Erving Goffman

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Jump to: navigation, search
Erving Goffman

Erving Goffman (June 11, 1922November 19, 1982), was an American-based Canadian sociologist and writer. The 73rd president of American Sociological Association, Goffman's greatest contribution to social theory is his study of symbolic interaction in the form of dramaturgical perspective that began with his 1956 book The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life and was developed throughout his life expanding to the topics of deference and demeanor.


[edit] Biography

Goffman was born to Max and Anne Goffman in Mannville, Alberta on June 11, 1922, Jewish Ukrainians who emigrated to Canada. Goffman's family moved back to Manitoba as a child.[1] His sister, Frances Bay says that Erving "was a real prankster as a kid, and they never thought he'd amount to anything."[2]

Goffman attended St. John's Technical High School, Dauphin, Manitoba before studying chemistry at the University of Manitoba in 1939. He worked for the National Film Board of Canada in 1943-1944. He received his B.A. from the University of Toronto in 1945 (where he dated social network pioneer Elizabeth Bott[3]), and his M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Chicago in 1949 and 1953. He lived in the Shetland Islands in 1949-1950, collecting material he used in his dissertation and in The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life (University of Edinburgh Press, 1956).

He married Angelica Choate in 1953, with whom he had one son, Tom. Angelica committed suicide in 1964. In 1981 he married the Canadian linguist Gillian Sankoff, with whom he had a daughter, Alice.

His sister, Frances Bay, enjoyed a busy acting career with supporting roles in numerous TV shows and movies in the 1970s through the 1990s. She may be best known for playing the "marble rye" lady on the Seinfeld sitcom.

On November 20, 1982, Goffman died of stomach cancer.

[edit] Goffman as a sociologist

Goffman was one of the greatest American sociologists of his generation. Along with many other sociologists of his cohort, he was heavily influenced by George Herbert Mead and Herbert Blumer in developing his theoretical framework. Goffman studied at the University of Chicago with Everett Hughes, Edward Shils, and W. Lloyd Warner. He would go on to pioneer the study of face-to-face interaction, or micro-sociology, elaborate the "dramaturgical approach" to human interaction, and develop numerous concepts that would have a massive influence. Unlike many of the most influential sociologists, Goffman's influence continued to grow after his death.

Goffman's greatest contribution to social theory is his formulation of symbolic interaction as dramaturgical perspective in his 1956 book The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life, which begins with an epigraph by George Santayana about masks. Largely working within the tradition of symbolic interactionist, he greatly elaborated on its central concepts and application. For Goffman, society is not homogeneous. We must act differently in different settings. The context we have to judge is not society at large, but the specific context. Goffman suggests that life is a sort of theater, but we also need a parking lot and a cloak room: there is a wider context lying beyond the face-to-face symbolic interaction. "Throughout Presentation of Self, Goffman seems to perceive the individual as nothing more than a cog responsible for the maintenance of the social world by playing his or her part. In fact, he refers to the self as a 'peg' upon which 'something of a collaborative manufacture will be hung for a time.'"[4]

Author of the rigorous, then-controversial, and highly influential text Asylums, for which he gathered information at the National Institute of Mental Health in Washington, D.C., he describes "institutionalization" as a response by patients to the bureaucratic structures and mortification processes of total institutions such as mental hospitals, prisons, and concentration camps. The NIMH tried to persuade Goffman not to publish his book because of its criticism of mental institutions. He always considered himself a social scientist, and did not use phenomenology or postmodernism as his major epistemological approach. He also was a sociologist who emphasized that "society always comes first".

He also wrote Frame analysis: An Essay on the Organization of Experience. Many of his works form the basis for the sociological and media studies concept of framing.

[edit] Awards

During his lifetime he was awarded the following:

[edit] Institutions

During his career Goffman served at the following institutions:

He was also the 73rd president of American Sociological Association[5]

[edit] Quotes

  • "Society is organized on the principle that any individual who possesses certain social characteristics has a moral right to expect that others will value and treat him in an appropriate way."[6]
  • "Man is not like other animals in the ways that are really significant: Animals have instincts, we have taxes."
  • "Society is an insane asylum run by the inmates."
  • "The world, in truth, is a wedding."
  • "Stigma is a process by which the reaction of others spoils normal identity."

[edit] Major works

[edit] References

  1. ^ Roger A. Salerno, Beyond the Enlightenment (Greenwood Publishing, 2004), p. 181.
  2. ^ Michael Posner, "Seinfeld's marble rye lad honoured." Toronto Globe and Mail, Sept 6, 2008: R4.
  3. ^ Linton Freeman and Barry Wellman. "A Note on the Ancestral Toronto Home of Social Network Analysis." Connections 18, 3 (November, 1996): 15-19
  4. ^ Salerno, Beyond the Enlightenment (Greenwood Publishing, 2004), p. 183.
  5. ^ ASA Bio note. Last accessed on 14 January 2006.
  6. ^ Goffman, The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life (Garden City, NY: Doubleday Anchor, 1959), p. 13.

[edit] External links

Personal tools