Reflecting on the Margins: Socio-spatial Stigmatisation among Adolescents in a Peripheralised Region
AbstractBased on the project “Discourse and practices in shrinking regions”, we analyse the subjective relevance of derogative discourses using the example of the district of Altenburger Land (Germany). The article combines three aspects: First, it focuses on how young people’s representations of practices of social differentiation are informed by regionalised discourses about and conditions of shrinkage. Second, it identifies two rhetoric strategies by which young people distance themselves from perceived deviance. Finally, it asks how perceptions and rhetoric strategies are connected to desires to out-migrate. We assume that stigmatisation is a powerful means of producing and circulating socio-spatial differentiation, especially under conditions of socio-economic crisis and deprivation. Our principal hypothesis is that socio-spatial stigmatisation is effective (and destructive) in terms of how people perceive themselves within their home region, in relation to other inhabitants and regarding their prospective future plans. In order to address this aspect methodologically, we compose an epistemological framework to grasp how socio-spatial stigmatisation is articulated and circulates in the light of specific socio-economic conditions. Here, we conceptually draw from social psychology and social geography. Our empirical findings, which stem from a series of focus groups, show that – while sharing some widely spread notions about the Altenburger Land – our respondents make use of two rhetoric strategies: They deflect derogative stigmas by, firstly, further specifying these groups in order to distinguish themselves from the stigmatised groups, and, secondly, by localising deviant behaviour within almost uncontested socio-spatial boundaries. Additionally, they construct causal connections between these aspects in order to re-affirm the validity of such stigmas.
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