A Graphic Essay Collaboration with Charlotte Bailey: From Stigma Power to Black Power

file-8 (2)Please note copyright ©Charlotte Bailey images & @ImogenTyler words. Please do not reproduce any images from this page without proper citation: Charlotte Bailey & Imogen Tyler, 2018 “From Stigma Power to Black Power” Graphic Essay.

One of the outcomes of my research project on stigma is a collaboration with the graphic artist Charlotte Bailey . Together we have been transforming my article on Goffman – a paper which puts Goffman’s stigma concept into critical dialogue with Black Sociological and Political thought (mainly but not only from the US) .

Charlotte has been interpreting my essay visually through her ink drawings- and I have been working on the words, and “the story” the essay tells. The final version of our graphic essay will be available to download for free (but please make sure to credit the artist and writer when distributing!). It will also be available to buy in a limited edition paper copy (when we have worked out the best way to publish it).

One of things which has guided our collaboration is a concern with making rich historical lines of Black critical thought about stigma visible. The original essay attempts to do this through its citational politics –  a very long list of references is intended both as a resource for others, and to make a statement about how Black thinking continues to be ignored and marginalised. Indeed, one of the main arguments I make is that despite the sophisticated understanding of racial stigma developed over a hundred years of black sociological thought, the conceptualisation of stigma in sociology has largely been ‘structured by the absence of an address’ to this tradition (Bhambra, 2014, p. 12).* This is why in seeking to historically resituate Goffman’s original account, I drew on such a long and wide range of interlocutors working in a Black critical, political and sociological tradition, including: Mario Biondi, James Boggs, Stokley Carmichael, Patricia Hill Collins, Angela Davis, Kimberley Dotson, W.E.B. Du Bois, Roderick Ferguson, Frantz Fanon, the Greensboro Four, Paul Gilroy, Lewis Gordon, Charles Hamilton, Harry Haywood, Robin Kelley, Joyce Lamont, Manning Marable, Zine Magubane, Anne Moody, Cedric Robinson, Hortense Spillers, Cornell West, Patricia Williams and Gary Younge. One of the many things which has been wonderful things about working with Charlotte is how she has animated these Black thinkers through her ink drawings. 

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The account of racism as stigma which emerges through this Black genealogy of stigma-thinking challenges the individualism of psychological approaches to social problems, exposes the limits of “white normative perspectives”, and troubles “race neutral” forms of interactional analysis. What this graphic essay also seeks to highlight are existing rich historical, political and economic conceptualisations of stigma as technologies of dehumanisation, stigma as forms of power which have been collectively resisted from below.


For example, of central importance to Black freedom struggles was (and continues to be) Carmichael and Hamilton’s anti-stigma concept of ‘Black Power’ which reconfigured racial stigma into ‘a revolutionary emotion’:


We hope this graphic essay will help bring racism and anti-racist scholarship and (activism) to the front and centre of sociological understandings of stigma.

*(I am glad to report that more recent scholarship suggests a new sociological interest in the relationship between racism, stigma and power: see Loury, 2003; Howarth, 2006; Matory, 2015; Lamont et. al., 2016).


Please note copyright ©Charlotte Bailey images & @ImogenTyler words. Please do not reproduce any images from this page without proper citation: Charlotte Bailey & Imogen Tyler, 2018 “From Stigma Power to Black Power” Graphic Essay.

Deportation Nation

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At the end of this post is an abstract for an article I am currently finishing called ‘Deportation Nation’. I first developed this paper as a talk at BritCult: The German Association for the Study of British Culture, Dortmund, 2017. This paper develops my longstanding research on deportation, immigration detention and the scapegoating of migrants in public culture, but focuses on Theresa’s May tenure as Home Secretary (and subsequently Prime-Minister), and considers how the institution of ‘Hostile Environment’ policies characterise “Mayism”. I have been documenting May’s tenure as Home Secretary since 2010, and this paper and article presented an first opportunity to draw on some of the materials I have been collating — and particularly to begin to map out the ways in which newspaper journalists and television news companies collaborated with the Home Office in propaganda campaigns ostensibly designed to encourage ‘voluntary departures’ of non-citizens from Britain. As Stuart Hall puts it, “What is significant for the present moment is how this … demonstrates the crafting of collective consent to increased state repression, which appears to be spontaneous, through various cultural and ideological channels’.

In The Deportation Machine (2005), Liz Fekete examines earlier collaborations between the British Government and news organisations in the production of border enforcement propaganda. As Feteke details, it was under Tony Blair’s New Labour Government (1997-2007) that the British state began to deport unwanted migrants on any significant scale: in 1999 about 9,000 deportations took place, by 2010 this had risen to 70,000. In the same period, the Government first set itself numerical targets for the removal of “failed asylum seekers” and “immigration offenders” (Weber & Bowling 2008: 361). In 2001, the Home Office began to charter commercial planes to undertake mass deportations of failed asylum seekers, a practice which over the course of the following decade was extended to other categories of unwanted migrants, and is now commonplace (Miller 2018). The use of charter flights enabled the Home Office to remove “from the public gaze the spectacle of bound and struggling men and women” on commercial flights (Weber & Bowling 2008: 361). This was a strategic decision for, as Antje Ellermann has argued, when confronted with “the human face of deportation” the public “often become far more sensitive to the claims of those the state is attempting to expel” (2006: 296). However, the Home Office also recognised that these ‘shadow flights’ might act as a deterrent to future refugees. In 2004, they contracted an Associated Press Television News team to “video the forced deportation of approximately two dozen Afghans from Gatwick airport so that the film could subsequently be broadcast in Afghanistan as part of a programme warning” those considering coming to Britain that they could face a similar fate (Fekete 2005: 20).

In Go Home? The Politics of Immigration Controversies (2017) Hannah Jones, Yasmin Gunarathnam, Gargi Bhattacharyya, William Davies, Sucwant Dahaliwl, Kirsteen Forket, Emma Jackson and Roiyah Saltus further mapped the genealogy of this deportation propaganda machine. As they detail, in 2006 Tony Blair appointed a new ‘hard-line’ Home Secretary, John Reid (2006-2007), in response to a series of scandals around perceived failures to deport foreign criminals and control levels of ‘illegal migration’. Reid immediately launched a new communications strategy designed to demonstrate “a visibly tough approach to controlling borders and movement” (Jones et al. 2017: 13). This included “getting more images of immigration raids into the media” by “inviting journalists along to witness raids” in order to garner “media attention to the physical ‘toughness’ of the border” (ibid.). Whilst this deportation publicity ostensibly targeted “immigration offenders”, it now also had “an audience of the law-abiding and taxpaying public in mind” (ibid.). This shift in audience was made explicit in 2008, when the Home Office funded an independent television production company to develop a reality television programme called UK Border Force (Steadfast/Sky, 2008-2009). This programme was advertised as “a revealing new documentary series which takes you behind the scenes at Heathrow Terminal 3, Calais, Dover and out and about with diligent enforcement teams – all cracking down on illegal immigrants” (Burnett 2009). UK Border Force established a set of aesthetic and dramatic conventions for border enforcement which remained in evidence in ITN’s production of ‘immigration raid action sequences’ in Slough in 2014 – (which I explore in my article). Indeed, by the time of David Cameron’s televised appearance alongside an immigration ‘snatch squad’, the British public were primed in a televisual aesthetic of enforcement in which border officials appear as patriotic citizen-soldiers on the front-line of ‘the immigration invasion’. In 2010,  when Theresa May was appointed Home Secretary, the now established political use of deportation “to send a signal – to a nation-state’s citizens as well as its ‘outsiders'” significantly intensified (De Genova & Peutz 2010: 28).

This paper was also an opportunity to engage with Nicholas De Genova’s important theoretical work on ‘deportability”, and to consider the ways in which regimes of deportability — and the tentacle-like spread of internal borders within the state this entails — are increasingly entangled with forms of disposability. Policies which make increasing numbers of people ‘deportable’ through, for example, increasing governmental checks on legibility to work, study or live in Britain; and policies which make other unwanted people ‘disposable’, for example state-led practices of gentrification which expel social housing tenants from affluent cities, are underpinned by the same governmental logic. By emphasising the dual axis of deportability and disposability this paper begins to address the intertwined classed and racist character of authoritarian neoliberal state forms. I don’t develop this dual axis of deportability and disposability much further in this paper (but will do in my forthcoming book Stigma Machines).

It is the contention of my current research that we need to develop conceptual tools that enable intersectional analysis of the underlying logic of late neoliberal forms of state power. In particular, this requires an understanding of class and racism as structures of power which function in concert. For example, as Robin Kelley argues, in his account of the historical development of ‘racial capitalism’, it is precisely “the capacity of capital in the state to capture the white working class and tie its identity to race– that is to whiteness and masculinity” which enables neoliberal capitalism to reproduce itself—even at the moment of its own generated crisis. The media and political spectacle of deportation I examine in this paper is designed precisely to engender the forms of ‘capture’ and ‘division’ which Kelley describes.


dawn raid

‘Deportation Nation’ begins with the highly-publicised appearance of the British Prime Minister, David Cameron, and his (then) Home Secretary Theresa May, at the scene of an immigration raid in Slough in 2014. Since the 1990s, deportation has been “routinely capitalized on in governmental rhetoric” as a means of demonstrating effective control over borders and immigration (Tyler 2013: 71). As Nicholas De Genova and Nathalie Peutz argue, “deportation is not only a technique by which governments exert their sovereign power over bodies, space, and ‘the nation’; it has become a mechanism by which governments measure and signal their own effectiveness” (2010: 5). However, while the symbolism of deportation is increasingly invoked as a threat in political rhetoric, the actual practices of deportation, including dawn raids on homes and properties, arrests, detentions and the physical removal of people from British territory, are distressing and sometimes violent procedures. Indeed, these are kinds of activities which senior politicians would ordinarily seek to visually distance themselves from. Given this, the high-profile, if carefully curated, appearance of the British Prime Minister and his Home Secretary at an immigration raid is unusual. Indeed, stepping back from the scene at Slough, there is something extraordinary about the media spectacle of Britain’s most senior politicians at the scene of a deportation. Using events in Slough as a point of entry, this article examines a British Government initiative designed to create what May described in a speech to Parliament in 2012 as “a really hostile environment for illegal migrants in Britain”. It considers the subsequent implementation of this hostile environment and the intensification of deportation as a technology of government which it involved. It also examines how this politics of deportability came to characterise the 2015 Brexit campaign and the racist violence which followed in its wake. It argues that the “production of deportability” has been a defining feature of Theresa May’s tenure as Home Secretary (2010-2016) and Prime-Minister (2016-current) (De Genova & Peutz 2010: 17). It concludes by considering migrant deportability, and associated forms of citizen disposability, as central components of late neoliberal forms of state power. It is the argument of this article that thinking with and through deportation (and crucially resistance to this) can further our understanding of the relationship between the increasing precarity of migrant lives and the current intensification of ‘legalised expulsions’ “at home” (Walters, 2002).

The hieroglyphics of the border: racial stigma in neoliberal Europe


The abstract and introduction below, is taken from a recent article ‘The hieroglyphics of the border: racial stigma in neoliberal Europe” from my ongoing stigma research project. It was included in a special issue of the journal Ethnic and Racial Studies on ‘Race and Crisis” (Edited by Suman Gupta & Satnam Virdee). You can access the full article and special issue online here, if you don’t have access please email me for a PDF).

Developing out of the larger research project on the political economy of stigma, this article fosters the conceptual framework of ‘racial stigma’ to capture some of the myriad practices that characterize racist responses to refugee arrivals in Europe. It is concerned with thinking how territorial borders are (re)made through racism. That is, how the bodies of refugees and migrants are racialised, and how these racialised bodies are used to mark out, to stake out, the borders of the nation.

Historical figures of race and latent forms of ‘race thinking’ haunt Europe. Indeed, racism is always already historical, drawing its ‘narrative energies’ from existing grids of associations, from “semantic and iconic folds” that are deeply etched in the collective memories of people and places (Spillers 2003 210). To capture some of these historical resonances and repetitions, this article employs genealogical methods, an approach that is concerned not with comparison but rather with ‘tracing lines of descent’ (Walters 2012, 116) in order to better understand the technologies of dispossession at the border. Drawing on Stuart Hall’s claim that race is a badge and Hortense Spillers’ account of racism as a “hieroglyphics of the flesh”, this penal genealogy provides a lens through which to understand racism as a set of penal practices of classification (Hall 1997, Spillers 2003).

The central argument of this article is that racism is a primary technology of statecraft in contemporary Europe. Whether performed with razor wire or crafted through words, borders are “racial assemblages” through which humanity is classified and disciplined into “humans, non-quite-humans, and nonhumans” (Weheliye 2014, 8). Racism is not only an accessory of border control; rather, in a more fundamental and material sense, racism makes borders.


I am profoundly convinced that we are facing an organized invasion and not a spontaneous movement of refugees (Milos Zeman, President of Czech Republic, December 2015).

During 2015 an unprecedented 1.3 million people applied for asylum in the twenty-eight member states of the European Union, Norway and Switzerland. This was ‘nearly double the previous high-water mark of approximately 700,000 [asylum] applications in 1992, after the fall of the Iron Curtain and the collapse of the Soviet Union’ (Connor, 2016).  Those seeking protection in Europe were largely seeking refugee from wars, conflicts and political oppression in Syria (over 50 per cent), Iraq, Afghanistan and Eritrea.  Some arrived via Balkan land routes, but these borders were soon blocked and the vast majority made treacherous Mediterranean Sea-crossings. An estimated 3771 people drowned in the Mediterranean in 2015 alone, evidence of the life and death stakes faced by those undertaking this journey. In the summer of 2015, newspapers and news websites across the world were filled with photographs of drowned children and people desperately paddling towards shore on overloaded dinghies. In response to the growing humanitarian crisis in the Mediterranean, the German Office for Migration and Refugees announced on the social media site Twitter on August 25th 2015: ‘We are at present largely no longer enforcing #Dublin procedures for Syrian citizens.’ What this meant for Syrian refugees on the ground was that if they could navigate a route to Germany, they would be guaranteed at least temporary leave to remain. The announcement triggered what one journalist described as ‘a million-man march through Europe’, as hundreds of thousands of people caught in dire conditions at camps and transit zones across Europe’s Southern borders made their way north by foot, car, bus and train (Foster, 2016). It was amidst this intensifying human and political drama that shortly after midnight on September 1st 2015, two trains drew to a halt in Břeclav, a town in the Czech Republic, close to the border with Austria and Slovakia.

Thinking with this scene, the article develops the conceptual framework of “racial stigma” to capture some of the multiple practices that characterize border regimes in contemporary Europe. The second part of the article considers the ways in which responses to the inking of refugees at Břeclav gave rise to epidemics of racial stigma in a range of local and international contexts. The aim of this section is to illustrate how racial stigma is crafted and communicated within different media and across multiple sites. The article then examines a more concrete scene of humiliation, the abject conditions endured by refugees in Czech immigration detention centres. The aim here is to consider how racial stigmatization of refugees enables and legitimates further practices of dehumanization and degradation. The article concludes with some reflections on racism as a form of haunting (Gordon 1997). It considers how Europe’s current racist crisis reanimates both the historical spectres of race and the spectral geographies of racism. The afterword invites the reader to confront these ghosts by returning once more to Břeclav train station.


Břeclav Railway Station, Břeclav, South Moravia, Czech Republic, September 1st 2015

czech police

At Midnight on the September 1st 2015, a squad of Czech Alien Police boarded two trains in Břeclav and forcibly removed two hundred and fourteen people, one hundred and fifteen men, thirty-eight women and sixty-one children. The first train had arrived from Vienna shortly before midnight, the second shortly after midnight from Budapest, and both were bound for Germany. Czech government officials described the passengers it removed from these two trains as ‘214 illegal migrants’. The vast majority were refugees from Syria, one hundred and ninety-six of them Syrian nationals. Many of them had survived treacherous sea-crossings from Turkey to Greek islands and were just hours away from their German destination when the trains came to a halt and were boarded by police, who moved through carriages checking people’s documents. All of those without an EU passport or a travel visa that allowed them to be on Czech territory were removed. The state-owned Czech Railways revealed they were working closely with the Czech Alien Police to ‘share information on the movements of migrants’ and to ensure the ‘hygiene’ and safety of trains and railway stations; this was why ‘police were waiting for the trains […] They were prepared for the migrants. Buses for their transport parked outside the station and dozens of policemen were patrolling there’ (Czech News Agency, 2015). After escorting people from the trains, some in handcuffs, the police assembled people on the platforms and proceeded to use indelible pens to ink numbers on their arms and wrists. Kateřina Rendlová, a spokeswoman for the Czech Alien Police stated that the inking of refugees was a means of keeping a record of family members, adding, “We also write the code of the train they have arrived on so that we know which country we should return them to within the readmission system” adding “we used to put the numbers on a piece of paper but they kept throwing them away” (Flemr 2015). The refugees were then packed onto buses destined for temporary camps in local school gymnasiums in south Moravia, where officials said they would be processed, before being transferred to remote rural detention centres.


Rethinking the Sociology of Stigma: Stigma is not a self-evident phenomenon but like all concepts has a history.

This abstract below is taken from the introduction (written by myself and Tom Slater) to a special issue Monograph of the Sociological Review on The Sociology of Stigma. The full introduction, and full issue is online here and can be purchased in hardcopy here for £10. [If you would like a PDF of this introduction but cannot access please contact me].

the sociology of stigma cover

Stigma is not a self-evident phenomenon but like all concepts has a history. The conceptual understanding of stigma which underpins most sociological research has its roots in the ground-breaking account penned by Erving Goffman in his best-selling book Stigma: Notes on the Management of Spoiled Identity (1963). In the 50 years since its publication, Goffman’s account of stigma has proved a productive concept, in terms of furthering research on social stigma and its effects, on widening public understandings of stigma, and in the development of anti-stigma campaigns. However, this introductory article argues that the conceptual understanding of stigma inherited from Goffman, along with the use of micro-sociological and/or psychological research methods in stigma research, often side-lines questions about where stigma is produced, by whom and for what purposes. As Simon Parker and Robert Aggleton argue, what is frequently missing is social and political questions, such as ‘how stigma is used by individuals, communities and the state to produce and reproduce social inequality’. This article expands on Parker and Aggleton’s critique of the limitations of existing conceptual understandings of stigma, through an examination of the anti-stigma campaign Heads Together. This high-profile campaign launched in 2016 seeks to ‘end the stigma around mental health’ and is fronted by members of the British Royal Family. By thinking critically with and about this campaign, this article seeks to both delineate the limitations of existing conceptual understandings of stigma and to begin to develop a supplementary account of how stigma functions as a form of power. We argue that in order to grasp the role and function of stigma in society, scholarship must develop a richer and fuller understanding of stigma as a cultural and political economy. The final part of this introduction details the articles to follow, and the contribution they collectively make to the project of rethinking the sociology of stigma. This collection has been specifically motivated by: (1) how reconceptualising stigma might assist in developing better understandings of pressing contemporary problems of social decomposition, inequality and injustice; (2) a concern to decolonise the discipline of sociology by interrogating its major theorists and concepts; and (3) a desire to put class struggle and racism at the centre of understandings of stigma as a classificatory form of power.

Resituating Erving Goffman: From Stigma Power to Black Power

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Drawing by Charlotte Bailey (from a forthcoming Graphic Essay based on this article). Please do not reproduce this images without proper citation: Charlotte Bailey & Imogen Tyler, 2018 “From Stigma Power to Black Power” Graphic Essay.

In “Resituating Erving Goffman: From Stigma Power to Black Power”, a recent article published from my ongoing Stigma research project (link to full article here but please contact me for a PDF if you can’t access it), I offer a critical re-reading of the understanding of stigma forged by the North American sociologist Erving Goffman in his influential Stigma: Notes on the Management of Spoiled Identity (1963). One of the most widely read and cited sociologists in history, Goffman was already famous when Stigmawas published in 1963. His previous books were best-sellers and Stigma alone has sold an astonishing 800,000 copies in the 50 years since its publication. Given its considerable influence, it is surprising how little sustained engagement there has been with the historicity of Goffman’s account. This article resituates Goffman’s conceptualisation of stigma within the historical context of Jim Crow and the Black freedom struggles that were shaking ‘the social interaction order’ to its foundations at the very moment he crafted his account. It is the contention of this article that these explosive political movements against the ‘humiliations of racial discrimination’ invite revision of Goffman’s decidedly apolitical account of stigma. This historical revision of Goffman’s stigma concept builds on an existing body of critical work on the relationship between race, segregation and the epistemology of sociology within the USA. Throughout, it reads Goffman’s Stigma through the lens of ‘Black Sociology’, a field of knowledge that here designates not only formal sociological scholarship, but political manifestos, journalism, creative writing, oral histories and memoirs. It is the argument of this article that placing Goffman’s concept of stigma into critical dialogue with Black epistemologies of stigma allows for a timely reconceptualisation of stigma as governmental technologies of dehumanisation that have long been collectively resisted from below.


from stigma power to black power