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Stigma management and justifications of the self in denazification accounts

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)141-165
Number of pages25
JournalAccounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2018


Purpose – This article studies how two accounting professors at a German university dealt with their denazification, a process carried out by the Allied Forces following World War II to free German society from Nazi ideology. It is argued that the professors carried a stigma due to their affiliation with a university that had been aligned with the Nazi state apparatus.
Design/methodology/approach – The paper uses Goffman’s work on ‘Stigma’ (1963/86) and ‘Frame Analysis’ (1974/86) to explore how the professors aimed to dismiss any link with the Nazi regime. Primary sources from the university archives were accessed with a particular focus on the professors’ post-war justification accounts.
Findings – The paper shows how the professors created a particular frame, which they supported by downplaying frame breaks, primarily their Nazi party memberships. Instead, they were preoccupied with what Goffman (1974/86) terms ‘the vulnerability of experience’, exploiting that their past behavior requires context and is thus open to interpretation. The professors themselves provide this guidance to readers, which is a strategy that we call ‘authoring’ of past information.
Originality/value – The paper shows how ‘counter accounts’ can be constructed by assigning roles and powers to characters therein and by providing context and interpreting behavior on behalf of the readers. It is suggested that this ‘authoring’ of past information is successful only on the surface. A closer examination unveils ambiguity, making this strategy risky and fragile.

    Research areas

  • stigma management, frame analysis, justification accounts, accounting professors, denazification, Third Reich

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