Goffman and Social Organization: Studies in a Sociological Legacy

Goffman and Social Organization: Studies in a Sociological Legacy

Goffman and Social Organization: Studies in a Sociological Legacy

Goffman and Social Organization: Studies in a Sociological Legacy

Synopsis

This collection brings together many of today's leading sociologists to pursue and build upon the diverse aspects of Goffman's legacy. The contributors present chapters on key topics of Goffman's works. Issues covered include: *mental illness and institutionalism * the incorporation of literary intertexts in Goffman's writings * Goffman's relationship to ethnomethodology and the singularity of Goffman's ethnography Ranging from his critique of institutionalization to his understanding of the minute details of face-to-face interaction, this collection reveals the richness of Goffman's own work as well as his contribution to sociology today and will therefore be essential reading for students and academics alike.

Excerpt

Erving Goffman never wrote about his own life. the only autobiographical lines that the reader can share are those in the preface to Asylums (Goffman 1961a) and two or three footnotes in Interaction Ritual (Goffman 1967): these deal with the conditions of his fieldwork in mental hospitals and contain nothing personal. Goffman did not reveal very much about his life, his youth, his family or his past experiences to either his colleagues or friends. Many of them had vague notions about him, but these were usually associated with the multiplicity of anecdotes about Goffman as a personage rather than with his actual social and intellectual trajectory. Insights into the person behind the personage are hard to find, as only brief glimpses were ever obtained. Perhaps the sole reliable published comment about Goffman is his own remark to Dell Hymes, which was, ‘You forget that I grew up (with Yiddish) in a town where to speak another language was to be suspect of being homosexual’ (Hymes 1984:628).

The first, perhaps the most predictable question which faced me when I decided to write an intellectual biography of Erving Goffman was: do I have the right to invade his privacy? the conventional wisdom is that when scholars (or people of some renown) contribute to their biographies through interviews and personal narratives, for example, one is less scrupulous about systematically collecting data and organizing it into a biography. in Goffman’s case, it was clear that his privacy was jealously guarded. He never gave interviews to the media, he never allowed his publishers to release pictures of him and he never appeared on television. in November 1983, when I approached Gillian Sankoff, his widow and literary executor, I was politely acknowledged but was given no overt help (such as access to the archives). But I did not receive an outright rejection either (for example, the family was not warned of the possibility of

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