A Lost Cause? A Process Perspective on How Outsiders Overcome Stigmatization
While we have a great deal of scholarship on legitimacy, our understanding of how stigmatized actors seek to (re-)gain legitimacy remains quite limited. We seek to enhance our understanding of such processes through a qualitative, in-depth case study of a radical soccer fan community that, when faced an identity-threatening event, launched a crowdfunding campaign that ultimately succeeded in enhancing their legitimacy for their cause and enabling them to have a voice in a central strategic decision on the redesign of their club's soccer stadium. We leverage this case to develop a model on how stigmatized groups might be able to enhance their legitimacy in the eyes of certain audiences. We show that first, the crowdfunding campaign created a digital and temporal space allowing them to disassociate stigmatized and associate legitimate elements (i.e. artifact-based affiliation). Second, we theorize how various association tactics were drawn upon over time, facilitating an interrelated set of dynamics between what we label manual and forced association. We conclude with a discussion of the implications of our study for future research on legitimation processes related to stigmatized groups.