Territorial stigmatization in action

Loic Wacquant, Tom Slater, Virgilio Borges Pereira

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This theme issue of Environment and Planning A builds on the analytic framework elaborated by Wacquant in Urban Outcasts (Polity Press, 2008) and on the activities of the Leverhulme Network on Advanced Urban Marginality to synthesize and stimulate inquiries into the triadic nexus of symbolic space, social space, and physical space at the lower end of the urban spectrum. The concept of territorial stigmatization weds with Bourdieu’s theory of ‘symbolic power’ Goffman’s model of the management of ‘spoiled identity’ to capture how
the blemish of place impacts the residents of disparaged districts, the surrounding denizens and commercial operators, street-level public bureaucracies, specialists in cultural production (such as journalists, scholars, and politicians), and state officials and policies. Spatial taint is a
novel and distinctive phenomenon that crystallized at century’s end along with the dissolution of the neighborhoods of relegation emblematic of the Fordist–Keynesian phase of industrial capitalism. It differs from the traditional topography of disrepute in the industrial city in that it has become autonomized, nationalized and democratized, equated with social disintegration, racialized through selective accentuation, and it elicits revulsion often leading to punitive corrective measures. The sociosymbolic strategies fashioned by the residents of defamed quarters to cope with spatial denigration span a panoply ranging from submission to defiance, and their adoption depends on position and trajectory in social and physical space. Territorial
stigmatization is not a static condition or a neutral process, but a consequential and injurious form of action through collective representation fastened on place. By probing how it operates in different urban settings and political formations, the contributors to this issue advance our empirical understanding of the role of symbolic structures in the production of inequality and marginality in the city. They also suggest the need for public policies designed to reduce, not only the burden of material deprivation, but also the press of symbolic domination in the metropolis.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1270-1280
Number of pages11
JournalEnvironment and Planning A
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2014


  • territorial stigmatization
  • advanced marginality
  • urban inequality
  • spoiled identity
  • symbolic power
  • social strategies
  • space
  • Goffman
  • Bourdieu

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