Abstract:This Presidential Address offers elements for a systematic and cumulative study of destigmatization, or the process by which low-status groups gain recognition and worth. Contemporary sociologists tend to focus on inequality in the distribution of resources, such as
occupation, education, and wealth. Complementing this research, this address draws attention to “recognition gaps,” defined as disparities in worth and cultural membership between groups in a society. Drawing on research I have conducted, I first describe how neoliberalism promotes
growing recognition gaps. Then, drawing on research on stigmatized groups across several societies, I analyze how experiences of stigma and destigmatization are enabled and constrained by various contextual factors and actors, including institutions, cultural repertoires, knowledge
workers, and social movements activists. I conclude by proposing a research agenda for the sociology of recognition and destigmatization, and by sketching how social scientists, policy makers, organizations, and citizens can contribute in the reduction of recognition gaps.