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Erving Goffman (11 June 1922 – 19 November 1982) was a Canadian-born sociologist,
social psychologist Social psychology is the scientific Science () is a systematic enterprise that Scientific method, builds and organizes knowledge in the form of Testability, testable explanations and predictions about the universe."... modern scien ...
, and writer, considered by some "the most influential American sociologist of the twentieth century". In 2007 '' The Times Higher Education Guide'' listed him as the sixth most-cited author of books in the
humanities Humanities are academic disciplines An academic discipline or academic field is a subdivision of knowledge Knowledge is a familiarity or awareness, of someone or something, such as facts A fact is an occurrence in the real world. ...

humanities
and
social science Social science is the branch A branch ( or , ) or tree branch (sometimes referred to in botany Botany, also called , plant biology or phytology, is the science of plant life and a branch of biology. A botanist, plant scientist o ...

social science
s, behind
Michel Foucault Paul-Michel Foucault (, ; ; 15 October 192625 June 1984) was a French philosopher, History of ideas, historian of ideas, writer, political activist, and Literary criticism, literary critic. Foucault's theories primarily address the relationship ...

Michel Foucault
,
Pierre Bourdieu Pierre Bourdieu (; 1 August 1930 – 23 January 2002) was a French sociologist and public intellectual An intellectual is a person who engages in critical thinking, research, and Human self-reflection, reflection to advance discussions of ...
, and
Anthony Giddens Anthony Giddens, Baron Giddens (born 18 January 1938) is an English sociologist who is known for his theory of structuration and his holistic Holism (from Ancient Greek, Greek ''holos'' "all, whole, entire") is the idea that various systems ( ...
, and ahead of
Jürgen Habermas Jürgen Habermas (, ; ; born 18 June 1929) is a German philosopher A philosopher is someone who practices philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about reason, Metaphysics, e ...
. Goffman was the 73rd president of the
American Sociological Association The American Sociological Association (ASA) is a non-profit organization A nonprofit organization (NPO), also known as a non-business entity, not-for-profit organization, or nonprofit institution, is a legal entity organized and operated for ...
. His best-known contribution to
social theory Social theories are analytical frameworks, or paradigm In science Science () is a systematic enterprise that builds and organizes knowledge Knowledge is a familiarity, awareness, or understanding of someone or something, such as fa ...
is his study of
symbolic interaction Symbolic interactionism is a sociological theory that develops from practical considerations and alludes to people's particular utilization of dialect to make images and normal implications, for deductive reasoning, deduction and correspondence the ...
. This took the form of dramaturgical analysis, beginning with his 1956 book ''
The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life ''The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life'' is a 1956 sociological Sociology is the study of society A society is a Social group, group of individuals involved in persistent Social relation, social interaction, or a large social gr ...
''. Goffman's other major works include '' Asylums'' (1961), ''Stigma'' (1963), ''Interaction Ritual'' (1967), ''Frame Analysis'' (1974), and ''Forms of Talk'' (1981). His major areas of study included the sociology of everyday life,
social interaction In social science Social science is the branch A branch ( or , ) or tree branch (sometimes referred to in botany Botany, also called , plant biology or phytology, is the science of plant life and a branch of biology. A botan ...
, the
social construction Social constructionism is a theory of knowledge Epistemology (; ) is the branch of philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about reason, Metaphysics, existence, Epist ...
of self, social organization ( framing) of experience, and particular elements of social life such as total institutions and stigmas.


Life

Goffman was born 11 June 1922, in
Mannville, Alberta Mannville is a village in central Alberta, Canada. It is located at the intersection of the Yellowhead Highway and Highway 881, approximately west of Vermilion, Alberta, Vermilion and east of Edmonton, Alberta, Edmonton. Its primary industry is a ...
, Canada, to Max Goffman and Anne Goffman, née Averbach. He was from a family of
Ukrainian Jews The history of the Jews in Ukraine goes back over a thousand years. Jews, Jewish communities have existed in the territory of Ukraine from the time of the Kievan Rus' (late 9th to mid-13th century) and developed many of the most distinctive mod ...
who had emigrated to Canada at the turn of the century. He had an older sibling,
Frances Bay Frances Evelyn Bay (née Goffman; January 23, 1919 – September 15, 2011) was a Canadian-American character actress. In a career that spanned 35 years, she acted in a variety of roles both in film and television. Bay was inducted in Canada's Wal ...
, who became an actress. The family moved to
Dauphin, Manitoba Dauphin () is a city in Manitoba Manitoba ( ) is a Provinces and territories of Canada, province of Canada at the Centre of Canada, longitudinal centre of the country. It is Canada's Population of Canada by province and territory, fifth-most p ...
, where his father operated a successful tailoring business. From 1937 Goffman attended St. John's Technical High School in
Winnipeg Winnipeg () is the capital and largest city of the province of Manitoba Manitoba ( ) is a at the of the country. It is Canada's , with a population of 1,278,365 as of 2016. The easternmost of the three , Manitoba covers of widely varied ...

Winnipeg
, where his family had moved that year. In 1939 he enrolled at the
University of Manitoba The University of Manitoba (U of M, UManitoba, or UM) is a non-denominational A non-denominational person or organization that does not follow or is not restricted to any particular or specific religious denomination. Overview The term has been ...

University of Manitoba
, majoring in chemistry. He interrupted his studies and moved to
Ottawa Ottawa (, ; Canadian Canadians (french: Canadiens) are people identified with the country of Canada. This connection may be residential, legal, historical or cultural. For most Canadians, many (or all) of these connections exist and are ...

Ottawa
to work in the film industry for the
National Film Board of Canada The National Film Board of Canada (NFB; french: Office national du film du Canada (ONF)) is Canada's public film and digital media Digital media means any communication media that operate with the use of any of various encoded machine-rea ...
, established by
John Grierson John Grierson CBE (26 April 1898 – 19 February 1972) was a pioneering Scottish documentary maker, often considered the father of British and Canadian documentary film. In 1926, Grierson coined the term "documentary" in a review of Robert J ...
. Later he developed an interest in sociology. Also during this time, he met the renowned North American sociologist Dennis Wrong. Their meeting motivated Goffman to leave the University of Manitoba and enroll at the
University of Toronto The University of Toronto (U of T or UToronto) is a public In public relations Public relations (PR) is the practice of managing and disseminating information from an individual or an organization An organization, or organ ...

University of Toronto
, where he studied under C. W. M. Hart and
Ray Birdwhistell Ray L. Birdwhistell (September 29, 1918 – October 19, 1994) was an American anthropologistAn anthropologist is a person engaged in the practice of anthropology. Anthropology is the study of aspects of humans within past and present Society, societ ...

Ray Birdwhistell
, graduating in 1945 with a BA in sociology and
anthropology Anthropology is the scientific study of human Humans (''Homo sapiens'') are the most abundant and widespread species In biology Biology is the natural science that studies life and living organisms, including their anatomy, ...
. Later he moved to the
University of Chicago The University of Chicago (UChicago) is a private Private or privates may refer to: Music * "In Private "In Private" was the third single in a row to be a charting success for United Kingdom, British singer Dusty Springfield, after an abse ...
, where he received an MA (1949) and PhD (1953) in sociology. For his doctoral dissertation, from December 1949 to May 1951 he lived and collected
ethnographic Ethnography (from Greek#REDIRECT Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. Its population is ap ...
data on the island of
Unst Unst (; sco, Unst; nrn, Ønst) is one of the North Isles The North Isles are the northern islands of the Shetland Islands Shetland ( on, Hjaltland; sco, Shetland; nrn, Hjetland), also called the Shetland Islands and formerly Zet ...

Unst
in the
Shetland Islands Shetland ( on, Hjaltland; sco, Shetland; nrn, Hjetland), also called the Shetland Islands and formerly Zetland, is a subarctic archipelago in the Northern Atlantic, between Great Britain, the Faroe Islands and Norway. It is the northernmos ...
. Goffman's dissertation, entitled ''Communication Conduct in an Island Community'' (1953), was completed under the supervision of W. Lloyd Warner, Donald Horton, and
Anselm Strauss Anselm Leonard Strauss (December 18, 1916 – September 5, 1996) was an American sociologist professor at the University of California, San Francisco ( UCSF) internationally known as a medical sociologist (especially for his pioneering attention ...
. In 1952 Goffman married Angelica Choate; in 1953, their son Thomas was born. Angelica experienced mental illness and died by suicide in 1964. Outside his academic career, Goffman was known for his interest, and relative success, in the
stock market A stock market, equity market, or share market is the aggregation of buyers and sellers of stock In finance, stock (also capital stock) consists of all of the shares In financial markets A financial market is a market in whic ...

stock market
and gambling. At one point, in pursuit of his hobbies and ethnographic studies, he became a
pit boss A pit boss (more commonly known today as the pit manager) is the person who directs the employees who work in a casino pit. The job of the pit boss is to manage the Glossary of poker terms#floorman, floormen, who are the supervisors for table games ...
at a
Las Vegas Las Vegas (; Spanish Spanish may refer to: * Items from or related to Spain: **Spaniards, a nation and ethnic group indigenous to Spain **Spanish language **Spanish cuisine Other places * Spanish, Ontario, Canada * Spanish River (disambi ...
casino. In 1981 Goffman married
sociolinguist Sociolinguistics is the descriptive study of the effect of any and all aspects of society A society is a Social group, group of individuals involved in persistent Social relation, social interaction, or a large social group sharing the sam ...
Gillian Sankoff. The following year, their daughter
Alice Alice may refer to: * Alice (name) Alice is most often used as a feminine Femininity (also called womanliness or girlishness) is a set of attributes, behaviors, and roles generally associated with women and girls. Although femininity is socia ...
was born. In 1982 Goffman died in
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Philadelphia (colloquially known simply as Philly) is the largest city in the Commonwealth A commonwealth is a traditional English term for a political community founded for the common good In philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is ...
, on 19 November, of
stomach cancer Stomach cancer, also known as gastric cancer, is a cancer Cancer is a group of diseases involving abnormal cell growth with the potential to invade or spread to other parts of the body. These contrast with benign tumor A benign tumor i ...
. His daughter is also a sociologist.


Career

The research Goffman did on Unst inspired him to write his first major work, ''
The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life ''The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life'' is a 1956 sociological Sociology is the study of society A society is a Social group, group of individuals involved in persistent Social relation, social interaction, or a large social gr ...
'' (1956). After graduating from the University of Chicago, in 1954–57 he was an assistant to the athletic director at the National Institute for Mental Health in
Bethesda, Maryland Bethesda is an unincorporated area, unincorporated, census-designated place in southern Montgomery County, Maryland, Montgomery County, Maryland, United States, located just northwest of Washington, D.C. It takes its name from a local church, the ...
. Participant observation done there led to his essays on
mental illness A mental disorder, also called a mental illness or psychiatric disorder, is a behavioral or mental pattern that causes significant distress or impairment of personal functioning. Such features may be persistent, relapsing In internal medici ...
and total institutions which came to form his second book, '' Asylums: Essays on the Social Situation of Mental Patients and Other Inmates'' (1961). In 1958 Goffman became a faculty member in the sociology department at the
University of California, Berkeley The University of California, Berkeley (UC Berkeley, Berkeley, Cal, or California) is a public In public relations Public relations (PR) is the practice of managing and disseminating information from an individual or an organization ...

University of California, Berkeley
, first as a visiting professor, then from 1962 as a full professor. In 1968 he moved to the
University of Pennsylvania The University of Pennsylvania (Penn or UPenn) is a in , Pennsylvania. The university, established as the College of Philadelphia in 1740, is one of the nine chartered prior to the . , Penn's founder and first president, advocated an edu ...

University of Pennsylvania
, receiving the Benjamin Franklin Chair in Sociology and Anthropology, due largely to the efforts of
Dell Hymes Dell Hathaway Hymes (June 7, 1927 in Portland, Oregon – November 13, 2009 in Charlottesville, Virginia) was a linguist, Sociolinguistics, sociolinguist, anthropologist, and folkloristics, folklorist who established disciplinary foundations for t ...
, a former colleague at Berkeley. In 1969 he became a fellow of the
American Academy of Arts and Sciences The American Academy of Arts and Sciences, founded 1780, (abbreviation: AAAS) is one of the oldest learned societies A learned society (; also known as a learned academy, scholarly society, or academic association) is an organization ...

American Academy of Arts and Sciences
. In 1970 Goffman became a cofounder of the American Association for the Abolition of Involuntary Mental Hospitalization and coauthored its Platform Statement. In 1971 he published ''Relations in Public'', in which he tied together many of his ideas about everyday life, seen from a sociological perspective. Another major book of his, ''Frame Analysis'', came out in 1974. He received a
Guggenheim Fellowship Guggenheim Fellowships are grants Grant or Grants may refer to: Places *Grant County (disambiguation)Grant County may refer to: Places ;Australia * County of Grant, Victoria ;United States *Grant County, Arkansas *Grant County, Indiana * ...
for 1977–78. In 1979, Goffman received the Cooley-Mead Award for Distinguished Scholarship, from the Section on Social Psychology of the American Sociological Association. He was elected the 73rd president of the
American Sociological Association The American Sociological Association (ASA) is a non-profit organization A nonprofit organization (NPO), also known as a non-business entity, not-for-profit organization, or nonprofit institution, is a legal entity organized and operated for ...
, serving in 1981–82, but was unable to deliver the presidential address in person due to progressing illness. Posthumously, in 1983, Goffman received the Mead Award from the Society for the Study of Symbolic Interaction.


Influence and legacy

Goffman was influenced by
Herbert Blumer Herbert George Blumer (March 7, 1900 – April 13, 1987) was an American American(s) may refer to: * American, something of, from, or related to the United States of America, commonly known as the United States The United States of Am ...
,
Émile Durkheim David Émile Durkheim ( or ; 15 April 1858 – 15 November 1917) was a French sociologist. He formally established the academic discipline of sociology and is commonly cited as one of the principal architects of modern social science ...

Émile Durkheim
,
Sigmund Freud Sigmund Freud ( , ; born Sigismund Schlomo Freud; 6 May 1856 – 23 September 1939) was an Austrian neurologist Neurology (from el, νεῦρον (neûron), "string, nerve" and the suffix -logia, "study of") is a branch of medicine M ...

Sigmund Freud
, Everett Hughes,
Alfred Radcliffe-Brown Alfred Reginald Radcliffe-Brown, FBAFBA may refer to: * Federation of British Artists * Federal Bar Association * Fellow of the British Academy * Filsports Basketball Association * First Baptist Academy (Houston, Texas), United States * Firs ...

Alfred Radcliffe-Brown
,
Talcott Parsons Talcott Parsons (13 December 1902 – 8 May 1979) was an American sociologist of the Sociology#Classical theory, classical tradition, best known for his social action theory and structural functionalism. Parsons is considered one of the most influ ...

Talcott Parsons
,
Alfred Schütz Alfred Schutz (; born Alfred Schütz, ; 1899–1959) was an Austrian philosopher A philosopher is someone who practices philosophy. The term ''philosopher'' comes from the grc, φιλόσοφος, , translit=philosophos, meaning 'lover of wisdo ...
,
Georg Simmel Georg Simmel (; ; 1 March 1858 – 26 September 1918) was a German sociologist, philosopher A philosopher is someone who practices philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about ...

Georg Simmel
and W. Lloyd Warner. Hughes was the "most influential of his teachers", according to Tom Burns. Gary Alan Fine and Philip Manning have said that Goffman never engaged in serious dialogue with other theorists, but his work has influenced and been discussed by numerous contemporary sociologists, including
Anthony Giddens Anthony Giddens, Baron Giddens (born 18 January 1938) is an English sociologist who is known for his theory of structuration and his holistic Holism (from Ancient Greek, Greek ''holos'' "all, whole, entire") is the idea that various systems ( ...
,
Jürgen Habermas Jürgen Habermas (, ; ; born 18 June 1929) is a German philosopher A philosopher is someone who practices philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about reason, Metaphysics, e ...
and
Pierre Bourdieu Pierre Bourdieu (; 1 August 1930 – 23 January 2002) was a French sociologist and public intellectual An intellectual is a person who engages in critical thinking, research, and Human self-reflection, reflection to advance discussions of ...
. Though Goffman is often associated with the
symbolic interaction Symbolic interactionism is a sociological theory that develops from practical considerations and alludes to people's particular utilization of dialect to make images and normal implications, for deductive reasoning, deduction and correspondence the ...
school of sociological thought, he did not see himself as a representative of it, and so Fine and Manning conclude that he "does not easily fit within a specific school of sociological thought". His ideas are also "difficult to reduce to a number of key themes"; his work can be broadly described as developing "a comparative, qualitative sociology that aimed to produce generalizations about human behavior". Goffman made substantial advances in the study of
face-to-face interaction In sociology Sociology is a social science Social science is the branch The branches and leaves of a tree. A branch ( or , ) or tree branch (sometimes referred to in botany Botany, also called , plant biology or phytolog ...
, elaborated the " dramaturgical approach" to
human interaction The concept of interpersonal relationship involves social associations, connections, or affiliations between two or more people. Interpersonal relationships vary in their degree of intimacy or self-disclosure, but also in their duration, in th ...
, and developed numerous concepts that have had a massive influence, particularly in the field of the micro-sociology of everyday life. Much of his work was about the organization of everyday behavior, a concept he termed "interaction order". He contributed to the sociological concept of framing (
frame analysis Frame analysis (also called framing analysis) is a multi-disciplinary Interdisciplinarity or interdisciplinary studies involves the combination of two or more academic disciplines into one activity (e.g., a research project). It draws knowled ...
), to
game theory Game theory is the study of mathematical model A mathematical model is a description of a system A system is a group of Interaction, interacting or interrelated elements that act according to a set of rules to form a unified whole. ...
(the concept of strategic interaction), and to the study of interactions and
linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo ...

linguistics
. With regard to the latter, he argued that the activity of speaking must be seen as a
social Social organisms, including humans, live collectively in interacting populations. This interaction is considered social whether they are aware of it or not, and whether the exchange is voluntary/involuntary. Etymology The word "Social" derives fr ...
rather than a linguistic construct. From a methodological perspective, Goffman often employed qualitative approaches, specifically
ethnography Ethnography (from Greek#REDIRECT Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. Its population is ap ...

ethnography
, most famously in his study of social aspects of
mental illness A mental disorder, also called a mental illness or psychiatric disorder, is a behavioral or mental pattern that causes significant distress or impairment of personal functioning. Such features may be persistent, relapsing In internal medici ...
, in particular the functioning of total institutions. Overall, his contributions are valued as an attempt to create a theory that bridges the agency-and-structure divide—for popularizing
social constructionism Social constructionism is a theory of knowledge Epistemology (; ) is the branch of philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about reason, Metaphysics, existence, Epist ...
,
symbolic interaction Symbolic interactionism is a sociological theory that develops from practical considerations and alludes to people's particular utilization of dialect to make images and normal implications, for deductive reasoning, deduction and correspondence the ...
,
conversation analysis Conversation analysis (CA) is an approach to the study of social interaction In social science Social science is the branch A branch ( or , ) or tree branch (sometimes referred to in botany Botany, also called , plant biolo ...
, ethnographic studies, and the study and importance of individual interactions. His influence extended far beyond sociology: for example, his work provided the assumptions of much current research in language and social interaction within the discipline of communication. Goffman defined "impression management" as a person's attempts to present an acceptable image to those around them, verbally or nonverbally. This definition is based on Goffman's idea that people see themselves as others view them, so they attempt to see themselves as if they are outside looking in. Goffman was also dedicated to discovering the subtle ways humans present acceptable images by concealing information that may conflict with the images for a particular situation, such as concealing tattoos when applying for a job in which tattoos would be inappropriate, or hiding a bizarre obsession such as collecting/interacting with dolls, which society may see as abnormal. Goffman broke from
George Herbert Mead George Herbert Mead (February 27, 1863 – April 26, 1931) was an American philosopher, Sociology, sociologist, and psychologist, primarily affiliated with the University of Chicago, where he was one of several distinguished pragmatism, pragmati ...

George Herbert Mead
and
Herbert Blumer Herbert George Blumer (March 7, 1900 – April 13, 1987) was an American American(s) may refer to: * American, something of, from, or related to the United States of America, commonly known as the United States The United States of Am ...
in that while he did not reject the way people perceive themselves, he was more interested in the actual physical proximity or the "interaction order" that molds the self. In other words, Goffman believed that impression management can be achieved only if the audience is in sync with a person's self-perception. If the audience disagrees with the image someone is presenting then their self-presentation is interrupted. People present images of themselves based on how society thinks they should act in a particular situation. This decision how to act is based on the concept of definition of the situation. Definitions are all predetermined and people choose how they will act by choosing the proper behavior for the situation they are in. Goffman also draws from William Thomas for this concept. Thomas believed that people are born into a particular social class and that the definitions of the situations they will encounter have already been defined for them. For instance. when an individual from an upper-class background goes to a black-tie affair, the definition of the situation is that they must mind their manners and act according to their class. In 2007 by ''The Times Higher Education Guide'' listed Goffman as the sixth most-cited author in the
humanities Humanities are academic disciplines An academic discipline or academic field is a subdivision of knowledge Knowledge is a familiarity or awareness, of someone or something, such as facts A fact is an occurrence in the real world. ...

humanities
and
social science Social science is the branch A branch ( or , ) or tree branch (sometimes referred to in botany Botany, also called , plant biology or phytology, is the science of plant life and a branch of biology. A botanist, plant scientist o ...

social science
s, behind Anthony Giddens and ahead of Habermas. His popularity with the general public has been attributed to his writing style, described as "sardonic, satiric, jokey", and as "ironic and self-consciously literary", and to its being more accessible than that of most academics. His style has also been influential in academia, and is credited with popularizing a less formal style in academic publications. Interestingly, if he is rightly so credited, he may by this means have contributed to a remodelling of the norms of academic behaviour, particularly of communicative action, arguably liberating intellectuals from social restraints unnatural to some of them. His students included Carol Brooks Gardner, Charles Goodwin, Marjorie Goodwin, John Lofland, Gary Marx,
Harvey Sacks Harvey Sacks (July 19, 1935 – November 14, 1975) was an American sociologist influenced by the ethnomethodology Ethnomethodology is the study of how social order is produced in and through processes of social interaction.Garfinkel, H. (19 ...
,
Emanuel Schegloff Emanuel Abraham Schegloff (born 1937 in New York) is a Distinguished Professor Professors in the United States commonly occupy any of several positions in academia An academy (Attic Greek: Ἀκαδήμεια; Koine Greek Ἀκαδημία) is ...
, David Sudnow and
Eviatar Zerubavel Eviatar Zerubavel (born 1948) is professor of sociology at Rutgers University, a specialist in the sociology of cognition and everyday life, including topics such as time, boundaries, and categorization. Biography Zerubavel is a grandson of Y ...
. Despite his influence, according to Fine and Manning there are "remarkably few scholars who are continuing his work", nor has there been a "Goffman school"; thus his impact on
social theory Social theories are analytical frameworks, or paradigm In science Science () is a systematic enterprise that builds and organizes knowledge Knowledge is a familiarity, awareness, or understanding of someone or something, such as fa ...
has been simultaneously "great and modest". Fine and Manning attribute the lack of subsequent Goffman-style research and writing to the nature of his style, which they consider very difficult to duplicate (even "mimic-proof"), and also to his subjects' not being widely valued in the social sciences. Of his style, Fine and Manning remark that he tends to be seen either as a scholar whose style is difficult to reproduce, and therefore daunting to those who might wish to emulate it, or as a scholar whose work was transitional, bridging the work of the Chicago school and that of contemporary sociologists, and thus of less interest to sociologists than the classics of either of those groups. Of his subjects, Fine and Manning observe that the topic of behavior in public places is often stigmatized as trivial and unworthy of serious scholarly attention. Nonetheless, Fine and Manning note that Goffman is "the most influential American sociologist of the twentieth century". Elliott and Turner see him as "a revered figure—an outlaw theorist who came to exemplify the best of the sociological imagination", and "perhaps the first postmodern sociological theorist".


Works


Early works

Goffman's early works consist of his graduate writings of 1949–53. His master's thesis was a survey of audience responses to a radio soap opera, '' Big Sister''. One of its most important elements was a critique of his research methodology—of experimental logic and of variable analysis. Other writings from the period include ''Symbols of Class Status'' (1951) and ''On Cooling the Mark Out'' (1952). His doctoral dissertation, ''Communication Conduct in an Island Community'' (1953), presented a model of communication strategies in
face-to-face interaction In sociology Sociology is a social science Social science is the branch The branches and leaves of a tree. A branch ( or , ) or tree branch (sometimes referred to in botany Botany, also called , plant biology or phytolog ...
, and focused on how everyday
ritual A ritual is a sequence of activities involving gesture A gesture is a form of non-verbal communication Nonverbal communication (NVC) is the transmission of messages or signals through a nonverbal platform such as eye contact, facial exp ...

ritual
s affect public projections of self.


''Presentation of Self''

Goffman's ''
The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life ''The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life'' is a 1956 sociological Sociology is the study of society A society is a Social group, group of individuals involved in persistent Social relation, social interaction, or a large social gr ...
'' was published in 1956, with a revised edition in 1959. He had developed the book's core ideas from his doctoral dissertation. It was Goffman's first and most famous book, for which he received the
American Sociological Association The American Sociological Association (ASA) is a non-profit organization A nonprofit organization (NPO), also known as a non-business entity, not-for-profit organization, or nonprofit institution, is a legal entity organized and operated for ...
's 1961 MacIver Award. Goffman describes the
theatrical Theatre or theater is a collaborative form of performing art The performing arts are arts such as music, dance, and drama which are performed for an audience. It is different from visual arts The visual arts are art forms such as pain ...

theatrical
performances that occur in face-to-face interactions. He holds that when someone comes in contact with another person, he attempts to control or guide the impression the other person will form of him, by altering his own setting, appearance and manner. At the same time, the second person attempts to form an impression of, and obtain information about, the first person. Goffman also believes that participants in social interactions engage in certain practices to avoid embarrassing themselves or others. Society is not homogeneous; we must act differently in different settings. This recognition led Goffman to his dramaturgical analysis. He saw a connection between the kinds of "acts" that people put on in their daily lives and theatrical performances. In a social interaction, as in a theatrical performance, there is an onstage area where actors (people) appear before the audience; this is where positive self-concepts and desired impressions are offered. But there is also a backstage—a hidden, private area where people can be themselves and drop their societal
role A role (also rôle or social role) is a set of connected behaviors, rights, moral obligation, obligations, beliefs, and social norm, norms as conceptualized by people in a social situation. It is an expected or free or continuously changing beha ...
s and identities.


''Asylums''

Goffman is sometimes credited with having coined the term "total institution", though Fine and Manning note that he had heard it in lectures by Everett Hughes in reference to any institution in which people are treated alike and in which behavior is regulated. Regardless of whether Goffman coined the term, he popularized it with his 1961 book ''Asylums: Essays on the Social Situation of Mental Patients and Other Inmates''. The book has been described as "ethnography of the concept of the total institution". It was one of the first sociological examinations of the social situation of mental patients in
psychiatric hospital Psychiatric hospitals, also known as mental health units or behavioral health units, are hospital A hospital is a health care institution providing patient treatment with specialized Medical Science, health science and Allied Healthcare, ...
s and a major contribution to understanding of social aspects of
mental illness A mental disorder, also called a mental illness or psychiatric disorder, is a behavioral or mental pattern that causes significant distress or impairment of personal functioning. Such features may be persistent, relapsing In internal medici ...
. The book comprises four essays: "Characteristics of Total Institutions" (1957); "The Moral Career of the Mental Patient" (1959); "The Underlife of a Public Institution: A Study of Ways of Making Out in a Mental Hospital"; and "The Medical Model and Mental Hospitalization: Some Notes on the Vicissitudes of the Tinkering Trades". The first three focus on the experiences of patients; the last, on professional-client interactions. Goffman is mainly concerned with the details of psychiatric hospitalization and the nature and effects of the process he calls "institutionalization". He describes how institutionalization socializes people into the role of a good patient, someone "dull, harmless and inconspicuous"—a condition that in turn reinforces notions of
chronicity A chronic condition is a health, human health condition or disease that is persistent or otherwise long-lasting in natural history of disease, its effects or a disease that comes with time. The term ''chronic'' is often applied when the Course (me ...
in severe mental illness. Total institutions greatly affect people's interactions; yet even in such places, people find ways to redefine their roles and reclaim their identities. '' Asylums'' has been credited with helping catalyze the reform of
mental health Mental health is "a state of well-being Well-being, also known as ''wellness'', ''prudential value'' or ''quality of life'', refers to what is intrinsically valuable relative ''to'' someone. So the well-being of a person is what is ultimatel ...

mental health
systems in a number of countries, leading to reductions in the numbers of large mental hospitals and of the people locked up in them. It was also influential in the
anti-psychiatry Anti-psychiatry is a broad movement Movement may refer to: Common uses * Movement (clockwork), the internal mechanism of a timepiece * Motion (physics), commonly referred to as movement Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * Mo ...
movement.


''Behavior in Public Places''

In ''Behavior in Public Places'' (1963), Goffman again focuses on everyday public interactions. He draws distinctions between several types of public gatherings ("gatherings", "situations", "social occasions") and types of audiences (acquainted versus unacquainted).


''Stigma''

Goffman's book ''Stigma: Notes on the Management of Spoiled Identity'' (1963) examines how, to protect their identities when they depart from approved standards of behavior or appearance, people manage impressions of themselves, mainly through concealment.
Stigma Stigma or plural stigmata, stigmas may refer to: * Social stigma, the disapproval of a person based on physical or behavioral characteristics that distinguish them from others Symbolism * Stigmata, bodily marks or wounds resembling the crucifix ...
pertains to the shame a person may feel when he or she fails to meet other people's standards, and to the fear of being discredited—which causes the person not to reveal his or her shortcomings. Thus a person with a
criminal record A criminal record, police record, or colloquially RAP sheet (Record of Arrests and Prosecutions) is a record of a person's criminal history. The information included in a criminal record and the existence of a criminal record varies between coun ...
may simply withhold that information for fear of judgment by whomever that person happens to encounter.


''Interaction Ritual''

Goffman's ''Interaction Ritual: Essays on Face-to-Face Behavior'' is a collection of six essays. The first four were originally published in the 1950s, the fifth in 1964, and the last was written for the collection. They include "On Face-work" (1955); "Embarrassment and Social Organization" (1956); "The Nature of Deference and Demeanor" (1956); "Alienation from Interaction" (1957); "Mental Symptoms and Public Order" (1964); and "Where the Action Is". The first essay, "On Face-work", discusses the concept of
face The face is the front of an animal's head that features the eyes Eyes are organs An organ is a group of tissues with similar functions. Plant life and animal life rely on many organs that co-exist in organ systems. A given organ's ti ...
, which is the positive self-image a person holds when interacting with others. Goffman believes that
face The face is the front of an animal's head that features the eyes Eyes are organs An organ is a group of tissues with similar functions. Plant life and animal life rely on many organs that co-exist in organ systems. A given organ's ti ...
"as a sociological construct of interaction is neither inherent in nor a permanent aspect of the person". Once someone offers a positive self-image of him- or herself to others, they feel a need to maintain and live up to that image. Inconsistency in how a person projects him- or herself in society risks embarrassment and discredit. So people remain guarded to ensure that they do not show themselves to others in an unfavorable light.


''Strategic Interaction''

Goffman's book ''Strategic Interaction'' (1969) is his contribution to
game theory Game theory is the study of mathematical model A mathematical model is a description of a system A system is a group of Interaction, interacting or interrelated elements that act according to a set of rules to form a unified whole. ...
. It discusses the compatibility of game theory with the legacy of the Chicago School of sociology and with the perspective of
symbolic interactionism Symbolic interactionism is a sociological Sociology is a social science Social science is the Branches of science, branch of science devoted to the study of society, societies and the Social relation, relationships among individuals ...
. It is one of his few works that clearly engage with that perspective. Goffman's view on game theory was shaped by the works of
Thomas Schelling Thomas Crombie Schelling (April 14, 1921 – December 13, 2016) was an American economist An economist is a professional and practitioner in the social science Social science is the branch The branches and leaves of a tree. A b ...

Thomas Schelling
. Goffman presents reality as a form of game, and discusses its rules and the various moves that players can make (the "unwitting", the "naive", the "covering", the "uncovering", and the "counter-uncovering") while trying to get or hide an information.


''Frame Analysis''

Goffman credited
Gregory Bateson Gregory Bateson (9 May 1904 – 4 July 1980) was an English anthropologistAn anthropologist is a person engaged in the practice of anthropology. Anthropology is the study of aspects of humans within past and present Society, societies. Social an ...
for creating the idea of framing and psychological frames. ''Frame Analysis: An Essay on the Organization of Experience'' (1974) is Goffman's attempt to explain how conceptual
frames A frame is often a structural system that supports other components of a physical construction and/or steel frame that limits the construction's extent. Frame and FRAME may also refer to: Arts and media Film and television *Frame (film), one of ...
– ways to organize experience – structure an individual's perception of society. This book is thus about the organization of experience rather than the organization of society. A frame is a set of concepts and theoretical perspectives that organize experiences and guide the actions of individuals, groups and societies. Frame analysis, then, is the study of the organization of social experience. To illustrate the concept of the frame, Goffman gives the example of a picture frame: a person uses the frame (which represents structure) to hold together his picture (which represents the content) of what he is experiencing in his life. The most basic frames are called primary frameworks. A primary framework takes an individual's experience or an aspect of a scene that would originally be meaningless and makes it meaningful. One type of primary framework is a natural framework, which identifies situations in the natural world and is completely environment (biophysical), biophysical, with no human influences. The other type of framework is a social framework, which explains events and connects them to humans. An example of a natural framework is the weather, and an example of a social framework is a meteorologist who weather forecast, predicts the weather. Focusing on the social frameworks, Goffman seeks to "construct a general statement regarding the structure, or form, of experiences individuals have at any moment of their social life". Goffman saw this book as his ''Masterpiece, magnum opus'', but it was not as popular as his earlier works.


''The Frame Analyses of Talk''

In ''Frame Analysis'', Erving Goffman provides a platform for understanding and interpreting the interaction between individuals engaging speech communication. In the chapter "The Frame Analyses of Talk," the focus is put on how words are exchanged and what is being said, specifically in informal talk or conversation. The concept of framing is introduced through an exploration of why misunderstandings occur in these basic, everyday conversations. He argues that they are more errors in verbal framing than anything else. The types of frames Goffman is considering are discussed in previous Frame analysis, sections of the book, "fabrications, keyings, frame breaks, misframing, and, of course, frame disputes." That a frame can assume so many forms is the basis of his analyses, "these framings are subject to a multitude of different transformations − the warrant for a frame analysis in the first place." Goffman's key idea is that most conversation is simply a replaying of a strip – what he describes as a personal experience or event. When we talk with others, the speaker's goal is often always the same, to provide "evidence for the fairness or unfairness of his current situation and other grounds for sympathy, approval, exoneration, understanding, or amusement. And what his listeners are primarily obliged to do is to show some kind of audience appreciation." Essentially, through interaction, we are only looking to be heard, not inspire any kind of action but simply to know that someone listened and understood. This is why often a simple head nod or grunt is accepted as an appropriate response in conversation. Goffman explains that the way a conversation is keyed is critical to understanding the intent behind many utterances in everyday speech. Key is probably best understood as the tone of the dialogue which can change numerous times during an interaction. Signaling a change in key is one way that framing often takes place, "special brackets will have to be introduced should he want to say something in a relatively serious way: "Kidding aside," "Now, I'm really serious about this," and other such tags become necessary as a means of momentarily down keying the flow of words." Folklorist Richard Bauman builds heavily on Goffman's work, specifically on the idea of key, in his work pertaining to an analysis of the performance frame. Bauman details that a performance is dependent on it being properly keyed, without this, the display will not be successful. His work on performance analyses is deeply indebted to what Goffman establishes here in "Frame Analyses." Context is one other element to framing that is essential. "The participants will be bound by norms of good manners: through frequency and length of turns at talk, through topics avoided, through circumspection in regard to references about self, through attention offered eagerly or begrudgingly-through all these means, rank and social relationship will be given their due." Certain things can and will be said in one scenario that would never be uttered in another. An awareness of these social framings is critical, just as is an awareness of the audience. Depending on who you're speaking with (a teacher, a child, a loved one, a friend, a pet, etc.) you will curve your speech to fit the frame of what your intended audience is expecting. Goffman uses the metaphor of conversation being a stage play. A plays tone will shift throughout the performance due to the actions taken by the actors; this is similar to how a discussion is keyed – based on what either person says or does over the course of an interaction, the key will change accordingly. The parallels go further, though. Goffman also claims that a speaker details a drama more often than they provide information. They invite the listener to empathize and, as was explained above, they're often not meant to be stirred to take action, but rather to show appreciation; during a play this generally takes the form of applause. Other similarities include engaging in the suspense the speaker is attempting to create. In both scenarios, you must put aside the knowledge that the performers know the outcome of the event being relayed and, in a sense, play along. This is integral to his stance as he explains "the argument that much of talk consists of replayings and that these make no sense unless some form of storyteller's suspense can be maintained shows the close relevance of frame-indeed, the close relevance of dramaturgy-for the organization of talk." Lastly, because the replaying of strips is not extemporaneous, but rather preformulated, it is yet another parallel between a stage production and conversation. All of these things work in concert to provide a foundation of how talk is framed.


''Gender Advertisements''

In ''Gender Advertisements'', Goffman analyzes how gender is represented in the advertising to which all individuals are commonly exposed.[Goffman, Erving. Gender Advertisements. New York: Harper & Row, 1979 Print.] # Relative Size: According to Goffman, relative size can be defined as "one way in which social weight–power, authority, rank, office, renown − is echoed expressively in social situations through relative size, especially height". With relative size, women are generally shown smaller or lower than men in terms of girth and height. Although men tend to be biologically taller or larger than females, Goffman suggests that this size difference is manipulated in man-made advertisements to convey difference in status or power in certain social situations. The concept that relative size conveys social status remains relevant even when women are portrayed as the taller or larger individual on screen or in print. Goffman states that on the few occasions when women are pictured taller than men, the men seem almost always to be subordinated in social class status and/or depicted as inferior. The tallest man, the man in front, or the man who has attention drawn to him in the advertisement is to represent strength and power, while women are often represented as weak or less significant to the advertisement. # Feminine Touch: Women are frequently depicted touching persons or objects in a ritualistic manner, occasionally just barely touching the object or person. Goffman argues that "females in advertising are frequently posing while "using their fingers and hands to trace the outlines of an object, or to cradle it or to caress its surface". This ritualistic touching is to be distinguished from the utilitarian kind that grasps, manipulates, or holds". This type of touch encourages the idea that women are sexually available, weak, and vulnerable in the sense of their agency, body language and individuality in relation to men. # Modern Shift: In today's society, we are beginning to see a shift in gender representation in the media particularly in the male fashion industry. Fashion designers are now starting to blur the lines between masculinity and femininity. In the first advertisement, the male has a very soft delicate hold on the rose compared to the typical aggressive grip men exhibit in ads. In the other two examples, both men are not only portraying the idea of feminine touch but the concept of self-touch as well. # Function Ranking: Goffman explains that function ranking is when men and women collaborate to complete a task, the man takes the 'executive role'. Goffman exemplifies this advertising phenomena as illustrated in the workplace, at home, in public, and with children. The idea is that women are portrayed as the lesser role in the scene, and that the men are in charge. This role is only portrayed in collaborative environments. "Two of Goffman's categories-Relative Size and Function Ranking-were not prevalent depictions in magazine advertisements. Overall, many advertisements showed only females or males rather than the two genders together or a family scene. This might mean that advertisements are frequently targeting more specific audiences." "What Erving Goffman shares with contemporary feminists is the felt conviction that beneath the surface of ordinary social behaviour innumerable small murders of the mind and spirit take place daily." # The Family: When families are depicted in advertising, parents are shown to be closer to their children of the same gender and in some instances men are shown separate from the rest of the family, in a protective manner. The father tends to maintain a distance with his family members. This act shows protectiveness, according to Goffman. The father is the security for the family, the protector and provider. # Ritualization of Subordination: Ritualization of Subordination serves to demonstrate power and superiority, or lack of, through body positioning techniques such as head cant, body cant, feminine touch, licensed withdrawal, bashful knee bend, lying down, and more. Power and superiority is typically associated with masculinity while vulnerability and objectification is usually associated with femininity.Goffman, Erving. Gender Advertisements. New York: Harper & Row, 1979. Print. # Licensed Withdrawal: When a subject is pictured in an advertisement as looking away in the distance, looking down at an object, appearing lost, inattentive, hopeless, confused or upset. This often shows the person being removed from the scene itself or lost in thought. This subject can be female in most cases, but male in some as well. Scott Morris and Katherine Warren further explain this term by saying, "When women are not presented as withdrawn, they are presented as over engaged, to the point of losing control: laughing uncontrollably or overcome with extreme emotion."
"The Codes of Gender"
They also have a tendency to appear excessively in tune with their emotions and overall body language. Licensed withdrawal is found not only in advertisements, but also television shows, movies, magazines, newspapers and other media, thus amplifying the impact of the phenomenon's message. In her 2001 work ''Measuring Up: How Advertising Affects Self-Image'', Vickie Rutledge Shields stated that the work was "unique at the time for employing a method now being labeled 'semiotic content analysis'" and that it "[provided] the base for textual analyses ... such as poststructuralist and psychoanalytic approaches". She also noted that feminist scholars like Jean Kilbourne "[built] their highly persuasive and widely circulated findings on the nature of gender in advertising on Goffman's original categories".


''Forms of Talk''

Goffman's book, ''Forms of Talk'' (1981), includes five essays: "Replies and Responses" (1976); "Response Cries" (1978); "Footing" (1979); "The Lecture" (1976); and "Radio Talk" (1981). Each essay addresses both verbal and non-verbal communication through a sociolinguistic model. The book provides a comprehensive overview of the study of Conversation, talk. In the introduction, Goffman identifies three themes that recur throughout the text: "
ritual A ritual is a sequence of activities involving gesture A gesture is a form of non-verbal communication Nonverbal communication (NVC) is the transmission of messages or signals through a nonverbal platform such as eye contact, facial exp ...

ritual
ization, participation framework, and embedding". The first essay, "Replies and Responses", concerns "conversational dialogue" and the way people respond during a conversation, both verbally and non-verbally. The second essay, "Response Cries", considers the use of utterances and their social implications in different social contexts. Specifically, Goffman discusses "self-talk" (talking to no one in particular) and its role in social situations. Next, in "Footing", Goffman addresses the way that footing, or alignment, can shift during a conversation. The fourth essay, "The Lecture", originally an oral presentation, describes different types and methods of lecture. Lastly, in "Radio Talk", Goffman describes the types and forms of talk used in radio programming and the effect they have on listeners.


Positions

In his career, Goffman worked at the: *
University of Chicago The University of Chicago (UChicago) is a private Private or privates may refer to: Music * "In Private "In Private" was the third single in a row to be a charting success for United Kingdom, British singer Dusty Springfield, after an abse ...
, Division of Social Sciences, Chicago: assistant, 1952–53; resident associate, 1953–54; * National Institute of Mental Health,
Bethesda, Maryland Bethesda is an unincorporated area, unincorporated, census-designated place in southern Montgomery County, Maryland, Montgomery County, Maryland, United States, located just northwest of Washington, D.C. It takes its name from a local church, the ...
: visiting scientist, 1954–57; *
University of California, Berkeley The University of California, Berkeley (UC Berkeley, Berkeley, Cal, or California) is a public In public relations Public relations (PR) is the practice of managing and disseminating information from an individual or an organization ...

University of California, Berkeley
: assistant professor, 1957–59; professor, 1959–62; professor of sociology, 1962–68; *
University of Pennsylvania The University of Pennsylvania (Penn or UPenn) is a in , Pennsylvania. The university, established as the College of Philadelphia in 1740, is one of the nine chartered prior to the . , Penn's founder and first president, advocated an edu ...

University of Pennsylvania
, Philadelphia: Benjamin Franklin Professor of Anthropology and Sociology, 1969–82.


Selected works

* 1959: ''
The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life ''The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life'' is a 1956 sociological Sociology is the study of society A society is a Social group, group of individuals involved in persistent Social relation, social interaction, or a large social gr ...
''. University of Edinburgh Social Sciences Research Centre. . Anchor Books edition * 1961: '' Asylums: Essays on the Social Situation of Mental Patients and Other Inmates''. New York, Doubleday. * 1961: ''Encounters: Two Studies in the Sociology of Interaction – Fun in Games & Role Distance''. Indianapolis, Bobbs-Merrill. * 1963: ''Behavior in Public Places: Notes on the Social Organization of Gatherings''. The Free Press. * 1963: ''Stigma: Notes on the Management of Spoiled Identity''. Prentice-Hall. * 1967: ''Interaction Ritual: Essays on Face-to-Face Behavior''. Anchor Books. * 1969: ''Strategic Interaction''. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. * 1969: ''Where the action is''. Allen Lane. * 1971: ''Relations in Public: Microstudies of the Public Order''. New York: Basic Books. (includes discussion of "Tie Signs") * 1974: ''Frame analysis: An essay on the organization of experience''. London: Harper and Row. * 1979: ''Gender Advertisements''. Macmillan. * 1981: ''Forms of Talk''. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.


See also

*Franco Basaglia *Civil inattention *Deinstitutionalization *''The Radical Therapist''


References


Notes


Bibliography

* * * * **Also available as: * * * *


Further reading

* Dirda, Michael (2010). "Waiting for Goffman", ''Lapham's Quarterly'' (Vol 3 No 4). ISSN 1935-7494 * Ditton, Jason (1980). ''The View of Goffman'', New York:St. Martin's Press * * * * * * *


External links


Algazi, Gadi. "Erving Goffman: A Bibliography,"
Department of History, Tel Aviv University
Brackwood, B. Diane. (1997). "Erving Goffman,"
''Magill's Guide to 20th Century Authors''. Pasadena, CA: Salem Press.
Cavan, Sherri. (2011, July). "When Erving Goffman Was a Boy."
Erving Goffman Archive, University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

[California State University, Dominguez Hills. A listing of further reading and online resources.
Delaney, Michael. "Erving Goffman: Professional and Personal Timeline,"
University of Nevada Las Vegas
Teuber, Andreas. "Erving Goffman Biography,"
Brandeis University
On Cooling the Mark Out: Some Aspects of Adaptation to Failure
(1952), Erving Goffman {{DEFAULTSORT:Goffman, Erving Erving Goffman, 1922 births 1982 deaths American sociologists Medical sociologists Canadian expatriate academics in the United States Canadian non-fiction writers Canadian people of Ukrainian-Jewish descent Social critics Jewish Canadian sociologists Jewish Canadian writers People from the County of Minburn No. 27 People from the Municipal District of Wainwright No. 61 Presidents of the American Sociological Association Social psychologists University of Manitoba alumni University of Toronto alumni University of Chicago alumni University of California, Berkeley College of Letters and Science faculty University of Pennsylvania faculty Writers from Alberta Writers from Winnipeg Deaths from stomach cancer Deaths from cancer in Pennsylvania Symbolic interactionism 20th-century non-fiction writers