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Shared fate and social comparison: Identity work in the context of a stigmatized occupation

  • Mark van Vuuren (a1), Jacqueline Teurlings (a2) and Ernst T Bohlmeijer (a3)



People working in mines face the challenge to construct a positive self-image as society views their occupation as dirty and dangerous. The question was how these dirty workers used different normalizing strategies when specific contexts made a range of categories salient.


We used data from 32 semi-structured interviews with employees of South African gold mines, in which the participants told about the ways they dealt with taint.


Miners were aware of stigmas. On the one hand, there was an awareness of the group's shared fate, in line with normalizing strategies found in other stigmatized occupations. On the other hand, we found several examples of social comparison within the group that challenged the expected strong group culture, i.e., supervisors distancing themselves from subordinates and men disparaging female miners.

Practical and research implications:

The nuances in our findings show the complexities of the ways people in stigmatized occupations deal with taint.


In contrast to previous research, the miners did not only stress the group as a unity. It seems that the opposite processes of shared fate and downward comparison can emerge both, depending on self-categorization dynamics.



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Shared fate and social comparison: Identity work in the context of a stigmatized occupation

  • Mark van Vuuren (a1), Jacqueline Teurlings (a2) and Ernst T Bohlmeijer (a3)


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