy between what is anticipated as normal and the currently found identity of an individual (Goffman 1967: 11). Stigmata can take many forms. They can be obvious or concealed, become larger or smaller through familiarity, reveal much or little information about the wearer, disqualify in certain areas of life and not attract further attention in others, etc. (Goffman 1967: 64). Stigmata are not fixed substances, but depend on the situation. While a certain trait stigmatizes a certain category of people, the same trait can affirm the normality of another group of people (Goffman 1967: 11).
Goffman conceives of the stigmatized not simply as passive victims, but as an active and creative designer of their stigmatization. There are innumerable ways to deal with stigma. However, Goffman points out some extreme poles within which stigma management generally moves. Stigmatized people tend to commute between adaptation and rebellion or between defensive and offensive strategies. They can humbly share general ideas about the stigma group or do things that members of that group are not expected to do; they can try to hide or show off their stigma; They can internalize the social norms from which they deviate as stigmatized people and apply them to themselves or other stigmatized people, or they can question the stigma and positively reevaluate it.
Above all, Goffman emphasizes that stigma management always means information management as well. It is important to artfully reveal your own identity in public. At this point, the stigma concept refers to his later work on interactive behavior. Stigma management consists, like any everyday identity work, in the symbolic representation and suggestion of this identity. Acting is not to be equated with deception. Because every interaction requires exaggerated representations, through which the other person knows what it is about (Goffman 1969: 6). While this principle applies to all people, it is of particular importance for the stigmatized. Every act, no matter how small, is condemned to be interpreted extensively and to function as a source of information about the moral nature of the stigmatized person (Goffman 1967: 88).
Goffman's stigma concept produced a wealth of empirical studies on a wide variety of subjects, such as mental illnesses (Corrigan 2012), physical disabilities (Moloney et al. 2018; Taub et al. 2004), homosexuality (Cain 1991), childlessness (Park 2002), infectious diseases (Poindexter & Shippy 2010, Siegel et al. 1998) or ethnic affiliations (Lamont et al. 2016; Gerhards & Buchmayr 2018), to name just a few examples. The answers to stigmatization range from offensive and proactive to defensive and reactive strategies (see Meisenbach 2010 overview). Defensive and reactive strategies include concealment (Cain 1991; Poindexter & Shippy 2010; Siegel et al. 1998), self-stigmatization (Corrigan 2012), acceptance of social norms (Park 2002), distraction from the stigma and / or emphasis on other competencies (Verwiebe et al . 2016; Moloney et al. 2018; Taub et al. 2004). Offensive and proactive strategies include self-confident exposure of the stigma (Cain 1991; Poindexter & Shippy 2010; Siegel et al. 1998) and attacks on the stigmatizing society (Lamont et al. 2016; Siegel et al. 1998, Park 2002). In all of the studies cited, both offensive and defensive strategies can be found in the stigma groups examined. But despite the heterogeneity of manners, the question of the extent to which the choice of strategies for stigma management varies between social groups was never investigated in these studies. Instead, stigma groups are imagined as more or less homogeneous and internal social inequalities are ignored. The criticism that the previous stigma research was too individualistic and ignored power relations is not new (cf. Link & Phelan 2001). But still there have been no attempts to close this research gap.
In the present work, this conceptual void is to be filled by Pierre Bourdieu's theory of capital. In the struggle for legitimacy, actors use different capital, especially social, cultural and economic capital (Bourdieu 1992: 49). With the help of these unevenly distributed types of capital, different class fractions strive for distinction, that is, for a positive differentiation from other actors. This struggle for distinction works primarily on the basis of lifestyles (Bourdieu 1982: 212). The goal of lifestyles is to transform different resources (such as economic and cultural capital) into symbolic capital or legitimacy and reputation (Bourdieu 1982: 281). Lifestyles are always expressive in nature, as the point is to mark one's own social identity in the social space.
Bourdieu's theory of capital makes it possible to conceptualize material and symbolic differentiations within the most diverse groupings. According to the working hypothesis, stigma management strategies are not distributed evenly or randomly, but depend on the capital resources of the respective actors. This difference-theoretical perspective can be used to differentiate between more or less legitimate and successful forms of stigma management.
Bourdieu's theory of capital represents an important addition to the concept of stigma management, since Goffman's primary unit of investigation is not social structures, but rather orders of interaction. Although Goffman is not power-blind, he does not develop any analytical instruments with which power relations can be adequately and systematically investigated. This can already be seen in the very different praxeological accentuations of Bourdieu and Goffman. In Bourdieu's writings, the focus is on the reproduction of social differences, which takes place through somatic and unconscious actors (Reckwitz 2004). In contrast, Goffman focuses much more on situations in which the social order reaches its limits and subjects have to react creatively to contradictions and resistance (Hitzler 1992). In reality, both are to be expected. This is why these different priorities in Bourdieu's and Goffman's work are not incompatible, but are to be viewed as a possibility for mutual fertilization. Bourdieu and Goffman also seem to complement each other well because both theorists are interested in drawing symbolic boundaries in the everyday struggle for recognition. Both commit themselves to a strictly relational way of thinking and regard positive or negative status not as a natural property, but as a social relationship (Goffman 1967: 11, Bourdieu 1996: 127). Stigma and distinction should not be conceived as fixed properties, but as relational ascriptions. In the research, stigmata and distinctions were substantialized and assigned to different social groups. In the literature on stigma management strategies, social outsiders in particular are examined, while struggles for distinction are located particularly in educated and bourgeois milieus. What separates studies on efforts to distinguish from studies on stigma management seems to be the choice of the subject and not the basic conceptual framework. A stigma is a negative deviation, while a distinction is a positive deviation from an expected normality. Both phenomena cannot exist without the other. A positive classification always refers to a negatively classified opposite side, without which a positive distinction would not be possible (Neckel & Sutterlüty 2005: 415). In addition, stigmata and distinctions represent a potential possibility or potential danger for all actors. Every action can be classified as negative or positive, depending on the respective notions of normality and the respective reference group. Certain characteristics can be just as fatal to educated citizens in their milieu as other characteristics can help homeless people to distinguish themselves in their scene. All social groups are capable of distinction, and all social groups face the need to manage stigma.
Both stigmata and distinctions can be described as signs that mark a relational difference. They implicitly represent poles that are always present in status struggles. The research perspective presented thus also remains compatible with other research programs that deal with the marking of relational symbolic boundaries (Lamont & Molnar 2002, Hirschauer 2014).
2 Methodical approach
In order to be able to adequately depict the subjective coping patterns of the stigma of homelessness, 19 guided interviews with 21 shop assistants (two people were interviewed at the same time in two interviews) were carried out from May 2014 to June 2014. The interviews lasted an average of 50 minutes.
The sales women were recruited at two distribution points of the newspaper. Not least because of the support of the association employees, whom many saleswomen have known personally for a long time, it was not difficult to find interview partners willing to talk. However, many saleswomen also canceled due to lack of time or feelings of shame. To what extent this may have led to a distortion of the results should be discussed at the end of the thesis. Overall, however, care was taken to win saleswomen with as many different characteristics as possible for the research project.
Six people were homeless at the time of the interviews, seven were living in shelters or dormitories for the homeless, and the remaining eight people had their own homes. The social backgrounds of the respondents are mixed and range from broken up to middle-class and affluent family relationships.Six people have no completed training or work experience, eight people were at least temporarily integrated into the labor market. The remaining seven people worked full-time until they became homeless. 17 people are male and four are female. The saleswomen are between 20 and 70 years old and have an average age of 40 years.
The interview guidelines used consisted of four central topic complexes: 1) Stigmatization experiences and feelings of being categorized differently, 2) Reactions to stigmatizing categorizations, 3) Lifestyles and principles of lifestyle, 4) Social background and resources of cultural and economic capital.
These four subject complexes represented a rough structure in the interview situation. The actual order of the questions resulted from the individual course of the conversation, as the interviewees were given the opportunity to set their own priorities.
In order to capture internal struggles for demarcation and symbolic differentiations, questions were asked about differences and similarities to other sales women in all question dimensions. The individual elements of the guideline were expanded in the course of the field research through initial findings about which symbolic markers are considered relevant in the field. In this regard, the methodological approach followed the principles of Grounded Theory (Strauss 1994), since data collection and data evaluation largely took place in parallel in order to ensure the compatibility of the analytical concepts used with the research field. The conceptual framework of the work also developed in iterative exchange with the first empirical results.
The evaluation of the interviews followed two separate logics. First, across all cases, research should be carried out into collectively shared, implicit knowledge and beliefs in the field of street newspaper sellers (see results in Section 3). The interviews were initially openly coded for this. This means that the categories that were formed were still very much attached to the language of the interviewees in order to document the empirical material as precisely as possible. The codes formed were then abstracted and grouped into core categories (Strauss 1994: 94 ff.). Theories from research literature were also used in the formation of codes, insofar as these proved to be helpful for the interpretation of the material and the development of categories.
In a second step, the focus was on the systematic differences in stigma management between people with different capital resources (see the results in Section 4). For this specific research interest, a more deductive approach was carried out in the form of a thematic coding (Flick 2009: 318 ff.). This means that predefined groups should be systematically compared with one another, since it is assumed that their points of view differ systematically from one another. The focus of this work is the comparison of groups with different levels of economic and cultural capital. The individual cases were first summarized individually, then compared with one another on the basis of central subject areas (e.g. sales style or lifestyle) and finally summarized into types.
3 General characteristics of stigma management
All interviewees share certain perceptions and attitudes that refer to certain peculiarities of the field of street newspaper sellers. On the one hand, all interviewees have a basic feeling and awareness of the fact that there is a potential stigma and that it must be responded to (see Section 3.1). On the other hand, they share similar attitudes towards the prevailing symbolic order. The stigmatization by the majority society is not fundamentally questioned, but only for itself. Negative classifications of homeless people and street newspaper sellers are shared (see Section 3.2).
3.1 Stigma management as a balancing act
There is a pronounced awareness of the importance of controlling the public impression among the shop assistants. In the case of (supposedly) homeless people, even very small signs can be reinterpreted as great evidence of the deviance of the respective person. For example, every physical sign of the saleswoman can become the starting point for far-reaching interpretations about the alleged stigma bearers. Stigmatized people must therefore take special care to stage themselves skilfully (Goffman 1967: 88). Much of the stigma of homelessness lies in the allegation of physical neglect. For this reason, it is important for the shop assistants to control their physical appearance. No ambiguous messages may be sent. The stigma of homelessness does not only apply when a person does not have their own apartment, but primarily through a certain appearance and demeanor. Sales women therefore try not to appear “too homeless” in public. But they also always strive not to appear “too little homeless”. It is important to stand out from the cliché of the homeless, but always moderately.
Nina: Well, that people also want to see a certain amount of dirt and slum (...) Not only when it comes to washing, but also something that makes people say: "He's got too good shoes to be homeless!" or “He doesn't need it at all, the way he looks!” Somehow there is always a certain distrust. (…) Conversely, however, people are very skeptical that if people have long hair and a beard or somehow dirty things are on, it is also branded again, so that it just looks too homeless. (1047-1076)
Nina does not classify homelessness in binary form, but rather quantifies it gradually. There is a risk of appearing “too little” or “too much” homeless. The appearance as a seller of homeless newspapers is therefore a complex balancing act. In public, sellers cannot simply distance themselves radically from the stigma of homelessness by adapting as many symbols of normality as possible. Stigma bearers also have to meet certain expectations that society places on them as stigmatized people. They are not allowed to be too normal. Stigma management becomes a tightrope act. In the interviews it is often emphasized that the right balance between normality and stigma is important. A mediocrity is conjured up between these two extremes. For example, Franzi has the feeling that she doesn't sell newspapers if she is too well dressed, but also not if she is too poorly dressed.
Franzi: If I'm properly dressed, I don't get anything and if I stink, I don't get anything, I just have to kind of like now and then I get something. (Interview Franzi & Günther: 328–331)
Igor also has to deal intensively with this act of balancing. Since he pays attention to his appearance, he is described by many of his fellow campaigners as arrogant and blasé. He wears a polo shirt, has blond streak, and speaks in a nasal tone. This behavior is not uncommon, but it seems rather unusual for street newspaper saleswomen. Vanities are not fully conceded to this group. Igor is aware of this danger. In his free time he wears sunglasses on his shirt collar. But when he sells newspapers, he avoids this appearance and puts his sunglasses in his pocket.
Igor: Well, you have to make sure that you don't have the gold bracelet on or that you don't look too good. That's why I always put the glasses there - they're not great glasses - but sunglasses always look like you always have a little money, somehow you just look like you're on vacation or something . (...) At some point I learned to be conspicuous, but on the other hand also ... so conspicuously inconspicuous. (Interview Igor: 403-413)
Igor is afraid that the sunglasses will convey an image of him that is not congruent with his role as a street newspaper seller. He wants to look good, but at the same time always remains "inconspicuous".
Refusing donations in kind is also a delicate matter. Some saleswomen do not want such donations, but do not dare to refuse them either. This refusal could create the appearance of ingratitude. For example, Leo says that he always accepts donations in a friendly and grateful manner, but secretly disposed of them.
Leo: Only, I always did it out of kindness to the other person. It's the same with clothes. For example, if an old man gives me his clothes, I can't wear them like that. Well, because these aren't cotton things and what do I want with dress pants or something? Then I accept them, but then I also dispose of them. (...) I play the happy bum for people. (Interview Leo: 412-419)
Even if it is normal to have a certain taste and not want to unconditionally wear all items of clothing, the homeless are not allowed to be picky. Leo has to accept the role expectations of street newspaper sellers. He therefore plays “the happy bum” to his environment by deliberately representing humility, frugality and gratitude to the outside world.
In summary, it can be stated that physical appearance in interactions plays a central role in the field of street newspaper sellers. They have to present themselves as normal and not too normal at the same time, as normality is only granted to stigma-bearers to a limited extent. The shop assistants seem to be dealing with a very specific framework (Goffman 1977). This concept describes the boundaries of meaning on which the interactions are based. Only by knowing the framework can one act appropriately at all. All shop assistants are aware of this framework and know that they have certain expectations to meet. All interviewees also recognize the importance of targeted presentations. Certain signs can quickly be interpreted to their disadvantage and street newspaper vendors are not allowed to behave in certain ways. It is therefore important to control the public's impression.
3.2 Internal differentiation
Among women who sell homeless newspapers, individualistic stigma management strategies outweigh collectivistic strategies. The saleswomen differentiate themselves according to how much the stigma seems to apply. Goffman already points to internal stigma nuances as a common strategy of stigma management, which does not question the prevailing symbolic order, but only the personal position within this dominant symbolic order (Goffman 1967: 15 f.). The stigma is hardly discussed in the “we-form”, but always in an individualized form. This is shown symptomatically in “although-but-formulations”. They admit certain negative attributes, but point out that others have far more negative attributes. Daniel admits that he is one of those shop assistants who are homeless, but unlike other homeless people, he is able to look after himself.
Daniel: Even if I live on the street, let's put it that way, I think about taking care of myself, for example. They don't do that or do it only a little (Interview Daniel: 334–337)
Franzi and Günther also emphasize that although they drink a lot of alcohol, unlike other addicts, they still have control over themselves. They distinguish themselves from those saleswomen who drink during work and talk to people when they are heavily drunk. In contrast to these people, Franzi and Günther always make sure not to drink alcohol at the “Schnorrplatz” and thus strictly separate work and free time.
Franzi: The people know that we don't drink beer and the people know that if we drink, it's not at Schnorrplatz! So they think it's good. So the people who know we'll sit around the corner. But we don't drink that at Schnorrplatz !! (Interview Franziska and Günther: 431–435)
The street newspaper sellers interviewed also often highlight their sales activities as positive. It is important to them to show that they are active and self-sufficient. But they always speak only of themselves and not of the virtues of the whole group of street newspaper sellers.
Jan: It is important to me not to be lazy. Help for self-help is my sentence. (Interview Jan: 428-429)
Because of the importance of sales activities, many saleswomen differentiate themselves from homeless and socially needy people who do not sell newspapers. But here, too, they do not upgrade the group of saleswomen, but rather emphasize their personal performance compared to non-saleswomen. Visiting soup kitchens or train station missions is categorically refused. There is a station mission directly opposite the newspaper issuing point. Despite the spatial proximity, the symbolic distance between these two locations or facilities could hardly be greater. People who sell newspapers do not visit the station mission and visitors to the station mission do not sell newspapers. At the station mission there are actually many who correspond very closely to general clichés about the homeless: ragged clothes, dirty, smelly or sometimes drunk. Many homeless people sleep here with their bagged belongings during the day. There is a strong smell of urine along the S-Bahn arch. At peak times there is a long queue in front of the mission entrance, and the mood is often irritable. Again and again there are minor, tangible disputes. For the shop assistants, the visitors to the station mission represent the “true homeless people”. Aya, for example, emphasizes that she does not go to the station mission, but can buy her own food by selling newspapers. The inside visitors to the station mission, on the other hand, are not in a position to sell newspapers due to their desolate condition.
Aya: I'm not going to eat at the station mission because I sell newspapers, that is, I can buy my own food. Why do I have to give the people who have nothing to eat, because they don't even get a newspaper, because nobody buys a newspaper from them, because they stink of shit and piss ... (Interview Aya & Bernd: 851–857)
Association employees of the street newspaper have often tried to convince the visitors of the station mission to sell newspapers as well. But precisely because of their homelessness, they shy away from appearing in public. Homeless people who do not sell newspapers were not systematically interviewed, but “only” asked about their decision in small, informal discussions. Nevertheless, there seems to be some form of stigma management through self-stigmatization. They accept and internalize negative classifications and confirm them through their shame. These internalizations of negative classifications can be classified using Neckel's concept of social shame (Neckel 1991) and Bourdieu's concept of symbolic violence (Bourdieu 2005: 69 ff.). Socially underprivileged social positions translate into feelings of shame and practices of self-exclusion. In the field of street newspaper sellers, acceptance of their inferiority degrades them to the “real” homeless. This shows that the shop assistants do not break with the prevailing view of things. The stigmatization of the homeless is generally recognized. Social values of activity and independence are as widespread in this field as in the rest of society. Street newspaper vendors only manage their own stigma, not that of their group. Instead of upgrading their in-group, they try to improve their own position within it or to assign themselves to the out-group of the “normal” (Tajfel & Turner 1986: 19).
4 types of stigma management
The group of street newspaper sellers is very heterogeneous. Some are homeless and existentially dependent on selling newspapers. Others get Hartz IV, have their own apartment and occasionally want to earn something by selling them. The social backgrounds and living conditions before homelessness also differ greatly between the saleswomen. There are interviewees who grew up in very precarious and broken family circumstances, but also those who have “normal” educational and professional biographies. Because of these strong social and material inequalities, lifestyles, sales styles, and stigma management strategies vary among saleswomen. These systematic differences are summarized in the following on the basis of three types: stigma reinterpretation, stigma ignorance and stigma distancing.
4.1 Stigma reinterpretation - the construction of normality
Representatives of the type of stigma reinterpretation are those saleswomen with the lowest level of economic and cultural capital among the respondents. They come from a dysfunctional family background and often had experiences with domestic violence or drugs as young people. All saleswomen of this type are homeless, some of them are also addicted to alcohol or drugs at the time of the field research. They are most exposed to stigmatization among those surveyed.
Their stigma management is characterized above all by the fact that they try to reinterpret their living conditions in a positive way. Like all other saleswomen, they try to differentiate themselves from stereotypes about the homeless (see section 3), but their social living conditions are glossed over. For example, Franzi romanticizes her independence in homelessness. They and other relatives of this type never wanted to be homeless, but they have come to terms with their situation. Franzi tells of the fact that she can live her life independently and in freedom on the street.
Franzi: Here I am to myself, here I have my freedom. Here I can do what I want or what I think is right. Do not have to pay attention to anyone and everything and nobody has to pay attention to me and so on ... We pay attention to ourselves and that was it. (Interview Franzi and Günther: 613–617)
Values such as freedom, self-determination and independence are very important. For this reason, public facilities such as soup kitchens or emergency overnight stays are also rejected. There, homeless people are often patronized, and it is more important to the shop assistants to be independent than to be able to use overnight accommodations at least from time to time. They positively reinterpret living conditions that are commonly viewed as deficient. For example, David lives in a self-built tent camp in a forest outside Berlin. He sees this provisional arrangement as his own realm, where no one can dictate or order him.
David: But as I said - for me the most important thing is that I have my warm meal in the evening, that I don't worry about getting wet and that I can close my door or my tent and then that's that. The main thing is that I have my peace and quiet, these are then my own four walls. Nobody can throw me out, nobody can say: "Now go!" (Interview with David: 618–625)
Despite very precarious living conditions, he interprets his tent as his "own four walls". Other values such as calmness, freedom and modesty also compensate for a lack of middle-class belongings. In view of the lack of material resources, representatives of this type reinterpret their life situations and stylize immaterial values. Nina describes her living conditions as difficult, but with the right attitude to life it is still possible to gain something from them.
Nina: (...) that Buddhism says that life means suffering, but it is still about being able to gain something every day. And if I just had to get something out of the shit now, I still got something out of the day. (Interview Nina: 660-666)
These results coincide with other research on the self-image of underprivileged social groups. Bourdieu (1982) describes the tendency of members of the lower class to regard their limited consumption options as self-chosen as “amor fati”, that is, as “love of fate” (ibid .: 285 ff.). Lamont (2000) shows that members of the lower class use moral values to differentiate themselves from more economically privileged classes.
Concrete consumption and leisure behavior can be distinguished from stigma management in the narrower sense by constructing positive self-images. This type is characterized by the fact that there is hardly any free time. The work dominates. Everyday life is strongly structured by one's own economic hardship. The focus is on satisfying immediate needs. You have to make money every day to ensure physical survival. You start almost every day with absolutely no money. The sellers need 60 cents per copy to buy the newspapers, which they can then sell for a price of 1.50 euros. Relatives of this type find it difficult to raise this money at the beginning of the day because they usually do not plan for the next day. You then have to borrow the 60 cents at the beginning of your working day. They work every day for a certain sum that they have spent again by the end of the day. The necessity to have to work constantly dominates the life of this type. Especially people who are drug addicts describe their life as the only great Sisyphus work. For Nina, too, who is addicted to drugs, life consists of a vicious circle of "making money" and taking drugs. In every free minute of her life she sells newspapers to finance her drug addiction.
Nina: But I don't really have a lot of free time. Well now ... but when I have free time, I go around with my boyfriend and we chill out a bit. But ... otherwise life really consists of making money (...) that's how a junkie's life works. Making money for drugs, taking drugs, making money for drugs. (Interview with Nina: 972-980)
Due to their greater material need, relatives of this type also differ from their female colleagues in a specific sales style. They don't really want to sell homeless newspapers, but hope for small donations in money and in kind. The newspaper is used more symbolically. This can usually also be seen in the fact that often only one newspaper is available when selling. When Franzi and Günther's customers ask for the newspaper instead of donating, they politely point out that this is their last newspaper, that they are reluctant to sell it and that they would be very happy to receive a small donation.
In the interviews, all saleswomen were asked how many newspapers they sell per day. Members of this type have mostly pointed out that this question is irrelevant. Olaf drew attention to the fact that the number of newspapers sold was not important, since the main thing was to generate money and donations in kind. Olaf usually just tucked the newspaper under his arm while he asks passers-by for a small amount of money.
Interviewer: How many newspapers do you actually sell a day? So what if you work eight hours or so?
Olaf: But I don't sell them at all, I always have them with me. Sometimes I don't even use the newspaper, I ask for 20 or 30 cents straight away. Because I have it ... I also hold it in my hand. (Interview with Olaf: 856-859)
The newspapers are nevertheless of enormous importance for the saleswomen. They are supported and shown because they are able to legitimize their public appearances. Many emphasize that it is easier for them to ask for donations without being left completely empty-handed. The street newspaper is carried in order to create the illusion of being able to offer something. Compared to their fellow campaigners, they earn the least and are satisfied with very small amounts.
4.2 Stigma ignorance - stylization of one's own normality
The representatives of this type stand in stark contrast to the type of reinterpretation. While the latter come from comparatively dysfunctional social conditions, members of the stigma ignorance type mostly have a relatively normal educational and employment biography behind them. In the field of street newspaper sellers, they are endowed with the greatest cultural and economic capital. They have a school leaving certificate, vocational training, have been employed for many years and have led a "normal" life before they were thrown off course by drastic experiences such as illness or unemployment and experienced homelessness. These experiences often go back many years, and now all representatives of this type have their own apartment again and move into Hartz IV. They describe selling the street newspapers not as a material necessity, but as additional income.
While members of the type of stigma reinterpretation positively reassess their precarious social living conditions, the type of stigma ignorance shows itself to be unaffected by potential stigmatizations. The representatives of this type perceive stigmata in their colleagues, but do not feel affected by them themselves. The shop assistants are mostly very relaxed, cool and relaxed in interviews. They are so far removed from the stigma of homelessness that they see no need to deal with the stigma at all. This can be seen in Martin, who refuses to accept the question of negative experiences as a relevant question for him. He is not confronted with a certain stigma at all and the stigma of homelessness is not even discussed by his customers.
Interviewer: Does it bother you to face prejudice against the homeless?
Martin: Nope, I don't feel confronted with that.
Martin: I don't really care about it. (...) Homelessness is actually not addressed that much by customers. (Interview Martin: 279–293)
The representatives of this type are consciously cool. Emotional stories about past experiences of homelessness or about everyday life as a street newspaper seller can never be heard from them. Your stigma management consists of being ostentatiously calm and unaffected by the stigma. Richard tries not to distance himself from the stigma of homelessness with all his might, but with looseness, self-confidence and coolness. If he has negative experiences while selling, he remains calm and takes it with humor.
Richard: Years ago someone said to me: "Shut up!" When I was with him, I said: “Sorry, my name is not Maul!” (Laughs). (Interview Richard: 405-407)
In addition, Richard often begins his sales activity with the slogan: “So, let's make a little noise again!” With this, too, he ironically distances himself from the cliché of the annoying and yelling street newspaper seller. He makes it clear that he needn't take the stigma about himself seriously.
They are by far the most successful in selling the newspapers. You sell with great ease, humor and eloquence. They feel superior to their fellow campaigners in this matter and paternalistically view them as competition that should not be taken seriously. Richard also only considers sales women who are “on a par with him” to be competitors.
Richard: I call competition people who are at least on a par with me, right? Those who want to sell their product, have mastered the forms of politeness, that is all that goes with it. The other thing for me is just fellow campaigners who can do what they want. (Interview Richard: 169-174)
Her well-groomed, relaxed and eloquent demeanor signals a great distance from the stigma of homelessness. This shows that neediness is not the decisive criterion for the majority of passers-by to buy newspapers from saleswomen. Emil also has an explanation for this phenomenon: For the customers, it's not about who needs the money most urgently, but rather who promises to deal with it most sensibly. As already described, the stigma of homelessness also consists in the assumption of pathological consumption patterns. Signaling a responsible lifestyle is of great importance for saleswomen of street newspapers and the representatives of the type of stigma ignorance succeed particularly well.
Emil: Don't feed a horse that you can't ride. The saying goes about that. So the people who are really very, very, very extremely low down (...) have greater difficulties in getting money together because you then look at them, alcohol or drugs, you don't even ask yourself why they are so far ... so they don't do anything good with the money. With me with my demeanor, with my appearance, where I always stand out a little, not to look too good either! But always like this: “Man, you don't look homeless at all!” Yes? (Interview Emil: 1153–1166)
Since no one spends money frivolously, it is important that donor recipients present themselves as a good investment. Representatives of the type of stigma ignorance are most likely to be trusted to be able to handle money responsibly.
The consumption and leisure behavior of representatives of stigma ignorance also differ diametrically from the type of stigma revaluation. While they have to strive for their material reproduction all day long, members of the stigma ignorance type emphasize that they pursue normal hobbies in their free time and go to cinemas, concerts and restaurants, meet friends and now and then also small ones Go on vacation within Germany. They use the money they make from selling street newspapers to be able to afford these little conveniences. For Timo, life consists of more than just survival, and it is important to him to be able to treat himself to something.
Timo: Because for me life is not just about eating and drinking and sleeping, but also from the cinema and also inviting a friend to go out to eat or go to the cinema and that is a lot of money for the ALG II recipient. And that's what I deserve. (Interview Timo: 27–32)
Another big difference to the type of stigma reinterpretation is the sales style. While representatives of the type of stigma reinterpretation use newspapers as symbols, for the type of stigma ignorance they represent economic goods. They want their sales activities to be understood as economic work or as a service. The sales process is expressed in economic terms, while the symbolic use of the newspaper as a form of begging is strongly rejected.
Paul: In my opinion, 80 percent of the time the newspaper is used to beg. And you will already notice that when most of those who offer a newspaper soon say 'or a small donation'. The basic idea behind this newspaper was actually that they should do something and get something in return, in the form of money. (...) Their main business is begging, not the newspaper. (Interview with Paul: 73-92)
If representatives of the type of stigma ignorance receive donations from passers-by, these are mostly rejected. Sometimes the donations are accepted, but the donors are handed a newspaper without being asked. While the type of stigma conversion by the street newspaper wants to create the illusion of being able to offer something, the type of stigma ignorance wants to create the illusion that it is a normal transaction. This is how Paul describes how he doesn't want to get money for social reasons, but that his work is rewarded with it.
Paul: I don't want the feeling that the customer comes to me for social reasons. And if someone doesn't want the newspaper, I'll give it anyway. I need this for myself as a sense of self. He says I don't want her, but you get money. So I say, 'No, I'm not doing this. This is my contribution. And that is also rewarded. (Interview with Paul: 405-413)
While the type of stigma reinterpretation when selling the newspaper talks about their own economic situation, those belonging to stigma ignorance only talk about the newspaper. They set themselves apart from saleswomen who emphasize their own material situation when selling.
Timo: I'm not very drunk in the railways, don't complain that I have a sick grandma and a broken leg, because that is completely variable and interchangeable. People don't want to hear that either. I introduce the newspaper (Interview Timo 72-76)
Not least because of the fact that they sell newspapers free of existential needs, their style of selling is more legitimate than that of the other saleswomen. They exude great ease and also have manners such as unobtrusiveness, polite distance and charm, which is not part of the habitus of the other shop assistants. You have that certain something. They don't ask for money directly, but can put on impressive performances. They tell eloquently about the articles in the newspaper, recite poems, make jokes and respond individually to passers-by.
Paul: Of course, but I do it differently. I have a whole program like a solo entertainer and offering the newspaper comes at the very end. For example, with you with the beard I would have a saying on it, or with one like that, with the other like that. I adjust to the person I am currently seeing. And then I make a saying or a nice poem, then I usually have a lot of laughter with me, there is a lot of laughter (Interview Paul: 393-401)
The stigma ignorance type has relatively privileged instruments of stigma management.His economic capital allows him to relax and to distance himself from existential needs. He can utilize his cultural capital in the form of eloquence and charisma in the field of street newspapers.
4.3 Stigma distancing - just wanting to be normal
The practices of this type range between the two poles of stigma reevaluation and stigma ignorance. First of all, this affects their social background: Members of this type come from very simple backgrounds, but not from such broken family relationships as members of the stigma revaluation type. At the same time, however, they were never as strongly integrated into society as representatives of the type of stigma ignorance. At the time of the interviews, they were not homeless, but they did not have their own apartment either, but mostly lived in emergency shelters or dormitories for the homeless.
Their stigma management is characterized by the fact that they try to distance themselves from the stigma of homelessness through an active pursuit of normalcy. There is a demarcation from the stigma of homelessness for all saleswomen (see Chapter 3). But only with this type does the radical and ardent distancing from the stigma of homelessness become a central life task. They show more claims to normality than the type of stigma reinterpretation, but they cannot stylize themselves as lightly as normal as the type of stigma ignorance. They have to fight for their normalcy and show that they are active and trying to adapt. They are tirelessly looking for apartments and jobs, are careful with their money and even try to save part of the profits they have made for the future.
Stefan: I bring X every day Euros in the savings account, X Euros of that go to my son, which I then give away once a month. That's X euros per month that I give away, and then I still have X euros every day that I keep if something comes up that I need. So that I also have a reserve. Just because I'm on the street can I still save. (Interview with Stefan: 73-81)
While the type of stigma reinterpretation only works until the money has been earned that is needed for physical reproduction, and the type of stigma ignorance only sporadically works for a small additional income, the type of stigma distancing sells newspapers very regularly. He emphasizes that he has a strictly organized daily routine. Stephan works at the same times every day and makes sure to go to bed early so that he can start work the next day well rested.
Stefan: I don't live into the day. I go to work every day. First seven hours in a row. Then I take a break for lunch and then I go back to work for two or three hours. After that, it's off. Then free time is the order of the day. (...) So ... and after that you go to bed early because you have to get up at 6:00 am tomorrow. Then you see that you can sleep early in the evening so that you are fit. (Interview Stefan: 90-100)
They are not as successful in selling newspapers as the stigma ignorance type. While the latter describes selling very confidently as a simple matter, advocates of stigma distancing emphasize the need to work a lot and hard in order to earn enough money.
Many relatives of this type were previously addicted to drugs. They now distance themselves very much from drugs, separate from former friends or voluntarily take medical care. For example, Aya tried to gradually wean herself off her addiction by participating in a methadone program.
Aya: Before I put myself at risk of relapsing again, I went to the doctor and got a prescription for methadone. So done. (Interview Aya & Bernd: 550–553)
Types of stigma management
Homeless (no Hartz IV)
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