Passing Stigma: Negotiations of Welfare Categories as Street Level Governmentality

Tom Boland, Kenny Doyle, Ray Griffin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


Stigma is not the automatic outcome of power differentials, but a distinctive moral inscription generated through cultural evaluations and governmental processes. Research on welfare recipients records how the unemployed displace stigma onto other welfare recipients, positioning other(ed) claimants as the 'real unemployed' or 'scroungers'. Theoretically we adapt Butler's analysis of the psychic processes whereby subjects are formed by disavowal of discourses which abjectify them. Arguably, this is functional for the governmentalising processes of generating jobseeking, with a latent function of reinforcing activation policies. Drawing on qualitative interviews, we trace how Irish individuals negotiate the stigma attributed to or foisted upon Welfare claimants, in welfare offices and informal social interactions and in job interviews - how they attempt to 'pass' as good JobSeekers and pass stigma on to others. Curiously, many welfare claimants suggest governmental interventions for distinguishing and discriminating between the deserving and undeserving adopting the stigmatising perspective.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)657-667
Number of pages11
JournalSocial Policy and Society
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 08 Apr 2022


  • governmentality
  • passing
  • Stigma
  • street level
  • welfare claimants


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