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Goffman’s Project

A SOCIOLOGICAL ENIGMA

Erving Goffman was one of the twentieth century’s most remarkable practitioners of social science, a sociologist universally acknowledged for his singular talent. Long after his death in 1982, simple mention of the word ‘Goffman’ is enough to signify not just a subject matter but also a highly distinctive attitude and analytic stance toward the social world. He first came to prominence with the 1959 publication of The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life, which he followed two years later with the even more influential Asylums. Unusually, for a sociologist, Goffman enjoyed fame outside his home discipline. That fame was curious because Goffman was not interested, as many leading sociologists are, in the big questions about the nature and development of modern society. His interest was in the structure of face-to-face interaction, in the minutiae of ordinary talk and activity. His sociology was not theoretically ambitious. It modestly espoused description, classification and conceptual articulation, and showed no aspiration towards propositional expression as fully-fledged explanatory and predictive theory. Nor did Goffman develop a school of thought or a new methodological approach for the study of social life. Rather, his interests were confined to quite narrow concerns with what he called the ‘interaction order’ and its implications for the self. Goffman’s single-minded pursuit of the analysis of interaction and what that

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Erving Goffman
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Table of Contents v
  • Acknowledgements vii
  • 1 - Goffman’s Project 1
  • 2 - Origins and Emergence 12
  • 3 - Interaction’s Orderliness 33
  • 4 - Framing Experience 55
  • 5 - Asylums 68
  • 6 - Spoiled Identity and Gender Difference 84
  • 7 - Self 95
  • 8 - Methods and Textuality 110
  • 9 - After Goffman 125
  • Further Reading 130
  • References 133
  • Index 143
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