Three Studies on Stigmatization: The Emergence, Maintenance, and Removal of Stigma

  • Author / Creator
    Wang, Shaoqing
  • The stigma literature is burgeoning in the field of management and organization studies. While much of the existing work has sought to unpack the sources and characteristics of stigma or the varied counter-responses by which individual organizations manage their stigma, stigma scholars only recently started to explore broader processes of stigmatization—the social process by which stigma emerges, is maintained, or is removed. In this thesis, I will present three empirical studies that investigate the emergence, maintenance, and removal of stigmatization, respectively, and then discuss their contributions to the stigma literature and their implications for the literatures on professions and institutional theory.
    The first study examines the process by which stigma emerges and attaches to a profession. Through a longitudinal case study, I explore how continuous professional misconduct led to the stigmatization of the prestigious medical profession in China, stimulating a remarkable amount of violence against physicians. The study highlights the dynamics between different stakeholders. In particular, primary and secondary stakeholders had divergent responses to the strategy used by the regulator to stem professional wrongdoing, which unintendedly propelled further movement towards stigmatization and especially harsh punishments by primary stakeholders. In a process model, I specify the distinctive momentum and the particular mechanisms that move a profession towards stigmatization.
    The second study unpacks the mystery of stigma maintenance by exploring how stigmatized practices become and remain rationalized in a profession. Through a two-phase qualitative study, I investigate three interrelated questions: how individual professionals rationalize bribery in their practice of medicine; how professional organizations respond when the regulator heightens the stigmatization of bribery; and why the corrective actions adopted by professional organizations fail to stem the rationalization of bribery among individual professionals. This study highlights the role of status and ownership in shaping organizational strategies to impede the rationalization of stigmatized practices and the distinctive mechanisms that maintain the rationalization even though the stigmatization of such practices persists.
    The third study investigates the process by which categorical stigma becomes removed. To explore this question, I study the destigmatization of private business as a category in China. Given the initial intensity of stigma and the enduring efforts of the Chinese state, this is an extreme case that offers an unusual opportunity to uncover the variety of strategic repertoires that may be available to state actors. This study highlights the dynamic relationship between the regulator and category members. Specifically, the regulator adopted five distinct strategies at different stages of destigmatization based on how both category incumbents and new entrants responded to its previous strategies, and category members became more proactive as the state widened the entrepreneurial space for them.
    My primary contribution is a comprehensive analysis and theorization of the stigmatization processes. Through three complementary empirical studies, I zoom in on three distinct processes of stigmatization. In particular, I emphasize that such processes are shaped by the interactive relationships between the stigmatized and its various stakeholders, ranging from the regulator and the media to customers and employers. Not only may different stakeholders respond to stigma management strategies differently, their reactions may also affect the processes of stigmatization. Moreover, all three studies highlight that stigmatization can be a cross-level process such that the reactions and interaction at one level may affect the dynamics at a different level.
    Furthermore, my thesis also has important implications for the literatures on professions and institutional theory. Given that professions typically enjoy high social regard, relatively little is known about their stigmatization. The first two empirical studies fill this lacuna by investigating how stigma attaches to and becomes rationalized within a profession. In particular, I show how professional characteristics may escalate the emergence of stigma and shape the ways by which professionals justify stigmatized practices. More broadly, stigmatization can be seen as a distinct type of institutional change. All three studies are set in the context of a market transition, during which the market logic encroached upon other societal institutions. In the third study, the destigmatization of private business was initiated by the government as a program of institutional transformation, which in turn contributed to a vibrant category of private entrepreneurship. In sum, the stigmatization processes may shape or be shaped by broader institutional changes.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    Fall 2021
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Doctor of Philosophy
  • DOI
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.