The Contemporary Goffman (Routledge Studies in Social and Political Thought)

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The Contemporary Goffman (Routledge Studies in Social and Political Thought)

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The Contemporary Goffman

Routledge Studies in Social and Political Thought For a full list of titles in this series, please visit

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68. The Contemporary Goffman Edited by Michael Hviid Jacobsen

The Contemporary Goffman

Edited by Michael Hviid Jacobsen

New York


First published 2010 by Routledge 270 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016 Simultaneously published in the UK by Routledge 2 Park Square, Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon OX14 4RN Routledge is an imprint of the Taylor & Francis Group, an informa business This edition published in the Taylor & Francis e-Library, 2009. To purchase your own copy of this or any of Taylor & Francis or Routledge’s collection of thousands of eBooks please go to © 2010 Taylor & Francis All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reprinted or reproduced or utilised in any form or by any electronic, mechanical, or other means, now known or hereafter invented, including photocopying and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publishers. Trademark Notice: Product or corporate names may be trademarks or registered trademarks, and are used only for identification and explanation without intent to infringe. Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication Data The contemporary Goffman / edited by Michael Hviid Jacobsen. p. cm.—(Routledge studies in social and political thought ; 68) Includes bibliographical references and index. 1. Goffman, Erving. 2. Sociologists—United States—Biography. 3. Sociology— United States—History—20th century. I. Jacobsen, Michael Hviid, 1971– HM479.G64C66 2009 301.092—dc22 [B] 2009028681 ISBN 0-203-86130-2 Master e-book ISBN

ISBN10: 0-415-99681-3 (hbk) ISBN10: 0-203-86130-2 (ebk) ISBN13: 978-0-415-99681-5 (hbk) ISBN13: 978-0-203-86130-1 (ebk)

Dedicated to my mother and father with gratitude and to the memory of Erving Goffman whom I was never even close to meeting


Acknowledgements Introduction Goffman Through the Looking Glass: From ‘Classical’ to Contemporary Goffman




PART I Dissecting Goffman 1

Goffman’s Greenings




Labelling Goffman: The Presentation and Appropriation of Erving Goffman in Academic Life




Continuities in Goffman: The Interaction Order




Goffman’s Textuality: Literary Sensibilities and Sociological Rhetorics




Goffman, Still: Spoiled Identities and Sociological Irony CHARLES LEMERT




PART II Reframing Goffman 6

Reconsidering Gender Advertisements: Performativity, Framing and Display




A New Goffman: Robert W. Fuller’s Politics of Dignity




Recognition as Ritualised Reciprocation: The Interaction Order as a Realm of Recognition 199 MICHAEL HVIID JACOBSEN


The Protean Goffman: Erving Goffman and the New Individualism



PART III Extending Goffman 10 The 21st-Century Interaction Order



11 The ‘Unboothed’ Phone: Goffman and the Use of Mobile Communication



12 The Question of Calculation: Erving Goffman and the Pervasive Planning of Communication 293 ESPEN YTREBERG

13 Goffman and the Tourist Gaze: A Performative Perspective on Tourism Mobilities



14 Erving Goffman and Everyday Life Mobility OLE B. JENSEN


Contents 15 Close Strangers: Patient–Patient Interaction Rituals in Acute Care Hospitals

xi 352


Contributors Index

373 377


Just as no idea is ever conceived without a modicum of inspiration, no book is ever written or designed without gratitude. I am therefore forever grateful to all those colleagues who took out time from their busy schedules and contributed with insightful and thought-provoking chapters for this book. However, and perhaps most importantly, the book would never have been put together was it not for its human centre of gravity, Erving Goffman, whose work for years and years has inspired me in my own research endeavours and whose sensitive sociological gaze—on social life as well as on academic attempts to capture it—after all these years still stands as one of the most penetrating and awe-inspiring within the discipline. I also wish to thank Benjamin Holtzman and Jennifer Morrow at Routledge for their encouraging support throughout the different stages of completing this book as well as Michael Watters at IBTGlobal for professional support throughout the fi nal stage of publication. In particular, I wish to thank Søren Kristiansen, friend and colleague at Aalborg University, for continuing to keep my interest in Goffman alive and for ‘setting the train’ in motion in the fi rst place. I promise to keep the engines running. Michael Hviid Jacobsen Aalborg University, Summer 2009

Introduction Goffman Through the Looking Glass: From ‘Classical’ to Contemporary Goffman Michael Hviid Jacobsen

GOFFMAN THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS In Lewis Carroll’s famous fairytale Through the Looking-Glass, Alice, when stepping through the frame of the mirror in the nursery, leaves behind a world of quotidian and well-known everyday existence and moves into a world of wonder, amazement and adventure. The looking glass separates reality from dream, fact from fiction, the real from illusion, and the frame of the mirror thus becomes a point of entry into a magical and dreamlike yet also quite distorted experiential dimension. The same in many ways goes for the work of Erving Goffman. His specific focus on the world of the everyday also constitutes a frame through which one, as reader, can step and visit a novel and spectacular yet also quite recognisable territory of colourful conceptual and quasi-theoretical insights in abundance. One can read Goffman’s many books and enter an entirely new world with a wonderful attraction and almost magical quality, while at the same time staying fi rmly within the well-known and immediately familiar. Goffman’s many books on everyday life are, however, anything but everyday. For example, by way of his masterfully concocted metaphorical cornucopia of everyday life—consisting of such metaphors as the theatre, the ritual, the game and the frame—he depicted the mundane world as if it was anything but mundane and in this roundabout way succeeded in making the apparently trivial anything but trivial. In the words of two commentators, “trivia is no longer trivial: it now becomes important” (Schwartz and Jacobs 1979:183). Whenever one starts reflecting upon and investigating the everyday, as Goffman excelled in doing throughout his lifetime, it is transformed and even elevated in the process. And likewise, whenever one starts reflecting on Goffman’s work—his meticulous descriptions of those almost unnoticed aspects of social life we normally take for granted but which constitute the raw material of our lives with each other—one is gradually removed from merely describing and commenting and enters a world in which the textual reading of the many fascinating facets of his work—some obvious, others hidden—takes on a life on its own. It is such textual readings of Goffman’s work that are the purpose of this book.


Michael Hviid Jacobsen

When reading the work of Erving Goffman one, as reader, is not merely stepping through the frame of a marvellous conceptual and analytical mirror of the everyday—one is simultaneously also reflected in the mirror he is holding up in front of his readers. The reader catches a glimpse of himself or herself. All those minuscule things everybody engages in whenever in the company of others become magnified and crystallised through his poignant and provocative elaboration of the intimate doings and interactive details of his fellow homunculus. However, as we shall see later, Goffman’s own reflection was perhaps also caught in the selfsame mirror he teasingly placed in front of the rest of us. The term ‘looking glass’ as employed in the title of this introduction thus serves a variety of purposes for what transpires throughout the rest of the book. First, as mentioned, not only does one enter another almost magical world when reading Goffman’s perceptive work on the episodic situations and occasions of everyday life, one is also asked to confront oneself as a human being engaged in his universe of endless self-presentations, rituals, dramas and games. In his work, one catches a glimpse of oneself—albeit not always a flattering glimpse. Second, ever since its conception almost half a century ago, and ever since Goffman’s last lines were written almost three decades ago, his work has itself been forced to enter through the looking glass of time because it continuously is requested to show its worth, relevance and adequacy to a multitude of ever new experiences and developments unforeseeable in Goffman’s own lifetime. This book takes Goffman through the looking glass of time into the new millennium and to ‘the next level’, as it were, by applying his ideas, concepts and metaphors to a variety of recent social developments. Third, the so-called ‘looking-glass self’ is—according to the originator of the concept Charles Horton Cooley—a way to conceptualise how other people’s perception and evaluation shape our understanding and appreciation of self. As Cooley famously stated on this self as seen through the mirror of the evaluating eyes of others: “Each to each a looking glass, reflects the other that doth pass” (Cooley 1902/1964:184). This book is not so self-conscious as to pretend to shape Goffman’s understanding of self—in order to achieve this, if at all possible, it appears more than a quarter of a century too late. However, looking at Goffman through the looking-glass self means looking at how others receive and perceive his self and his work rather than looking at how Goffman himself believed his work should be construed and appreciated. By taking Goffman through the looking glass we take him into the present and scrutinise and analyse different aspects of his self and his work. Throughout the years many things have been written and said about Erving Goffman, many stories and some snips of gossip wander, many myths prevail, a lot of labels and epithets have been suggested to capture his life and work. For example, Albert Bergesen (1984) once called Goffman a ‘world calibre American contribution to sociological theory’; Randall Collins (1981) termed him a ‘hero-anthropologist’, an ‘explorer of



our social unconscious’ and a ‘theoretically oriented empiricist’; Allen D. Grimshaw (1983) named him a ‘genuine original’; Pierre Bourdieu shortly after Goffman’s death described him as the ‘discoverer of the infi nitely small’; while Alvin W. Gouldner (1970) characterised him as a ‘young turk’. Despite differences in the emphasis and sympathy of these short descriptions, they all seem to capture an unmistakable quality of Goffman and his work—one simply cannot stay indifferent to him. Moreover, there is indeed a certain amount of truth in all of the above testimonies. No doubt Goffman was one of the most inspirational but also bristly figures of 20th century American sociology and one of those names that will continue to be mentioned and discussed decades—if not centuries—from now. However, Goffman was not and did not regard himself primarily as a theoretician indulging in abstract reasoning or speculative endeavours, which is perhaps one of the main reasons why his name, according to Anthony Giddens, “would not ordinarily be ranked among the major social theorists” (Giddens 1988:250). And true, Goffman is seldom mentioned alongside the founding fathers of the discipline—Karl Marx, Émile Durkheim, Max Weber and Georg Simmel—and even compared to many of the more recent ‘superstars’ of sociology—Jürgen Habermas, Pierre Bourdieu, Anthony Giddens, Zygmunt Bauman, Niklas Luhmann and Ulrich Beck—Goffman still receives relatively little mention. Most places, his work is more an exception than an integral part of reading lists and curriculum in introductory courses to sociology or social theory. Perhaps this is due to the somewhat slippery character of his work, neither empirical nor theoretical. Goffman’s contempt for ‘purely scholastic’ sociology is widely recognised. According to John Lofl and, “Goffman [was] an Emerson, a James, a Dewey, or a Mead. Like them he bears a great disdain for theory-talk, but an abiding love for theory, for thought about the way the world works” (Lofl and 1984:12). So although Goffman to posterity may be seen and classified predominantly as a contributor to sociological theory, this was perhaps most of all an unintended consequence of the often-simplified pigeonholing of his work—a pigeonholing neglecting Goffman’s great contributions also to sociological methodology, observational methods and to the poetics of presenting scientific material even of the apparently most unscientific nature. Indeed, he was one of the fi rst to proclaim the micro-social world and all its myriad interminglings a realm worthy of serious academic attention, and in this way—as well as in the special way he communicated his scientific fi ndings—Goffman was a genuine original. Finally, the ‘young turk’ label probably intended to capture the mild dissident attitude and Goffman’s preferred alternative approach to almost everything, compared to many mainstream sociologists of his time. So all the above epithets and labels (as well as many more) proposed by colleagues, students, commentators, admirers and critics all seem to point to specific qualities of Goffman’s complex personality and professional life that truly set him apart from the rest.


Michael Hviid Jacobsen

But why start to comment on, regurgitate and dissect the work of Erving Goffman again all these years after his death? Why this sordid and morbid kind of intellectual gravedigging for which a discipline such as sociology is renowned? Conferring the above cornucopia of comments, has everything that needs to be said about Goffman not been said already? Although this book wishes to respect the spirit of Goffman—who himself was opposed to the “low form of hero worship, an attempt to humanise the field and insulate the sociologist from the study of society” (Goffman in Davis 1980:7) evident in the publication of book after book dealing with academics as if they were celebrities and superstars—he probably would not have liked this book because it places its human object on a pedestal and puts too much emphasis on the individual genius behind the ideas. Notwithstanding this, there are certain ceremonial, analytical as well as personal reasons necessitating putting together this book on Goffman. Ceremonial reasons fi rst. This year marks the fi ftieth anniversary of Goffman’s perhaps most publicised masterpiece The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life1 —in the International Sociological Association’s survey voted among the ten most influential sociology books of the 20th century. Such an anniversary calls for celebrations, and this book provides plenty of positive evaluations, assessments and applications of that book’s ideas as well as ideas from many other books written by the ‘birthday boy’. Most of the analytical reasons have already been revealed above—especially the fact that this book wants to demonstrate that despite not being the new boy in the class anymore, Goffman is still very much alive and kicking and vibrant in contemporary sociology. His books seem to hold that rare quality of standing the test of time and his work therefore deserves the listing among the true classics of the discipline. One is truly a classic within a discipline when other people start writing about one’s work. In this sense, Goffman was already a classic in his own lifetime—and the contributions included in this book all testify to his continued status as a classic within a variety of disciplines and sub-disciplines. Goffman is therefore also a contemporary classic in the sense that his work continues to ignite, shape and sharpen the sociological imagination of every generation. Finally, the personal reasons. Obviously, I never had the chance to meet Erving Goffman myself—by the time of his death my concerns were more about learning the minutia mannerisms of social life rather than with observing and analysing them. Nevertheless, his spirit early on inspired me and with me generations of younger sociologists into taking the apparently trivial and unnoticed seriously in its own right. In this roundabout way he remains present in his absence. Goffman—unknowingly and probably even against his own will—thus planted a seed that since then has grown into something bigger which may perhaps not deserve the formal tag as an actual ‘movement’ or a ‘following’ but must instead be seen as a type of mentality or sensitivity uniting those praising or practicing his perspective. Naturally, something has happened in the passing of Goffman through the generations of new sociologists living



under new conditions—and something is bound to happen with Goffman’s perspective also in the future. Despite such changes it is one of those perspectives on social life that will endure and continue to inspire scholars concerned with that which to the naked eye perhaps seems unimportant but which to most of us—coming to contemplate it—takes up most of our lives. A brief and in no way exhaustive characterisation of Erving Goffman follows—looking at the man as well as his scholarly perspective— and a concluding overview of the content of this book and a short list of recommended reading for those not satiated by the insights gained from this volume.

WHO WAS GOFFMAN? Despite being a much publicised sociologist—at least within the discipline itself—surprisingly little information about Erving Goffman’s personal life and his formative years is available. In this sense, he was indeed a private man as well as a rather unpublic sociologist. Although there can be no doubt that the intricacies of personal background and socio-cultural context surrounding social thinkers inevitably shape their ideas and understandings, this is neither the time nor the place for an extended elaboration of the many twists and turns of Goffman’s life. Therefore, this introduction will not venture into a tour de force of Goffman’s personal biography, as such is already available elsewhere (Winkin 1988, 1999), but merely present the ‘essentials’ followed by some reflections and interpretations of Goffman’s academic perspective and standing. To those interested in the refi neries of biographical detail, Yves Winkin’s (1988) wonderful account is highly recommended and Gary Alan Fine and Philip Manning (2003) have also provided a digestible overview of biographical information of Goffman’s personal life and whereabouts. Although often described as an ‘American sociologist’, Erving Goffman was in fact Canadian—born in Manville, Alberta, into a Ukrainian-Jewish family on June 11, 1922. Ian Hacking (2004:289) informs us that Erving was the son of Max Goffman, who served as a Jewish conscript in the Russian Army, later to desert and emigrate from Novokrainka to Winnipeg together with almost a quarter of a million other Ukrainians arriving in Canada in the early decades of the 20th century. Erving’s mother Ann is little mentioned in biographical descriptions but together with Max she started a small store of men’s and women’s clothing. In the company of his sister Frances Bay—who later became a famous actress in film and television dramas—Erving grew up in the Winnipeg area where he attended St. Johns Technical School and quickly showed his skills in gymnastics and chemistry (see Winkin’s chapter in this volume). After graduation in 1939 he moved on to the University of Manitoba to do his major. Initially, Erving did not show any interest in


Michael Hviid Jacobsen

sociology whatsoever, his primary subject being chemistry. However, upon meeting the sociologist Dennis Wrong during a stay in the early 1940s at the National Film Board in Ottawa, he switched his interest to sociology. This led him—without completing his science degree—to the University of Toronto to complete his undergraduate degree and there he encountered social scientists who encouraged especially an interest in cultural anthropology as well as bodily communication, such as C. W. M. Hart and Ray L. Birdwhistell. Goffman graduated with a degree in sociology in 1945 and after a chance meeting with fellow Canadian sociologist Everett C. Hughes he decided to move to the prestigious University of Chicago to write his PhD thesis under the supervision of W. Lloyd Warner, who was to become famous for his extensive studies spanning several years of ‘Yankee City’. Goffman’s master’s thesis, which was directed by Warner and William E. Henry, presented an exploration of the relationship between class and personality measured via visual influence (termed ‘depicted experience’) (Goffman 1949), although his focus shifted several times during the completion of the thesis due to problems with the research design (Smith 2003, 2006:16–18). Apart from Hughes and Warner, Goffman in Chicago also got acquainted with some of the other stalwarts of sociology (and especially qualitative interactionist sociology) at that time such as Herbert Blumer, Anselm L. Strauss and Louis Wirth and also got to know some of the aspiring new names such as Howard S. Becker, Joseph A. Gusfield and Fred Davis. The fieldwork for Goffman’s PhD thesis was conducted in the small village of Baltasound at the Shetland Island of Unst where he stayed for an extended period of a year and a half to do indepth ethnographic observations. He received his PhD from the University of Chicago for his still officially unpublished thesis Communication Conduct in an Island Community (Goffman 1953). His first published academic works during the period of completing his thesis were articles on class status, on how to ‘cool the mark out’ and a report on the service station dealer. After obtaining his PhD Goffman enjoyed a brief spell as assistant to Edward A. Shils before moving to Washington, DC, as a visiting scholar at the National Institute of Mental Health. During a three-year period in the capital Goffman began to establish himself as a sociologist and conducted his much publicised fieldwork at the mental institution of St. Elizabeth’s, later to be published in Asylums (1961). His first book to appear on the market, however, was The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life (originally published in 1956), which consisted of insights from his PhD thesis inscribed within a dramaturgical metaphorical imagery. This book turned out to do wonders for Goffman’s career and reputation. Prior to its publication, he was in 1958 personally hired by Blumer to teach at the University of California, Berkeley, where he ended up staying for a decade, which proved highly productive and established his name as one of the up-and-coming sociologists of his generation. From the early 1960s a stream of books authored by Goffman appeared dealing with everyday life encounters and the multifarious routines and rituals governing contacts between strangers in public spaces. After a short sabbatical stay



at Harvard in the mid-1960s, Goffman resigned the position at Berkeley in 1968 and decided to take on a position at the—compared to Berkeley—less prestigious University of Pennsylvania, which proved to be his final academic destination. Here he was offered a well-paid position—according to himself the highest paid for a sociology professor—as the Benjamin Franklin Chair of Anthropology and Psychology. It was during these years that the general public too came to know a little of Goffman’s work due to a feature article in Time Magazine that labelled him “one of the most illuminating—and disturbing—cartographers of that shadowy terrain where man plays at being a social animal without fully understanding exactly what he is doing” (Time Magazine 1969:50). During this time his last works were published usually with a few years of interval—Strategic Interaction in 1969, Frame Analysis in 1974, Gender Advertisements in 1979 and finally Forms of Talk in 1981. Goffman was elected—apparently as a rather controversial and surprise candidate—to the prestigious position of President of the American Sociological Association in 1982, succeeding William Foote Whyte—another exquisite ethnographic observer of everyday life—but due to advanced illness Goffman was unable to deliver his much anticipated presidential address which was published posthumously (Goffman 1983). Erving Goffman died after a brief spell of illness due to stomach cancer on November 20, 1982 in Philadelphia. At the time of his death, he was known to be one of the most read and inspirational sociologists in the world. Despite guarding his private life, a few ‘strips’ (as Goffman himself called those arbitrarily cut slices from the ongoing stream of life) should be mentioned. Goffman’s love life materialised in two marriages. His fi rst wife, the psychologist Angelica Schuyler Choate (or ‘Sky’ to her friends) to whom he was married from 1952 to 1964 and had the son Thomas Edward, committed suicide at the age of 35 due to mental health problems. In 1981 he married the linguist Gillian Sankoff in Philadelphia and had a daughter with her shortly before his death. It is also a known fact that Goffman enjoyed gambling throughout his life and that he was trained as a certified dealer in a Las Vegas casino. Apart from this very little about Goffman’s personal affairs has to this day been made public. Although the preceding biography—which in no way amounts to an exhaustive account of Goffman’s life—provides us with some scattered information about his life and some major pieces that paint a picture of him as a person, such biographical details are few and far between. They merely reproduce the conventional information revealed in most introductions to his work. As is obvious, Goffman was reluctant to allow entry into the world of his personal life and as Yves Winkin recalls when trying to piece together a biography of Goffman: 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


Michael Hviid Jacobsen 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 fi nd, as only brief glimpses were ever obtained. 2 (Winkin 1999:19)

Then where is one to look for more information or details about who Goffman actually was—not just about his objective life trajectory, his ‘actual identity’ or surface self, but also information about the way in which he appeared to others, the way he touched other people and the way in which he conducted his relations with others? What was—in his own terminology—the impression he ‘gave’ as well as ‘gave off’ to others during his lifetime? Despite his aversion to being under scrutiny himself, despite his meticulous avoidance of ‘giving’ such messages about himself, he—in Judith Posner’s (1978) succinct utilisation of Goffman’s own terminology on himself—nevertheless ‘gave off’ certain impressions of his persona and private life that was revealed by his colleagues, students and personal contacts. Goffman himself did not believe that one could in fact paint an accurate or appropriate picture of a thinker’s mission or mentality merely by scanning their books or by asking them directly. One would, as it were, have to read between the lines. As he stated in one of the few interviews with him: “It seems to me that you can’t get a picture of anyone’s work by asking what they do, or by reading explicit statements in their texts what they do. Because that’s by and large all doctrine and ideology” (Goffman in Verhoeven 1993:313). If we are to find out more about who Goffman was then, we need to take a closer look at the way others saw and evaluated his self. There are many—and widely diverging—experiences with, recollections of and reactions to Goffman as a person. A commonly shared understanding is that Goffman was a mercurial persona, but also a complex human being. According to Lofland, “Goffman was a complicated man who grew ever more Gordian as he matured” (Lofland 1984:7). Goffman, this ‘Gordian Man’, was complicated at an intellectual level, but presumably also on a personal level. He lived a life far away from public spotlights and his appearances as keynote speaker at conferences or other public events were few and far between. One might speculate that Goffman’s own facework to a large degree consisted of avoiding confrontation with his own self as others saw it. He was not fond of the floodlight being turned on himself and contrary to many of his contemporaries who eagerly took part in public debates in the media or took the platform at political rallies, Goffman never showed up. As Marshall Berman observed: “Wherever [Goffman] has been, he has been virtually anonymous. He has taken no part in political or cultural affairs. He does not speak at conferences or appear on talk shows. He almost never allows himself to be photographed . . . In his books, as in his life, he projects a persona of utter impersonality” (Berman 1972/2000:267). Also Lofland observed how Goffman “discouraged writing about himself”



and recounts the story of how he when confronted with the intention of publishing a book (The View From Goffman) in his honour—according to the editor Jason Ditton (1980)—was “totally against the [volume], wholly decrying exegetical, critical or expositional work” (Lofland 1984:17–18). Winkin substantiates this by stating that Goffman “never gave interviews to the media, he never allowed his publishers to release pictures of him and he never appeared on television” (Winkin 1999:19). This aversion to media stardom, photography sessions and public self-presentations can be construed as a symptom of shyness or as opposition to making his own self available to his audience. Perhaps his shyness resulted from the fact that he was unable to make the impression and present the self he really wanted, or perhaps this shyness and insulated lifestyle just increased throughout the years. Speculations are plenty. Apparently, Goffman started out relatively open and accessible to his surroundings but later gradually grew more and more secluded as a person and distanced in his writings. As some reporters have pointed out, Goffman during his career and his consecutive books gradually moved away from his initial open contact with public life—as he encountered it face-to-face while writing his PhD thesis on the Shetland Islands and in The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life as well as during his extended observational period in a mental institution leading to books such as Asylums—and into a form of self-seclusion and withdrawal from everyday life culminating in books such as Frame Analysis, Gender Advertisements and Forms of Talk obviously concocted primarily in front of an office desk (Ledger 1982). Not only in mentality but also in stature and appearance was Goffman rather inconspicuous and apparently even seemed a bit confused and distracted in many of his social contacts. Robert Erwin recalls how he “dressed like an accountant, confused the Beatles with blues singers, and gave it as his considered opinion that television was ‘artificial’” (Erwin 1992:339). Erwin even characterised Goffman’s personality as ‘eerie’ and stated how he “never became Guru of the Month with journalists and interviewers and lecture agents” (Erwin 1992:338). According to one close acquaintance of Goffman, his unimpressive height (he was apparently not very tall, close to 5 feet 4 inches) of which he was consciously aware—apart from occasionally making him the victim of colleagues’ joking—however also made him an almost unnoticed and impressive observer of all those apparently trivial things that took place before his very eyes. His own inconspicuousness thus turned advantageous when observing others and made him specifically alert and sensitive to the way people appeared to each other. And not only personally and socially, but also academically and politically did Goffman refrain from taking or claiming centre stage. Collins has noted that “Goffman seems hyper-reflexive; he himself manifests an extreme form of role-distance, separating himself from any clear, straightforward position, be it theoretical or popular. In this sense, he appears as the epitome of the 1950s intellectual—hip to the point of unwillingness


Michael Hviid Jacobsen

to take any strong stance, even the stance of his own hipness” (Collins 1981:253). This role distance and intellectual hipness resulted in Goffman never encouraging his work to be pigeonholed, classified or measured according to conventional standards. In a strange way it made his position safe from colonisation and comparison at the same time as there were often either attempts at appropriation by different established paradigms, traditions or schools of thought (see the chapter by Jacobsen and Kristiansen in this volume) or depictions of his work as enigmatic and obscure verging on the utterly uninteresting. However, one of the most distinctive features of Goffman’s work—particularly if one recalls the time in which his career took off—was his largely apolitical mentality. Contrary to many scholars at the time, Goffman remained unmoved in his work by political or ideological motives, especially of a leftish orientation. He might even have been bored by the perpetual political discussions and ideological entanglements of his time. Marshall Ledger recalls an exchange of words between Goffman and a colleague discussing politics. When the colleague declared that “all the world will eventually be Marxist”, Goffman drily—and characteristically— replied: “I’m not denying that. But tell me one thing: Do Marxists brush their teeth in the morning?” (Ledger 1982:42). William A. Gamson quotes another rather similar story of how someone once asked Goffman about his politics: “[Goffman] seemed momentarily taken a back by the question. “My ‘politics’?” (pause), I don’t think I have any ‘politics’. (Another pause). If anything, anarchist” (Gamson 1985:605). Gamson went on humorously to suggest how, “in the eternal hunt, Goffman ran with the hares” (Gamson 1985:605), and as Goffman himself poignantly declared in one of his books—especially aimed at those believing that social science should work as a vehicle for political purposes and sympathies: He who would combat false consciousness and awaken people to their true interests has much to do, because the sleep is very deep. And I do not intend here to provide a lullaby but merely to sneak in and watch the way people snore. (Goffman 1974:14) The generally apolitical nature of Goffman’s work was also noted by Gouldner who critically stated that his work is “a social theory that dwells on the episodic and sees life only as it is lived in a narrow interpersonal circumference, ahistorical and noninstitutional, an existence beyond history and society” (Gouldner 1970:379). However, although recognising that Goffman’s work compared to many contemporaries was indeed rather politically ‘unmusical’, it is my claim that Goffman’s work may be seen as apolitical only in a conventional understanding of ‘politics’ but that his work in fact had political connotations, repercussions and capacities for understanding the micro-battles and micro-conflicts which, every now and then, surface in social gatherings and situations. Obviously, Goffman’s politics were not the macro-politics of nation-states and organised political parties but the



micro-politics unfolding in episodic everyday encounters and in snap-shot situations of stigmatisation and struggles to maintain face. Although power as a macro-phenomenon, as the possession of specific social positions or the privileges of particular offices, was almost entirely absent from his analyses, power as a micro-phenomenon permeated most parts of his work (Rogers 1977). In this way, Goffman’s view inspired many later attempts to theorise politics (and especially emotional politics) within micro-settings (see Clark 1990; Collins 2004; Hochschild 1983).3 Goffman also admitted that people in power positions enjoy privileges unavailable to other social groups and his very last words ever published in his presidential address touched—humorously and succinctly—upon the importance of investigating those segments of society apparently immune to sociological analysis and paid tribute to the continuous importance of sociology as a curious, inquisitive and obnoxious enterprise: I’ve heard it said that we [the sociologists] should be glad to trade what we’ve so far produced for a few really good conceptual distinctions and a cold beer. But there’s nothing in the world we should trade for what we do have: the bent to sustain in regard to all elements of social life a spirit of unfettered, unsponsored inquiry, and the wisdom not to look elsewhere but ourselves and our discipline for this mandate. That is our inheritance and that so far is what we have to bequeath. If one must have warrant addressed to social needs, let it be for unsponsored analyses of the social arrangements enjoyed by those with institutional authority—priests, psychiatrists, school teachers, police, generals, government leaders, parents, males, whites, nationals, media operators, and all the other well-placed persons who are in a position to give official imprint to versions of reality. (Goffman 1983:17) What a shame he was unable to deliver this provocative speech in person— it may perhaps have given his critics a different view of his work instead of claiming that he was entirely negligent of or indifferent to central and conventional sociological themes such as social power, inequality and stratification. As Collins recollects, even the manner of the cancellation of the presidential address—to which so many looked forward, some perhaps more anxiously than others—was typically Goffmanesque: Everyone wondered what he would do for his presidential address: a straight, traditional presentation seemed unthinkable for Goffman with his reputation as an iconoclast, yet to be merely iconoclastic in a public forum was too easy, passé, a mere imitation of earlier cultural forms. I would have predicted yet another multi-levelled public address, polity and conventional on the surface but fi lled with esoteric claims for the cognoscenti and veiled put-downs of everyone else. Instead we got a far more dramatic message: Presidential address cancelled, Goffman


Michael Hviid Jacobsen dying. It was an appropriately Goffmanian way to go out. (Collins 1986:112)

As should be evident, Goffman was not unsympathetic to power or politics—but his politics were not Politics with a capital P but rather politics as an integral part of everyday life and human intimate togetherness, a sort of personalised politics or body politics, as it were. Thus, although on the surface it seemed a distanced attitude to politics—which to the naked eye perhaps even seemed excessively uninvolved and dismissive—it was nevertheless an attitude reflecting a painful awareness of the fact that not everybody made it in the world. Books such as Asylums (1961) and Stigma (1963b) certainly testify to this and Bennett M. Berger emphasised how Goffman’s sympathies, despite his own success, for the losers was part of “the role distance which is obliged for the deviantly successful out of loyalty to all the beautiful losers who never made it” (Berger 1973:361). Berger also talks about Goffman’s ‘demonic detachment’—his own as observer of the micro-social world as well as the general attitude of those who inhabit and get by in this world, and most of Goffman’s books were indeed written with this kind of ‘double’ detachment as a conscious and integral part of the plot. Regarding Goffman’s detached political stance (or rather anti-stance), T. R. Young also aptly captured the crux of the matter by stating that “Goffman neither celebrates the priest nor castigates the prostitute” and, following Gouldner’s claim that Goffman’s sociology lacked a ‘metaphysics of hierarchy’, commented how Goffman was persistent in insisting that “the points of view of psychiatrists, salesmen, professors and police have no prior moral claim on the loyalty of the sociologist than do the points of view of the patient, the customer, the student or the criminal” (Young 1971:276). This latter statement testifies to how Goffman also anticipated later notions of ‘ethnomethodological indifference’ and other anti-elitist interpretative positions. Despite in many respects being a reserved man withdrawn from public life and absent from political debates, in private social occasions Goffman was apparently quite the opposite—a prankster, a joker, a con man—when experimenting with the delicate equilibrium of social encounters and when participating in social events and turning them into a laboratory for his own curiosity and research agendas. Many who were close to Goffman therefore remember his ability to ‘garfi nkle’4 even before this term was fi rst coined. For example, Roger D. Abrahams recalls how Goffman brought an amused enthusiasm to personal encounters. He enjoyed organizing groups to have a ‘great meal’ at meetings and conferences, but going out with him in public was not always an unqualified pleasure. He knew how to play social games with great decorousness, but he often couldn’t resist breaking their rules to see what would happen. In fact, he was often abruptly rude. He liked to give the impression



that he would not suffer fools gladly, but one never knew whom he would cast in such a role, nor how seriously he meant the scenes that he staged. (Abrahams 1984:76) Whereas some probably found this experimental attitude—and with it the somewhat perverse pleasure of seeing others having to improvise in order to save face—downright mean, others enjoyed it and could see a meaningful irony in the fact that the master of analysing social encounters also used himself and his company as human guinea pigs in the game of micro-sociality. Therefore, Erwin speculated that Goffman “learned about interaction more by watching than by participating” (Erwin 1992:339). Without doubt Goffman was more of a voyeur than an exhibitionist and the fact that he was an entertaining and shrewd social choreographer is well beyond argument. Laurie Taylor (2000:239) dubbed him a ‘licensed voyeur’ wallowing in the watching and observing of people’s attempts to present themselves to each other. Also Lofland’s (1984) wonderful and insightful ‘tales of Goffman’ reveal a man with a wholehearted ability to joke about himself and others. Some of these sayings and tales follow: Passing by a group of old friends in a hotel lobby at a sociologists’ convention, he was heard saying loud and clear: “If I can’t find anybody more important to talk with, I’ll come back and talk with you” . . . A line he used frequently: “In the time I’m talking to you, I could be writing a paper”. At a sociology department party where he encounters an assistant professor who has just been denied tenure and who is angry and bitter about it: “After all, all of us aren’t good enough to teach here” . . . Asked why he stood for the Presidency of the ASA, his instant oneword reply: “Vanity” . . . Replying to a student who is suggesting that the dignity and integrity of the self are moral concerns that permeate his work: “I only put in all that self stuff because people like to read about it”. (Lofland 1984:20–21) There are many ways to interpret the content of these tales. The events they portray may have helped create bonds to others and relieve awkward social moments but they can also be read as a cynical means to maintaining a certain distance to one’s research topic, to keep personal contacts at bay or as a vicious experimentation with the equilibrium of social occasions. The tales also show how Goffman had an exquisite and perhaps even bizarre or disturbing gift for peeling off the skin of many social courtesies and interpersonal rituals, laying bare what actually went on in the minds of interactants. As his mentor and teacher Everett C. Hughes recalls—somewhat critically—of Goffman’s extraordinary but to some also threatening ability to penetrate social life by observation:


Michael Hviid Jacobsen Observation of this measure and intensity is indeed a threat to the face of the observed subjects, if they are moral beings. Laden with guilty embarrassing knowledge, Goffman saves the face of all who are content to let themselves be considered normal, fallible human beings. Those who cannot take his analysis are no doubt tempted to do away with him. (Hughes 1969:426)5

Moreover, many of the aforementioned tales also contributed to the almost mythical status that Goffman obtained especially after his death. Perhaps as some sort of compensation for personal shyness, one can speculate that this was the main reason why Goffman consciously developed such a wonderful and refi ned written style. He was a man with a flair for words who succeeded in ensnaring his readers with eloquence and elaborated language games. Thus, in the preface to a book dedicated to Goffman’s great “capacity to discern and point out the deeper significance of apparently insignificant human endeavours”, his overwhelming attention to detail and his exquisite and saturated yet deceivingly accessible style of writing, the editors Arnold Birenbaum and Edward Sagarin commented that Goffman “reminds us of no other social thinker so much as he does of great men of letters, perhaps Marcel Proust or Franz Kafka” (Birenbaum and Sagarin 1973:3–4). Although some positively disliked not only Goffman’s persona and his social games but also his writings, as quite a few reviews of his books revealed, most students and experienced scholars alike seem to have enjoyed the unmistakable humorous and sharp edge to his work. Lofland correctly observes how “his texts continually jostle the reader into chuckles, smiles or broad laughter” (Lofland 1984:19). Why is this? At least two explanations immediately spring to mind. First, because Goffman’s mastery of prose and language, his ironic attitude, his vivid essayism and his poignant examples from everyday life made it an exquisite pleasure to read his books compared to the often technical writings and abstract reasoning of many of his colleagues. Second, because the reader would almost immediately identify with Goffman’s texts and in them recognise events and experiences from his or her own everyday life encounters—something a bit more difficult with the often abstract writings or sophisticated terminology of many structural functionalists or Marxist scholars. This made Grimshaw contend that “Goffman’s gift was a facility to point out things about social life at once completely new and instantly recognizable” (Grimshaw 1983:147). Many former students have also in panegyric tones testified to how Goffman not just in writing but also in person was a mercurial entertainer, a sublime performer, and Gary T. Marx—a former student—recalls how Goffman in the opening remarks to a class with a wry smile would say: “We will try and keep you entertained” (Marx 1984:652). Despite apparently not having many students or teaching many classes (Oromaner 1980:290), during his lifetime Goffman especially attracted and appealed to younger academic audiences and it is



my personal experience that his work and perspective continues to capture the sociological imagination specifically of undergraduate students who in his work—perhaps for the very fi rst time in their embryonic careers—recognise the everyday relevance of sociological thinking. To many, Goffman’s work is therefore a wake-up call, a heureka experience, an almost existential moment. Judith Posner observed something similar: It is a curious thing that while among graduate and undergraduate students [Goffman’s] following is fairly large, among older, more established faculty he is not taken very seriously. It is also apparent that the seeming lack of interest in Erving Goffman among his peer group is more than accidental: more likely it is intentional. (Posner 1978:67) Consequently, despite its obvious source of attraction and mesmeric qualities, it seems as if reading about and revelling in Goffman’s wonderful micro-sociological universe has been regarded as academically inferior to the often scholastic or navel-picking tendencies of more abstract social philosophy or grand theorising. But when it comes down to it, Goffman, with his contribution to a reorientation and revitalisation of sociological analysis, and with his vibrant yet withdrawn personality, instead of being part of perhaps even assisted in avoiding or alleviating the ‘coming crisis of Western sociology’ anticipated by Gouldner (1970).

WHAT WAS GOFFMAN’S PERSPECTIVE? As is obvious from the above, many colleagues, former students and biographers have commented on the nature and personality of Erving Goffman based on their recollections and experiences. Many have also commented and responded more substantially on the nature and content of his work. These comments and responses co-exist and constitute a complex mosaic of widely differing appreciations of Goffman’s perspective. It is important to stress that there at least in my opinion—which on this matter might be labelled perspectival or even relativistic—is no one right way of reading, approaching or appreciating Goffman and there is no one correct or authoritative interpretation of his work. Moreover, it is equally important to stress that Goffman did not—and did not aspire to—provide sociology with a systematic ‘theory’, a ‘method’ or a ‘paradigm’. Rather, it is my contention that he provided the discipline with a ‘perspective’ that contained a multitude of important theoretical, methodological and conceptual insights into a variety of aspects of social life as well as into how to investigate it. On the character of such a ‘perspective’, Consuelo Corradi—with special reference to Goffman—stated that “this term, which is perhaps over-used in sociology, is usually employed to indicate the fact that there are many ways to report a social phenomenon because it is multi-dimensional, facetted and in relief.


Michael Hviid Jacobsen

The various perspectives, however, are not neutral observation points” (Corradi 1990:165). Goffman’s perspective on social life is no exception to this rule and despite often being couched in an almost distanced and dispassionate tone, his was far from a neutral observation point. His perspective consciously focused on specific aspects of social life with a specific agenda and a specific way of seeing, selecting, sorting and organising his impressions and findings. And just as Goffman himself provided a perspective—one perspective among many other—others have also, as mentioned, provided different perspectives on him and his work. Whereas some have organised their reading and interpretation of Goffman around certain detectable temporal stages of development in his work (e.g. Collins 1981, 1986),6 others have focused on his shifting use of metaphorical frameworks (e.g. Manning 1991), others on his methods and methodology (Kristiansen 2000), while yet others have stressed the entirely enigmatic status of his perspective (e.g. Fontana 1980; Wexler 1984). Thus, there are many perspectives on Goffman’s perspective. One of these perspectives is provided by A. Javier Treviño, who in his introduction to Goffman’s Legacy (Treviño 2003b) perceptively captured and summarised what he saw as the four cornerstones of Goffman’s sociological perspective as follows: 1. His attention to the routine and seemingly trivial matters of everyday life. 2. His rich array of metaphors, rhetorical techniques and conceptual schemes. 3. His powerful, yet unarticulated, qualitative research methodology. 4. His carving out an exquisite interaction order.7 On all these four focal points Goffman presented a unique, original and exceptionally potent perspective on sociology as well as on social life. I will touch briefly on and without pretending to exhaust these four central aspects of his work, however not in any chronological fashion but—in true Goffman fashion—more freely, impressionistically and sporadically. Goffman’s work emerged on the sociological scene at a time when a variety ofpredominantly quantitative methods and macro-oriented analyses were regarded as the apex of social scientific creativity and when either structural (such as functionalist and later Marxist) or highly individual perspectives (such as behaviourism, exchange theory or psychoanalysis) prevailed. In a time when studies of the everyday, social interaction and social occasions were generally regarded with great suspicion and not seen as desirable routes for aspiring academic candidates, Goffman’s critical comment about the status of the—at that time—sociological priorities perhaps says it all: Sociology does not provide a ready framework that can order these data, let alone show comparisons and continuities with behavior in



private gathering places such as offices, factory floors, living rooms and kitchens. To be sure, one part of ‘collective behavior’—riots, crowds, panics—has been established as something to study. But the remaining part of the area, the study of ordinary human traffic and the patterning of ordinary social contacts, has been little considered. (Goffman 1963a:4) Throughout his career spanning three decades Goffman sought to rectify this gross neglect of ordinary social contacts and when towards the end of his life in an interview labelling himself an “ethnographer of small entities” (Verhoeven 1993:322), and in writing stating that “the gestures which we sometimes call empty are perhaps in fact the fullest thing of all” (Goffman 1967:90–91), he actually summarised the entire essence and mission of his work—how the study of the trivialities that were perhaps not so trivial after all provided an important inroad into, a baseline to or starting-point for understanding more comprehensive social processes and more essential features of social life than were previously attempted. In a similar fashion Eugen Weber once aptly captured the necessity of understanding the often invisible ‘petite histoire’ of social life: A lot of life is about things so trivial that we do not bother to record them—only sometimes note their absence, as with manners. But the petite histoire is made up of details, and it can surely help to make vaster and more important processes clear. (Weber 1986:80) Goffman’s great feat consisted in his perceptive and courageous interest in conducting research into and his ability to capture conceptually exactly this ‘petite histoire’, which to most of his colleagues seemed either dull or unimportant and which to most of those living everyday life appeared so utterly familiar that they were blind to its analytical dimensions. Thus, Alasdair MacIntyre once described Goffman’s ability to capture this familiar and trivial world as a way of seeing “the familiar with the eyes of a stranger, while at the same time retaining his familiarity with what is being viewed” (MacIntyre 1969:447). Perhaps unsurprisingly, Goffman’s studies of the trivial and mundane micro-world generated ambivalent responses. As Greg Smith noted: “For some, Goffman’s writings represent the sociological imagination at its finest: his analyses are innovative, informative, even entertaining. For others, his work is merely descriptive, not genuinely explanatory, and ignorant of the press, of institutions and the social realities of power and exploitation” (Smith 1988:118). And Smith went on to stress how “Goffman was equivalent about both of these extremes of assessment, cultivating a disarming modesty in his writings, yet insisting that his central topic—faceto-face interaction—warranted sustained sociological investigation” (Smith 1988:118). In essence, Goffman was an enigma whose work resulted in

18 Michael Hviid Jacobsen widely diverging and even contradictory readings, responses, reactions and receptions (Wexler 1984). He was an enigma because he provocatively sat astride many of the dogmatic barriers erected in order to keep things— particularly theories, paradigms and approaches—apart. Goffman was also an enigma because he was an eclectic well before eclecticism became fashionable. On the overall, he can be described as a Gordian knot made up primarily by Simmelian, Durkheimian and Sartrean sources of inspiration, which he mixed into his own strong cocktail and which with varying impact permeated different stages and parts of his work. Because Goffman investigated that which was regarded merely as a corner of conventional sociological wisdom, perhaps even as an inferior preoccupation, he was seen—and saw himself—as an outsider, a marginal man and a maverick. It was therefore no surprise that all his books were monographs with no collaborators or co-authors. On Goffman’s self-presentation and status as such a lone wolf, Gary T. Marx commented: Goffman presented himself as a detached, hard-boiled intellectual cynic, the sociologist as a 1940s private eye. His was a hip, existential, cool, essentially apolitical (at least in terms of prevailing ideologies) personal style. As a Canadian Jew of short stature working at the margins (or perhaps better, frontiers) of a marginal discipline, he was clearly an outsider. (Marx 1984:653) A few decades later, a rather similar characteristic—and recommendation—by Thomas J. Scheff read as follows: Since there don’t seem to be any new Goffman on the horizon, perhaps we all need to practice his art of deconstructing taken-for-granted assumptions in social science, not just the Western fascination with the individual. To be as effective as Goffman, we need to be marginal persons, like him. (Scheff 2006:31) Thus, throughout his life, Goffman remained—and perhaps even nurtured an image of himself as—a marginal figure. In general, he was opposed to the pigeonholing and ‘boxing’ of intellectual ideas and he defiantly declined any direct affiliation with or membership of any school of thought or paradigm. As he according to Dell Hymes once stated when reviewing an article for a journal: “I’m getting very tired of slogans and flags and kinship acknowledgements and membership badges” (Hymes 1984:626; see also the chapter by Jacobsen and Kristiansen in this volume). Contrary to several other important sociologists writing at his time, Goffman did not establish a school of thought and did not leave a paradigm for his followers to praise or maintain. He was not a Pied Piper parading as paradigmatic founder or intellectual father figure. In Robert W. Friedrichs’s (1970) famous separation between ‘priestly’ and ‘prophetic’ modes of conducting sociological



research, Goffman clearly belonged to the latter group as he seemed to have no aspirations to found a congregation of disciples worshipping his work. He rather wallowed in his status as a marginal figure because such a position luxuriously relieved him of the burdening obligation and expectation to conform to the mainstream. Also in this way, as in many others, Goffman was an enigma. Another central and indeed enigmatic feature of Goffman’s sociological perspective was his preferred way of dealing with and describing his favourite research focus: face-to-face interaction in ordinary everyday settings. As many interpreters have pointed out, he described the grammar of social life through three perhaps four main metaphorical frameworks—the theatre, the ritual, the game and the frame (see e.g. Branaman 1997; Corradi 1990; Jacobsen and Kristiansen 2006; Kalekin-Fishman 1988; Treviño 2003b). Whereas his theatrical or dramaturgical metaphor was in part inspired by his devouring of novels and crime stories with dramatic plots and in part shaped by Kenneth Burke’s (1945/1969) idea of ‘dramatism’, his ritual metaphor was clearly informed by the writings of Durkheim and functional anthropology. And whereas the development of the game metaphor was to a large degree inspired by personal experiences as a dealer in a Las Vegas casino as well as his reading of the game-theoretical work of Thomas C. Schelling, his last frame metaphor (although perhaps not really a metaphor) was clearly informed by Gregory Bateson and the cognitive turn in the social sciences. The purpose of Goffman’s many metaphors was, as is often the case when invoking such literary-poetic devices in the social sciences (Rigney 2001)—to dress social reality in new, powerful, colourful and recontextualised conceptual garments, which—at one and the same time—obscure as well as sharpen (perhaps sharpen through obscuration) one’s comprehension of what goes on there. Through such redescriptive metaphorical lenses, social life is made more transparent as well as more tangible to social researchers and their readership. Moreover, the different metaphors or metaphorical frameworks serve as an exemplification of Goffman’s multi-perspectivism—the fact that the same phenomenon can be approached and bombarded with impressions and ideas from a variety of different directions each shedding some light on what is actually going on. As George Psathas (1996:383) recalls, Goffman once stated on his own perspective: “I snipe at a target from many different positions”. His many metaphors, his shift in the use of the term ‘defi nition of the situation’ to ‘frame’ later in life and his ‘freewheeling’ mixing of methods—from covert participant observation in the Shetlands and in St. Elizabeth’s Hospital via metaphorical frameworks to textual readings and listening to radio programs—all testify to the fact that Goffman all the time was aiming at an all-out approach to capture the selfsame target—the interaction order— from a multitude of different angles. One of the main reasons why Goffman was and remains enigmatic and an outsider in sociology is therefore not due only to his substantial topic

20 Michael Hviid Jacobsen of interest—the trivial matters of ordinary social life—but also due to the way he decided to investigate it. His metaphors were merely one part of his rather unconventional and diversified methodological toolbox. In general, Goffman remained critical of the ability of so-called ‘traditional research designs’ to capture the essence of encounters, interaction and social situations and throughout the years he several times pointed to the severe limitations of such methods. In Relations in Public he thus stated on the status of the knowledge generated by traditional research designs dominating social science (e.g. experimental laboratory research or statistical variable analysis) at the time of his writing: The variables that emerge tend to be creatures of research designs that have no substance outside the room in which the apparatus and subjects are located, except perhaps briefly when a replication or a continuity is performed under sympathetic auspices and a full moon. Concepts are designed on the run in order to get on with setting things up so that trials can be performed and the effects of controlled variation of some kind or another measured. The work begins with the sentence ‘we hypothesize that . . . ’, goes on from there to a full discussion of the biases and limits of the proposed design, reasons why these aren’t nullifying, and culminates in an appreciable number of satisfyingly significant correlations tending to confi rm some of the hypotheses. As though the uncovering of social life were that simple. Fields of naturalistic study have not been uncovered through these methods. Concepts have not emerged that re-ordered our view of social activity. Understanding of ordinary behavior has not accumulated; distance has. (Goffman 1971:20–21) In addition to critiquing these conventional positivistic research designs, one of Goffman’s gimmicks also consisted in understating the importance of his own creative methods and apparently dubious fi ndings when in Behavior in Public Places insisting: Obviously, many of these data are of doubtful worth, and my interpretations—especially some of them—may certainly be questionable, but I assume that a loose speculative approach to a fundamental area of conduct is better than a rigorous blindness to it. (Goffman 1963a:4) Later, in Frame Analysis, he revealed even more of the nature of his own sporadic, impressionistic or anecdotal research approach and the data material involved in his analyses: By and large, I do not present these anecdotes, therefore, as evidence or proof, but as clarifying depictions, as frame fantasies which manage, through the hundred liberties taken by their tellers, to celebrate



our beliefs about the workings of the world. What was put into these tales is thus what I would like to get out of them. These data have another weakness. I have culled them over the years on a hit-or-miss basis using principles of selection mysterious to me which, furthermore, changed from year to year and which I could not recover if I wanted to. Here, too, a caricature of systematic sampling is involved. (Goffman 1974:15, emphasis added) So despite his aforementioned theoretical sources of inspiration (such as primarily Durkheim, Simmel and Sartre), and despite his intensive periods of naturalistic fieldwork and data collection, Goffman was neither an armchair/theoretical sociologist nor a naturalistic/empirical one either. He was a hybrid, a man with the ability to mix traditions, techniques and ideas into his own unique and eclectic position. His humorous disdain for those engaged only in airy or abstract theorising—what C. Wright Mills (1959) in Goffman’s own lifetime famously termed ‘grand theory’—is well-known and he, according to Robin Williams, once described such theorising as “two thirds corn flakes, one third taffy” (Williams 1998:157). In the Preface to The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life he even warned his readers that “the introduction is necessarily abstract and may be skipped” (Goffman 1959:vi). This humorous disdain was counter-balanced by an equal amount of dissatisfaction with statistical or empirical fetishism—what Mills labelled ‘abstracted empiricism’—without anchorage in anything but numbers, scorecards and diagrams; types of information and reporting hardly ever resorted to or invoked by Goffman himself. As is evident from this, Goffman’s perspective was a mixture of a qualitative sociologist using all his senses—systematically as well as impressionistically—to capture face-to-face interaction and a literary-poetic sociologist using metaphors, novels, short stories, newspaper clippings and movies as creative sources of inspiration to concoct a sociological storyline about his research topic. In many ways, Goffman innovatively mixed theoretical/metaphorical preconceptions with various empirical materials and via this unio mystico produced a powerful conceptual apparatus. His approach therefore seems similar to the so-called ‘double fitting’ described by Wilhelm W. Baldamus (1972:295) as a kind of “informal theorizing [which] involves a continuous restructuring of conceptual frameworks” and in which “the investigator simultaneously manipulates the thing he wants to explain as well as his explanatory framework”. Goffman’s insightful descriptions and conceptual delineation of face-to-face interaction was indeed a double-fitting interplay of informal and flexible metaphorical ideas with a constant flow of impressions from everyday life events. The fact that Goffman to a large degree was a qualitatively-oriented sociologist perhaps requires some qualification. His preference for participant observation is well-known and celebrated and pertains both to the formally conducted fieldwork sessions in the Shetland Islands and in a mental asylum


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as well as to a generally observant and curious attitude to everything that by happenstance went on around him, which was then strategically used as evidence or examples in most of his books. In this way, Goffman was a participant observer of all facets of social life and as he stated on the requirements of participant observation in the posthumously published and undercover obtained reflections on fieldwork: “It’s one [technique] of getting data, it seems to me, by subjecting yourself, your own body and your own personality, and your own social situation, to the set of contingencies that play upon a set of individuals” (Goffman 1989:125). Goffman obviously enjoyed submerging into and subjecting himself to the micro-ecological universe of everyday life and he believed that the direct observation of events was indeed important to understanding. Despite or perhaps because of this, he was careful to provide any methodological recipes or analytical prophylaxes for others to follow. Therefore, his books never contained lengthy methodological discussions or descriptions of what he actually did, how, when, why and to whom. Howard S. Becker commented on this reluctance to provide or reveal methodological guidelines by stating: [Goffman] felt very strongly that you could not elaborate any useful rules of procedure for doing field research and that, if you attempted to do that, people would misinterpret what you had written, do it (whatever it was) wrong, and then blame you for the resulting mess. He refused to accept responsibility for such unfortunate possibilities. (Becker 2003:660) Direct interviewing—another favourite method among most qualitative sociologists—was not a technique practiced by Goffman (perhaps apart from in his master’s thesis); neither was focus group interviewing or other means to extract meaning from people by way of their own verbalised accounts and discussive explanations. One can ponder that this was perhaps due to his suspicion that people would refrain from telling the truth if interviewed or would hide their actual opinions behind a variety of impression-management manoeuvres.8 Instead of trusting whatever people say they do or think, Goffman preferred to watch them. As he stated: “I don’t give hardly any weight to what people say, but I try to triangulate what they’re saying with events” (Goffman 1989:131). This tunes well with his oft-quoted observation—and implicit critique of purely psychological or individual positions—on his perspective: “Not, then, men and their moments. Rather moments and their men” (Goffman 1967:3). What was the outcome then, the end-product, as it were, of Goffman’s sociological research endeavours? Throughout most parts of his professional practice, conceptual development, innovation and refi nement seem to have been the primary ambition and Goffman was indeed one of the major conceptual inventors of the discipline of sociology in the 20th century. He invented a mind-boggling conceptual arsenal of taxonomies, schemes of



classification, neologisms and gave worn-out words new meanings. For example, Collins proposed the following list of central concepts developed by Goffman: Face-work, deference and demeanor, impression management, and the presentation of self; frontstage and backstage, teams and team-work, discrepant roles; a typology of secrets: dark, strategic, inside, entrusted, and free; moral careers, total institutions, and ways of making out in them; commitment, attachment, embracement, engagement, and role distance; focused and unfocused interaction, face engagements, accessible engagements, situational proprieties and improprieties, and the tightness and looseness of situation rules; vehicular units and participation units; territories of the self; personal space, use space, turns, information and conversational preserves; territorial violations; markers and tie-signs; supportive interchanges (access rituals) and remedial interchanges (accounts, apologies, body gloss); frames, keyings, fabrications, frame-breaking and out-of-frame activity. (Collins 1981:222) Obviously, this is just the top of the iceberg. As Robin Williams—following Susan Jane Birrell’s hard work sorting out and indexing Goffman’s many concepts developed and utilised throughout the years—points out, Goffman invented close to one thousand concepts (Williams 1988:88n). He was to micro-sociology what Aristotle was to philosophy or Linnaeus was to botany, as he created schemes of classification, taxonomies and an emporium of immediately recognisable sensitising concepts to describe the micro-world of face-to-face interaction. In many ways, Goffman’s research strategy—or perhaps rather antistrategy—embodied Ken Plummer’s notion of the AHFA Principle—the ‘ad hoc fumbling around’ with its emphasis on the impressionistic, pragmatic, tentative and explorative as compared to more systematic sampling procedures and coherent research designs. Most of his books consciously bear subtitles containing notions such as ‘essays’, ‘notes’ or ‘studies’ (see Goffman 1961, 1963a, 1963b, 1967, 1971, 1972, 1974) signalling something merely tentative, preliminary or suggestive rather than systematic theoretical treatises. Due to Goffman’s gifted ability to play with words on the cover of books as well as inside them, perhaps more than anything else he was a stylist (Atkinson 1989). Just compare his texts—primarily consisting of extended essays—with those of most of his contemporaries: the way he writes, discusses his approach and reports fi ndings is all very different from conventional sociology and this difference was breeding both a lack of comprehension as well as downright hostility. Thus, his somewhat alternative, creative and relaxed—some would perhaps even say arbitrary—attitude to research procedures meant that critical voices were raised every now and then making a mockery of Goffman’s methods, his style and his research interest and questioning the validity of his research fi ndings. For example,


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some commentators provided the following summary of the substance of this critique: Goffman is also much misunderstood, or perhaps misapprehended would be better, since to judge from many of the critical commentaries on him, he strikes some people as shallow, without significance, his work espousing a cynical attitude towards human nature, as well as being overly dependent on non-sociological sources and findings. It is thought to be ‘impressionistic’, riven by problems of inference and validity, and by no means a contribution to the development of an ‘objective’ social science. The primary test of this inadequacy is the sheer impossibility of replication. Goffman’s contributions are unique, and illuminating and insightful, though they might be, in the end, unscientific. (Anderson, Hughes and Sharrock 1985:144) Just as it was the conviction of these authors, it is also my fi rm conviction— as it is that of the many contributors of this book—that this is indeed an exaggeration or even mistaken view of the work of Goffman. Such a view clearly confuses impressionism with the unscientific, stylism with shallowness and creativity with sloppiness—in no way anything to be associated with how Goffman worked. Nevertheless, such criticism of Goffman’s perspective also testifies to a general lack of comprehension in some quarters of sociology of what he actually attempted and achieved. His sociology was quite clearly more of a perspective or an outlook on social life than a substantive, systematic and coherent body of ideas. This also made him particularly defensive when Norman K. Denzin and Charles Keller (1981) in the early 1980s critically assessed his position and perspective and he carefully commented on their understanding of his work in an extended, sophisticated and indeed irascible reply (Goffman 1981b). Robin Williams aptly summarised the whole situation: Quite apart from [Goffman’s] dissatisfaction with their understanding and description of the details of that particular book [Frame Analysis], two additional characteristics of the essay earned his special disapprobation. First, their tendency to treat his work as a substantive whole, a collection of studies structured so as to constitute a unity of effort, able to be characterized by some algorithm, reference to which would permit an understanding of work accomplished and prediction of work yet to come. Second, their desire to locate his work within some definable ‘tradition’, ‘school’ or ‘paradigm’, the more easily to evaluate the nature of its contribution to modern sociology. Both of these tendencies he saw to be more regrettable, representing to him a colourless pedagogical interest in the discipline rather than a lively engagement with its practice and products. (Williams 1983:99)



Although—as mentioned above—not leaving a paradigm, tradition or a school of thought behind to kindle the intellectual flame or warm the sociological imagination of his students and successors, and although Goffman perhaps did not provide a fi rmly connected and internally coherent conceptual-theoretical position or a cluster of systematically collected data, he did indeed leave an ineradicable imprint on the discipline of sociology. This imprint crystallised in the last topic to be touched upon here in the shape of ‘the interaction order’. Goffman’s coining of the concept of ‘the interaction order’ as well as his detailed and lifelong devotion to exploring it was no accident and did not come out of the blue. Compared to many contemporaries, Goffman—due to his apprenticeship under Everett C. Hughes—early on learned about the—at the time largely neglected—perspective of Georg Simmel. If Goffman was a somewhat ‘reluctant apprentice’ of Hughes (Jaworski 2000), he was however a devout—although never in any slavish fashion—follower of Simmel, which is equally evident in his substantial focus as well as in his methodological preferences. His indebtedness to Simmel was obvious already in the lengthy quotation appearing on the first page of his PhD thesis, which was published three decades prior to his last text—his undelivered presidential address to the American Sociological Association—being published (Goffman 1953, 1983). The last chapter of his PhD thesis was in fact entitled “The Interaction Order” and the same title was—aptly and consciously—chosen for his presidential address thirty years later. In this way, Goffman’s work came full-cycle. In both texts the notion of ‘the interaction order’ appears, and in both texts the lineage from Simmel’s formal sociology to Goffman’s ditto is striking (Smith 1989). Even though Goffman perhaps did not invent microanalysis in sociology—being anticipated by half a century by Simmel—when he coined the term ‘interaction order’ to cover the formalised features of the realm constituted by fleeting everyday encounters in public, he stood firmly on the shoulders of Simmel and in many respects also saw even further than him. Also in a speech delivered in connection to an honorary degree being awarded him by the University of Chicago in 1979 did Goffman explicitly recognise the ideas of Simmel as one of his main sources of inspiration (Levine 1989:114). Goffman was thus in many ways a neo-Simmelian and like Simmel—Grimshaw quoted a colleague calling Goffman “our Simmel in American clothing” (Grimshaw 1983:148)—he also took a keen interest in the “whole range of relations that play between one person and another [that] may be momentary or permanent, conscious or unconscious, ephemeral or of grave consequence, but they incessantly tie men together” (Simmel 1903/1959:328). It was this tying together of people that to Goffman became one of the most definable features of the interaction order. Already early on had Goffman made himself a champion of shedding light on the so-called ‘neglected situation’ (Goffman 1964) and this microscopicmolecular world of situations and encounters, sociation and interaction, pushes and pulls, impressions and expressions, attractions and repulsions,


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friendships and animosities, courtesies and conflicts thus in the shape of the interaction order became his research subject sui generis (Rawls 1987). The interaction order—the importance and necessity of which his colleagues, in Goffman’s own sarcastic words, had “not been overwhelmed by the merits of the case” (Goffman 1983:2)—was formally defined as an analytical realm in its own right, the detection of which was the preferred domain of ‘microanalysis’ and which consisted of ‘socially situated’ face-to-face interactions. Although Goffman in his presidential address admitted that this interaction order was indeed linked to macro-scopic structures via certain ‘rules of transformation’ and ‘loose couplings’, his micro-analysis of it primarily amounted to that of a situational or trans-situational view—albeit according to himself not a ‘rampant situationalism’ (Goffman 1983)—and therefore fleeting, apparently unconnected and often incidental social encounters, engagements and episodes became his specialty. As he admitted in a reply to critics: “A snap-shot view is part of what informs my approach because indeed there is in part a snap-shot character to the way we are lodged in life” (Goffman 1981b:68). Sometimes he also referred to the interaction order as ‘situated activity systems’, which were defined by [an] individual’s regular participation in . . . a regular sequence of daily activities . . . Some of these activities will bring him into face-to-face interaction with others for the performance of a single joint activity, a somewhat closed, self-compensating, self-terminating circuit of interdependent actions. (Goffman 1972:95–96) As concrete examples of such situated activity systems—the invocation of the term ‘system’ is in and of itself quite interesting—Goffman mentioned a surgical operation, the playing-through of a game, the execution of one run of a small-group experiment or the giving and getting of a haircut. Common to all of these otherwise diversified and almost incommensurable social activities were exactly their attention to getting things done. They were, in Goffman’s own words, illustrative examples of ‘where the action is’ and, as he stated elsewhere, his main concern was with “the way in which the individual in ordinary work situations present himself and his activity to others” (Goffman 1959:v). This continuous focus on activity, action and interaction was and remained a trademark of all of Goffman’s situational analyses throughout the years. By way of this largely situational view of social life he challenged much that passed as conventional sociology and doubtlessly his work was regarded as much as a challenge, a revelation and perhaps even as a provocation of the discipline, its self-understanding and its conceptions of what really counts as theory, method, data, validity, inference, generalisation, etc. In this way, an appreciation of Goffman also signals a willingness to open up the discipline of sociology to new vistas, new topics, new agendas and new ways of doing, thinking and practicing sociology. Thus, as



Howard Schwartz and Jerry Jacobs once asserted: “To evaluate Goffman’s worth effectively, sociologists would need new theories and research methods compatible with these new theories” (Schwartz and Jacobs 1979:194). But because Goffman was—for better and for worse—by many regarded as an unconventional sociologist focusing perhaps too exclusively on the situational (or trans-situational) properties of social life, some have discussed whether he should be seen as a major contributor to the discipline after all and whether his contribution in any way warrants a label as a systematic sociologist (Giddens 1988). Although Goffman did perhaps not as such contribute to the systematic development of the discipline of sociology, his work, as Friedson contended, nevertheless “lives and will live not as a contribution to the development of systematic sociological theory but rather as a contribution to human consciousness” (Friedson 1983:361). At the end of the day, Goffman himself was probably also rather unconcerned with whether his contribution to the discipline was regarded as systematic or not. According to him, sociologists, like himself, were all in the last instance just ‘elegant bullshitters’ (Lofland 1984:21). Despite this, there are indeed—as this book will show—plenty of justification why Goffman should be celebrated, why his work should be utilised and why his reputation should live on for a long time to come. However, there are also equally many obvious reasons why he remains an enigma or even an enfant terrible in sociology placed somewhere—where he preferred—at the outskirts and margins of the establishment of the discipline. Perhaps Goffman should be celebrated and remembered exactly because of his enigmatic and marginal status. As David Elkind observed on the innate complexity and inevitable ambivalence of dealing with the perspective of Goffman: Despite his influence, Goffman is something of a maverick as an investigator. His anthropological methods (his use of his own field notes, newspaper and magazine clippings, quotes from novels and books of etiquette as data) are regarded by many workers as unscientific. Likewise, Goffman’s tendency to overgeneralize, his failure to consider alternative interpretations and the absence of indexes in his books set many social scientists’ teeth on edge. Finally, his reputation as a loner and his skill at intellectual putdowns have not endeared him to all of his colleagues. And yet, the sheer brilliance of some of his interpretations, his genius at giving unity and conceptual integrity to a polyglot collection of behavioral flotsam and jetsam, have won him a unique place in American social science. (Elkind 1975:25–26)

WHY CONTEMPORARY GOFFMAN? As just shown, there are several good reasons to regard Erving Goffman as one of the real classics of sociology. The groundbreaking originality of

28 Michael Hviid Jacobsen his perspective and the sheer brilliance of his penetrating analyses of the apparent trivialities of everyday life warrant his status—still—as one of the stalwarts in reference lists of academic articles and student reports. Thus, without wanting to idolise or immortalise Goffman’s work, it is difficult not to recognise his substantial contribution to sociology and related disciplines. The outlining of the contours of his personal life as well as the sketching of his perspective on sociology earlier should therefore have provided ample qualification for answering the question of the reasons for his continued relevance and importance today. However, to substantiate why this book on the ‘contemporary’ Goffman has been produced and exemplify the claim of his continued centrality, some concluding considerations will be briefly presented. As will be shown, although Goffman passed away decades ago, his spirit is still very much alive and kicking among sociologists and like-minded scholars within the social sciences and humanities. More than a quarter of a century has now passed since the departure of Goffman and many new social, cultural and technological developments have taken place since his death. Just think of globalisation (and with it increased mobility and tourism), the rise of the surveillance society, the invention and spreading of new information technologies, new scientific developments, new theoretical terminology, the coming and going and rehashing of political ideologies, new ideals, values and new norms, etc. Many chapters in this book deal specifically with some of these recent developments and illustrate the relevance of Goffman’s concepts and frameworks for understanding the continuous changes taking place in social life. As mentioned, Goffman should be ranked among the classics of sociology—a classic because he contributed to the discipline invaluable insights into the specific time and age in which he and his contemporaries lived. However, he is also a contemporary classic because his work not only captured his own lifetime—his view was not locked in time and place—but it also pointed to more fundamental features of human togetherness in face-to-face situations. Few have addressed Goffman’s implicit vision of social change—and the question remains if Goffman’s largely situational sociology is at all suitable for shedding light on the impact of some of the major social transformations. While some seem to point out that Goffman’s stressing of the art of ‘impression management’ in encounters and meetings supports the thesis of the rise of an ‘other-directed’ personality type in modern society (Riesman, Glazer and Denney 1953/2001) obsessively concerned with the validation of self from others (Zussman 2001), others have rather seen Goffman as a protagonist of the rise of recognition claims and reciprocal courtesies in contemporary polite society (Jacobsen and Kristiansen 2009). Others, Marshall Berman for one, in his review of Relations in Public published in The New York Times in 1972, attempted to look beyond Goffman’s somewhat stationary view and saw some disturbing signs for the future of society in his depictions of social relations:



If this is so, it forces us to face some disturbing questions about the breakthroughs of the sixties. For so many Americans these were years of unprecedented personal expression and political confrontation. In every sphere, we ‘refused to keep our place’, we broke boundaries, tore down walls, acted out what we felt, encouraged others to do the same. And where are we now? Goffman’s fi nal vision seems unrelievedly bleak. Life in the streets appears as a Hobbesian nightmare, life in the family an existential battleground. It seems terrifying both to go out and to stay in. And social life turns out to be far more fragile, more vulnerable than we thought. (Berman 1972/2000:276) The 1960s have now long since passed and so have subsequent decades. The question arises if this sinister view of a ‘Hobbesian nightmare’, which Berman spotted in Goffman’s writings, can be substantiated by real life events. Some signs point in a direction that may support Berman’s bleak reading of Goffman—for example how we apparently and increasingly have come to live in a society obsessed with surface identities, staged impressions and shallow images, how ‘life in the streets’ may appear more dangerous than ever before, and how many of the certainties and securities that guided generations before have now been either demolished or diluted—while many other developments point in quite the opposite direction. Despite several attempts to read into Goffman’s writings hidden political statements or diagnostical tendencies of a more general nature, it is however important to recognise that Goffman never ventured into presenting a timeless or universal model of social life (see the chapter by Jacobsen in this volume), nor did he want to present a diagnosis of the times or a critical social theory. His aspiration was—some would say more modestly, others more ambitiously—to provide the discipline of sociology with a conceptual apparatus and a focused gaze with which to capture and comprehend those aspects of social life which until then had seemed unimportant and incomprehensible. There is, however, little doubt that had Goffman lived today, his penetrating look would have taken notice of the cornucopia of new cultural trends and social developments characteristic of contemporary society. Collins (1986) once mused at what Goffman would have worked on had his life not been cut prematurely short by illness. According to him, Goffman had at least two more books in him waiting to be written. One book would probably have been an incisive analysis of the intellectual world, a sort of sociology of science or sociology of sociology and perhaps—in typical Goffman manner— focused on the micro-dynamics of intellectual life inside the ivory towers.9 Another book—perhaps given Goffman’s interest in delicate matters and his early interest in the work of Sigmund Freud—would have been on sexuality, because sex, and with it society in the shape of the Superego, revolves around so many wonderful yet often almost invisible micro-rituals in everyday life. Apart from these books one can be sure that there


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would have been many more titles from Goffman dealing with much of what we either neglect, overlook or try to keep under wraps in society. What Goffman perhaps lacked in regard to analysing the aforementioned macro-social change and structural transformations, he more than compensated for with his well-developed sense for descriptive detail and colourful and catching concepts when analysing the intricacies and minutiae of micro-social settings. Thus, as Williams boldly observed in an obituary tribute to Goffman, his work met “the most important requirements of modern social theory—to be self-conscious about the meaning of what it is to know” (Williams 1983:102). What Goffman wanted to investigate and obtain knowledge about was, as mentioned above, the interaction order and its contours, components and content as an analytical domain in its own right. Seen in hindsight, it is difficult not to deem this endeavour successful, although Erwin once stated that Goffman’s “particular phraseology never caught on . . . Goffman was noticed but not embraced” (Erwin 1992:338). It is my contention and conviction that this is a gross exaggeration. As many of the chapters in this book will in fact show, Goffman— more than most of his contemporaries, and even more so than most of his successors—managed to coin terminology and provide analyses that were indeed embraced and applied by later generations of students and scholars and which helped in shaping research agendas within a variety of scientific disciplines and sub-disciplines. Thus, some of the most important and unmistakable features of Goffman’s work—despite being conceived within a specific socio-cultural time and context (American society in the 1950s to 1970s) and within a specific academic discipline (sociology)—are perhaps its relative timelessness—its ability or invitation to be used even in times and places far from its point of origin—and versatility—its ability to be stretched, angled and applied to fit a vast variety of different situational settings, research programs and theoretical perspectives. To provide a few illustrative examples of this proposed timelessness and versatility, Goffman’s overall perspective as well as specific conceptual apparatus can be and have been used in and on a variety of contexts ranging from analysing the dramaturgical dimension of the presidential campaigns of Bush versus Kerry (Brown 2005), the impression management of members of the American power elite through display of their ‘public wives’ (Gillespie 1980), the delicate impression management and orchestration of conduct of funeral directors (Turner and Edgley 1976) and impression management at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel (Dillard, Browning, Sitkin and Sutcliffe 2000) via the ‘cynical performances’ of waitress-dancers in topless clubs (Sijuwade 1995), the facework of kindergarten children (Hatch 1987), the post-exam impression management of ‘aces’ and ‘bombers’ (Albas and Albas 1988) and the portrayal of women’s images in magazine advertisements (Kang 1997), to analysing the relationship between humans and their companion pet animals (Sarmicanic 2004) as well as other companion animals such as pigeons (Jerolmack 2004), the identity



work involved in obituary writing (Bonsu 2007), legalised gambling (Cosgrove 2008), corporate reputations and reports (White and Hanson 2002), the experiences of drinking-while-intoxicated convicts (Gonzales 1993), struggles between relatives and administrators in nursing homes (Richard 1986) and tenant-landlord confl icts (Borey 2004), and Goffman’s classic analysis of ‘gender advertisements’ has been updated and revised since then (Belknap and Leonard II 1991) as well as his understanding of ‘stigma’ has been extended and refi ned empirically and theoretically in several later studies (e.g. Link and Phelan 2001; Renfrow 2004; Scambler 2006). And this listing is in no way exhaustive but merely illustrative. As is evident, everywhere the interaction is, Goffman’s concepts and perspectives have proved useful. Some of the aforementioned topics may at fi rst hand seem somewhat obscure or marginal, but nonetheless they show how Goffman’s terminology has struck root even in the most diversified of fields. Moreover, in recent years, Goffman’s conceptual arsenal has frequently been a reference in and applied more comprehensively to the new information technologies, especially in studies of mobile phones and internet behaviour (see e.g. Dell and Marinova 2002; Drew 2007; Hancock, Toma and Ellison 2007; Jacobsen 2010; Meyrowitz 1990; Miller 1995; Rettie 2009; Ross 2007), and I am certain there are many more journal articles, books and student reports to come using Goffman’s terminology in the context of the internet, mobile phones and other types of information media. Goffman even—posthumously—gave name to a computer program entitled ‘ERVING’, which by way of artificial intelligence techniques is intended to teach students to reason and think sociologically from his dramaturgical perspective (Brent et al. 1989). Finally, throughout the years also a substantial number of international books in a variety of languages, especially edited volumes, have been published commenting, describing, developing, extending, modifying, critiquing and last but not least celebrating his work (see e.g. Bovone and Rovati 1992; Burns 1992; Ditton 1980; Drew and Wootton 1988; Fine and Smith 2000; Gregersen 1975; Hettlage and Lenz 1991; Isaac 1989, 2002; Jacobsen and Kristiansen 2002; Lemert and Branaman 1997; Manning 1992; Nahavandi 1979; Nizet and Rigaux 2005; Raab 2008; Riggins 1990; Scheff 2006; Smith 1999, 2006, Treviño 2003a; Winkin 1988). Besides this, Goffman has throughout the years been adopted or appointed as the intellectual forerunner to a variety of schools of thought within the social sciences such as ethnomethodology (Attewell 1974), dramaturgy (Brissett and Edgley 1990; Combs and Mansfield 1976; Hare and Blumberg 1988), labelling theory (Petrunik 1980), the sociology of the absurd (Lyman and Scott 1970), postmodern sociology (Battershill 1990), a sociology of the body (Crossley 1995), urban sociology (Hannerz 1980) and the sociology of the familiar (Birenbaum and Sagarin 1973). Moreover, he has been seen as one of the founding fathers or main sources of inspirations for a variety of conventional as well as emerging fields of study or sub-disciplines such as political sociology (Gamson 1985),


Michael Hviid Jacobsen

medical sociology (Strong 1983), organisation theory (Manning 2008), psychological anthropology (Bock 1988), recognition theory (Jacobsen and Kristiansen 2009) and mass media studies (Ytreberg 2002), just to mention a few. All of this testifies to the contemporaneity of Goffman’s work. As is obvious, there is—and still remains—a lot of attention and hype surrounding the work of Goffman. This does not mean, however, that all that can or should be said about him has already been stated, making this book redundant. Nor does it mean that the task of exploring everyday life and interaction settings, as was Goffman’s main trademark, has been emptied once and for all due to Goffman’s own energetic endeavours. Some observers have asserted how it was—and perhaps still remains—a fact that because of its idiosyncratic nature, “you have to be Goffman to do Goffman-type work” (Anderson, Hughes and Sharrock 1985:150). In short, that Goffman’s work cannot be imitated or even replicated. However, as the chapters in this book show—and as the list of research indebted to Goffman’s perspective testifies to—even though Goffman’s work remains original and difficult to reproduce, many have fortunately followed in his footsteps and taken his legacy even further. Finally, one of the main reasons—apart from the aforementioned—why Goffman remains such a topic of controversy and fascination also pertains to some unresolved discussions or confl icting opinions in relation to his perspective, which continue to puzzle interpreters and students. For example, whereas some have seen Goffman’s view of the individual as profoundly liberating and pointing to the positive potentials for self-performance (e.g. Elkind 1975:27), others have pointed to quite the opposite—that the individual in Goffman’s universe is doomed to perform on a stage he or she has not been setting. To this latter category belongs Psathas who once contended: Goffman’s man is a victim—a man manipulated by the forces of a technological, complex, impersonal society—one in which he has little control except over his self-presentations. Man is presented as a degraded, immoral, insignificant little creature, deprived of dignity, self-worth, self-esteem and power. How society creates this wreck, this shell, is not disclosed. And when he is done, Goffman leaves man alone, unprotected by friends, relatives, communal associations or institutions . . . He is alone, thrown into this society alone, and forever to remain alone. (Psathas 1977:91) Such widely different readings and understandings of core aspects of Goffman’s work may perhaps seem strange and point to insurmountable inconsistencies in his work. It is a fact that throughout his books, Goffman shifted perspective, style and attitude several times. According to Friedson (1983), in some books, predominantly in The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life, Goffman was the cool, detached and ironic observer of the



impression management of the self, whereas in other books, perhaps most prominently in Asylums and Stigma, he displayed utter moral outrage at the degradation of the self. The former Goffman, however, is the image that has largely been preserved and salvaged by posterity, whereas the latter has almost drifted into oblivion. Friedson observes: What is much less often acknowledged is Goffman’s deep moral sensibility, the compassion he displays for those whose selves are attached, whose identities are spoiled, whom the social world, through its ordinary members and its official agents, seeks to shape to its convenience. In all this Goffman is as much moralist as analyst. (Friedson 1983:361) Thus, the apparent inconsistencies in and between different parts of Goffman’s work also contribute to a continued lively discussion of his perspective and ideas. Not just in connection to the individual and the reasons for and motivation behind his or her self-presentations, but also concerning a variety of other intriguing topics and themes is Goffman still causing controversy, and on the Internet site “The Goffman Forum” based at the University of California, Santa Barbara, there is on a regular basis an intensive debate and exchange of understandings of different aspects of his life and work in which scholars around the world take active part and contribute with new interpretations and novel ideas. Furthermore, Goffman is still among us in the shape of “The Erving Goffman Award”, which is annually bestowed upon a social scientist whose outstanding scholarship has documented the ecology of social interaction such as the study of social situations, symbolic interaction, interpersonal communication (both face-to-face and technologically mediated), non-verbal communication, social space, temporal rhythms, rules of engagement, performance of roles and the presentation of self in everyday life. So although Goffman is no longer—in person—a part of the sociological landscape, he is in a variety of more or less direct and indirect ways still present among us today. This leaves us with a legacy to nurture and a vision and passion to carry forward. As Friedson contended: We are left with Erving Goffman’s own self-as-sociologist, not a theory or even the basis for a theory. We are left with his struggle to assert his self as sociologist against the seductive resistance of the conventions of the world. We see him employing with imagination and passion any resources that seem useful to illuminate aspects of human life that most of us overlook and to show us more of humanity than we could otherwise see. (Friedson 1983:362) So fortunately, sociology will not have to get along or do without Erving Goffman. His spirit lives on in generations of newcomers to the discipline


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who in his work and perspective see opportunities for making the microworld in which we all participate a bit more tangible and understandable— and perhaps a bit more human as well.

THE STRUCTURE AND CONTENT OF THE BOOK Despite having passed away almost three decades ago, Erving Goffman is still going strong—perhaps even stronger than ever—in contemporary sociology and in a host of related disciplines. This book—and with it the multitude of ever new articles, chapters, books and analyses devoted to his work—bears testimony of this tendency. However, aimed at an organisation studies audience, Edgar Schein recently stated how “to this day, people do not take Erving Goffman’s work seriously enough” (Schein 2006:291). I tend to disagree—perhaps in some quarters of academia, they still remain happily unaware of or uninterested in the work of Goffman, but on a general basis Goffman is indeed a vibrant presence and frequent reference in the academic world and it is difficult these days to track down a graduate student utterly unfamiliar with Goffman’s work. Without differentiation and privileging, this book is aimed at all those who are already familiar with Goffman’s work and want to learn more, and all those who want to fi nd a suitable excuse to start reading Goffman’s own work as well as a variety of interpretations of it. Naturally, the book cannot ‘cover all bases’ when it comes to describing the life and work of Goffman, but it aspires to paint a broad picture as well as to engage in more specialised usage and detailed discussions. The content of book is divided into three parts, each—with some continuities and common grounds—focusing attention on different aspects and appreciations of Goffman’s work. The first part, Dissecting Goffman, is devoted to teasing out theoretical aspects, interpretations and criticisms of Goffman’s sociology as well as uncovering biographical details and providing analyses of the reception of Goffman’s work. Chapter 1 by Yves Winkin takes us back to the time before Goffman rose to academic prominence, to the early years of childhood and maturation in Canada in a UkrainianJewish community of merchants. Winkin, with a trademark sense of detail and a keen eye to the unlikely roots of Goffman’s genius, shows how Goffman in many respects even as a child stood out from the rest. Chapter 2 by Michael Hviid Jacobsen and Søren Kristiansen delineates and discusses the multitude of labelling attempts—such as phenomenologist, structuralist, functionalist, postmodernist and symbolic interactionist—to which Goffman’s work has been subjected throughout the years. One by one they substantiate and debate the adequacy and potency of these different labelling endeavours and end up labelling Goffman a maverick with a variety of sources of inspiration and a rich and diversified legacy. In Chapter 3 Peter K. Manning locates certain central continuities in Goffman’s work from



the early writings to later books. He starts out by delineating the widely different readings and appreciations of Goffman within sociology as well as outside of this discipline. The primary continuity in Goffman is, according to Manning, his constant concern with teasing out the central features and components of the interaction order and the author illustrates the analytical salience of this order through an empirical example of campus bars. Chapter 4 by Greg Smith and Michael Hviid Jacobsen digs into Goffman’s work as a sort of socio-literary type of sociological enterprise that is as much poetically potent as it is scientifically informed. The authors perform a textual reading of Goffman and in turn deal with those aspects of Goffman’s writings which have earned him the label as a creative sociologist par excellence such as his fictional source material, his literary style and essayism, his metaphors and last but not least his ironic stance. In the fi rst part’s concluding Chapter 5 Charles Lemert looks into the resiliency of the perspective of Goffman and locates it in his often neglected affi nity with European social theory and his equally often overlooked association with the radical ideas of the late 1960s. Lemert traces this political undercurrent especially in Goffman’s work on stigma, deviance, spoiled identities and in his unreserved but also ironic sensibility towards probing into some of the dark corners of human existence. The second part of the book, Reframing Goffman, aspires to illustrate the salience of Goffman’s perspective and ideas to a variety of recent discussions within contemporary social theory such as performativity, dignity, recognition and individualism. In this way, this section on a more abstract level sheds light on how Goffman’s ideas—despite being conceived decades ago—are still viable and valid in many contemporary contexts and academic debates. Moreover, all the chapters in this section compare and contrast Goffman’s position with those of many leading contemporary social thinkers. In Chapter 6 by Greg Smith the topic is a presentation and discussion of the analysis developed by Goffman of commercials featuring females in magazines and how his perspective provides important insights into the field of photography as well as to visual sociology. Smith recapitulates the history behind and main ideas of one of Goffman’s most overlooked books, Gender Advertisements, and illustrates and debates how the book—despite being produced in a specific social and cultural context and despite severe criticisms—still contains valid and inspirational ideas about the performance, presentation and construction of gendered identities. Chapter 7 by Thomas J. Scheff compares Goffman’s understanding of ‘facework’ with Robert W. Fuller’s notions of a ‘politics of dignity’, ‘rankism’, ‘humiliation’, ‘somebodies’ and ‘nobodies’. The author’s contention is that Fuller’s understanding—although inspired by Goffman—provides an important supplement to his perspective by incorporating a more thorough sociological understanding of the problem and nature of inequality. According to Scheff, by linking macro-inequalities with micro-humiliations Fuller also presents an extension of Goffman’s ideas which primarily pertained to


Michael Hviid Jacobsen

the realm of immediate face-to-face interaction. This discussion of dignity—as well as the nature of the relationship between micro and macro—in Chapter 8 by Michael Hviid Jacobsen naturally leads into a discussion of recognition, and in this chapter Goffman’s ideas are thus placed within the recently much debated recognition-theoretical turn in the social sciences. The author shows how an unmistakable yet underlying notion of recognition as ritualised reciprocation can be discerned throughout Goffman’s ritual metaphor, which warrants regarding at least parts of his work as a micro-recognition theory rectifying and supplementing other more macrooriented and normative recognition theories. Chapter 9 is written by Ann Branaman and is based on the author’s autobiographical reflections on her different readings of Goffman throughout the years. This chapter links Goffman’s understanding of self, identity and authenticity to the recently much discussed ‘new individualism’. The new individualism mentioned by Branaman is commonly associated with many of those major contemporary social theorists talking about the rise of ‘reflexive modernity’ or ‘liquid modernity’, and throughout the chapter the author discusses Goffman’s understanding of self and identity as compared to these new notions. The chapters included in the third and final part of the book, Extending Goffman, all illustrate and substantiate the continued importance and relevance of Goffman’s concepts and analytical frameworks for a variety of different empirical sub-fields and sociological specialities. Although Goffman’s books were conceived and published several decades ago, there is still much to be found in them and to many scholars working within even the most recently emerged areas of research his work still counts as a conceptual and theoretical treasure chest. Although one might think that Goffman ought to be considered an anachronism in, for example, contemporary media or mobility studies—a time-traveller from a bygone age of huge data machines, unwieldy technical gadgets and a minimum of travelling or geographical mobility—it is interesting to observe how Goffman has been embraced by these sub-disciplines as a key thinker. Chapter 10 by Richard Jenkins sets the tone by showing how Goffman’s main idea of the ‘interaction order’ is still as valid and important to social analysis today as when first conceived. Jenkins, by way of illustrative examples drawn from cases relating to digitised impression management and traffic management, shows how Goffman’s terminology and ideas prove useful if not almost indispensable in understanding interpersonal and impersonal contacts within this new interaction order of the 21st century. In Chapter 11 Rich Ling links Goffman’s classical understanding of telephone calls to contemporary mobile telephone communication. When Goffman first coined his ideas on communication, mobile telephony was either non-existent or in its infancy. Anyway, it was not—as today—a standard equipment in interaction and communication. However, as Ling convincingly shows, Goffman’s work—and especially his dramaturgical metaphor—is still useful and frequently applied in research when dealing with the vagaries and vicissitudes of human communication via mobile



telephones. Chapter 12 follows up on this and consists of a presentation by Espen Ytreberg of Goffman’s general view of the organisation of communication. Although generally not considered a communications theorist, Ytreberg illustrates how Goffman contributed with a valuable understanding of calculated communication as an integral part of mediated as well as faceto-face communication. The purpose of the chapter is to delineate Goffman’s changing understanding of communication and to illustrate how his perspective may be used in understanding the pervasiveness of communication and especially those parts of communication that involve staging, planning and control. In Chapter 13, Jonas Larsen describes how Goffman’s work and particularly his performative perspective is a fruitful source of inspiration for post-positivistic tourism studies and mobility research. By way of examples drawn from Goffman’s own work as well as more recent studies from a variety of disciplines, Larsen shows how the metaphors and sensibilities from Goffman’s toolbox theoretically as well as methodologically inspire and inform studies of the tourist staging and performing of authenticity, travelling, meetingness and photography.10 Chapter 14 takes up this lead and is written by Ole B. Jensen who instead of looking at tourism and mobility as extraordinary events in social life investigates ordinary everyday urban mobility and how it may be creatively explored and analysed by way of Goffman’s ideas. The author shows how Goffman’s theoretical apparatus has been adopted by scholars and applied to studies of the nature of interaction and mobility in different urban settings around the globe. Towards the end of the chapter Jensen develops and teases out new terminology based on Goffman’s original concepts and ideas. The book’s final chapter is authored by Dag Album and is preoccupied with how Goffman’s idea of interaction rituals may be applied to the case of patient contacts in acute care hospitals. Based on an in-depth ethnographic study of patient relations—relations among strangers—Album shows how a multitude of minor interaction rituals make sure that patients during hospitalisation maintain courteous co-presence and a shared definition of the situation, which however still allows for certain minor disagreements and conflicting views without making the interaction order collapse. All in all, the contributions included this book attempt—from different personal backgrounds, disciplinary angles and national and continental contexts—to bear witness to Erving Goffman’s undying spirit within sociology and a variety of related and neighbouring disciplines.

RECOMMENDED READING As should be obvious from the above, for scholars or students interested in the work of Erving Goffman a vast amount of secondary literature already exists—alongside Goffman’s own eleven published book titles and his arsenal of few but highly important academic articles—dealing with a variety of aspects of his life and work. Whereas some of the published

38 Michael Hviid Jacobsen books—edited volumes as well as monographs—are primarily attentive to biographical details, others are more analytical or introductory, and whereas some of the books available on the market have been published in English, others are only available in more localised languages such as German, Italian, French or Danish. For example, the French title by Yves Winkin, Erving Goffman: Les moments et leurs hommes (1988), is primarily concerned with presenting translated texts by Goffman himself but also contains Winkin’s highly interesting and extended commentary on the life and background of Goffman. The most comprehensive introduction to date is still Tom Burns’ Erving Goffman (1992), providing an insightful and thematically organised tour de force through most facets of Goffman’s personal life and professional achievements. Another important book published around the same time is Philip Manning’s Erving Goffman and Modern Sociology (1992), which also—and in more chronologically structured manner—digs into the theoretical themes and methodological engine room of Goffman’s oeuvre. Greg Smith’s (2006) more recent introduction is recommendable because of its relative brevity and its focused presentation of and preoccupation with the most central tenets of Goffman’s life and work. To students who want the quick overview this latter title is indeed the place to start. Throughout the years also several edited volumes have appeared containing interesting and stimulating essays and chapters by national and international scholars focusing either on more general aspects of Goffman’s work or on more specialised sections of his writings (e.g. Ditton 1980; Riggins 1990; Drew and Wootton 1988; Smith 1999; Treviño 2003a). There is also a Goffman Reader—edited by Charles Lemert and Ann Branaman (1997)—containing texts by Goffman himself as well as inspirational interpretations by the two editors. A fi ne, concise and digestible overview of Goffman’s life and work is found in the chapter by Gary Alan Fine and Philip Manning (2003). There is also the voluminous and indispensable collection of material contained in the four-volume set compiled and edited by Gary Alan Fine and Greg Smith (2000). Finally, several issues of academic journals have been devoted to appreciative or critical analyses and applications of Goffman’s perspective, e.g. Theory, Culture & Society volume 2 (1) 1983 and Human Studies volume 12 (1–2) 1989. Besides this is also an enormous emporium of articles, theses and projects scattered in journals, libraries and on the Internet all testifying to the continuous importance and vitality of Erving Goffman’s view of the social world.11

NOTES 1. Actually, a fi rst edition of the book had been released already in 1956 by the University of Edinburgh Social Sciences Research Centre as Monograph no. 2. However, it was not until the publication of the second—and slightly revised—edition in 1959 that the book received widespread sociological


2. 3.






attention (see Manning 1989, 1991 on the differences in content and emphasis between the fi rst and the second editions). Despite these difficulties, Winkin nevertheless managed to produce an insightful and to this date unprecedentedly detailed biographical account of Goffman’s life (Winkin 1988). It is my contention that Goffman can indeed be seen as a inspirational precursor to political sociology at a micro-situational level and Nina Eliasoph (1990) eminently showed how Goffman’s perspective and understanding can be applied to explicating matters of political performance when analysing the delicacies of expressing political opinions as a central component of public political life. Even on a more macro-sociological scale, his ideas and perspective has been applied to a revision and extension of politics, rights and citizenship in the notion of so-called ‘interactional citizenship’ (Colomy and Brown 1996). Also when it came to viewing gender as a political category and not just as a biological fact, Goffman in many ways was a forerunner to later developments within feminist studies. There are different interpretations of Goffman’s contribution to feminism—some appreciative, others more critical (see e.g. Wedel 1978; West 1996; Winkin 1990). No doubt, Goffman also inspired and even anticipated later developments of feminism and especially those of the constructivist conviction such as Judith Butler in her performative theory. The verb ‘to garfi nkle’ is a term extracted from the name of another great investigator of the minutiae of everyday life, Harold Garfi nkel, the inventor of ethnomethodology, whose famous—and to some people disturbing— methods of creating cognitive incongruity were intended to shock, stun, test or surprise people, whereby the norms of society and social intercourse would crystallise to the observer. Most people partaking involuntarily in Garfi nkel’s famous or infamous ‘breaching experiences’ were flabbergasted and quite a few even urged him to terminate them (see Garfi nkel 1967). The relationship between Goffman and Hughes has been much debated. Goffman was indeed an apprentice, although to some degree a rather reluctant apprentice (Jaworski 2000) of Hughes and the perspective nurtured by him and fellow Chicago sociologists on a variety of topics including the study of work situations, organisation analyses, behaviour in public and a multitude of other micro-sociological studies as reported, for example, in Hughes’s collection of essays The Sociological Eye (Hughes 1971/1984). Apparently, there might also have been a certain element of estrangement between them later on and Hughes allegedly regarded Goffman’s credit to him in his own intellectual maturation as insincere and annoying (Collins 1986:110). However, personal communication between the two also reveal how there was an unmistakable sense of mutual gratitude and respect in their professional relationship. Collins described how Goffman’s short life consisted of several intellectual careers and how the evolving of Goffman over time could be captured through three somewhat identifiable stages—an initial Durkheimian stage concerned with identifying the rules and rituals of everyday life, a second stage concerned with the empirical exploration of the interaction order and an interest in game theory, and fi nally a phase concerned with social epistemology and social phenomenology in which his preoccupation with ‘frame analysis’ was paramount (Collins 1981, 1986). Others have pointed to similar legacies left by Goffman. According to Lofland’s (1984) incisive analysis, Goffman bequeathed his sociological successors with four main legacies: (1) a substantive study of the ‘interaction order’, (2) an intellectual stance toward or perspective on sociology more generally; (3) a spirit, personal attitude or mood with which to practice scholarship, and (4) a mode of being scholar, colleague or friend—in short, a human being.

40 Michael Hviid Jacobsen 8. For decades the discussion of a potential—perhaps even integral—discrepancy between the expressed attitudes of people on the one hand and their actual actions on the other have intrigued and puzzled many social scientists and today remain unresolved and a topic of debate (e.g. LaPiere 1934; Wicker 1969; Frideres and Warner 1980). 9. Perhaps the main idea of this book was, in fact, already published by others, making Goffman’s own contribution superfluous. For example, in Academic Gamesmanship by Pierre van den Berghe (1970) one encounters an incisive analysis of the intricate and scheming nature of the intellectual world of sociologists and other academics that bears witness to a Goffmanian understanding of the workings of identity games, strategic courtesies and delicate presentations of self. And in Wolf Wagner’s (1978) book on bluff and anxiety in the world of higher learning one also encounters typical Goffman characters and how they creatively seek to manage diverse feelings of embarrassment, anxiety and pressure. Both books—perhaps unintentionally—contain this unmistakable Goffmanesque quality in which even the most infi nitesimal of infi nitesimals is of the utmost importance. 10. An interesting study of parts of the tourism business—the restaurant staff and its interaction with vacationing guests as investigated by John B. Allcock (1985)—is not mentioned in this chapter although it by way of Goffman’s ideas provides insightful observations into the relationship between macro-cultural factors and micro-dynamics in a former Yugoslavian holiday setting. 11. For those interested in archival information and a variety of available material on Goffman, there is established a homepage—The Erving Goffman Archives—containing a lot of information, articles and commentaries. To access this information, visit the website at index.html.

REFERENCES Abrahams, Roger D. (1984): “Pros and Players”. Raritan, 3 (4):76–94. Albas, Daniel and Cheryl Albas (1988): “Aces and Bombers: The Post-Exam Impression Management Strategies of Students”. Symbolic Interaction, 11:289–302. Allcock, John B. (1985): “‘Waiting for Gojko’: Two One-Act Plays After Goffman”. Sociological Review, 33 (3):532–545. Anderson, Robert J., John A. Hughes and Wes Sharrock (1985): “Reading Sociology: Goffman as Example”, in The Sociology Game. London: Longman. Atkinson, Paul (1989): “Goffman’s Poetics”. Human Studies, 12:59–76. Attewell, Paul (1974): “Ethnomethodology Since Garfi nkel”. Theory and Society, 1:179–210. Baldamus, Wilhelm W. (1972): “The Role of Discoveries in Social Science”, in Teodor Shannin (ed.): The Rules of the Game: Cross-Disciplinary Essays on Models in Scholarly Thought. London: Tavistock. Battershill, Charles D. (1990): “Erving Goffman as a Precursor to Post-Modern Sociology”, in Stephen H. Riggins (ed.): Beyond Goffman: Studies on Communication, Institution and Social Interaction. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter. Becker, Howard S. (2003): “The Politics of Presentation: Goffman and Total Institutions”. Symbolic Interaction, 26:659–669. Belknap, Penny and Wilbert M. Leonard II (1991): “A Conceptual Replication and Extension of Erving Goffman’s Study of Gender Advertisements”. Sex Roles, 25 (3/4):103–118.



Berger, Bennett M. (1973): “A Fan Letter on Erving Goffman”. Dissent, 20:353– 361. Bergesen, Albert (1984): “Reflections on Erving Goffman”. Quarterly Journal of Sociology, 8:51–54. Berman, Marshall (1972/2000): “Weird but Brilliant Light on the Way We Live Now: Review of Relations in Public”, in Gary Alan Fine and Gregory W. H. Smith (eds.): Erving Goffman: A Four Volume Set (Sage Masters in Modern Social Thought Series). London: Sage Publications. Birenbaum, Arnold and Edward Sagarin (eds.) (1973): People in Places: The Sociology of the Familiar. London: Nelson. Bock, Philip K. (1988): “The Importance of Erving Goffman to Psychological Anthropology”. Ethos, 16:3–20. Bonsu, Samuel K. (2007): “The Presentation of Dead Selves in Everyday Life: Obituaries and Impression Management”. Symbolic Interaction, 30 (2):199–219. Borey, Valery (2004): “Tenant-Landlord Confl ict: Goffman’s Interaction Ritual Applied. The Genuine Article, at Bourdieu, Pierre (1983): “Erving Goffman: Discoverer of the Infi nitely Small”. Theory, Culture & Society, 2 (1):112–113. Bovone, Laura and Giancarlo Rovati (eds.) (1992): L’ordine dell’interazione: La sociologia di Erving Goffman. Rome: Armando Editore. Branaman, Ann (1997): “Goffman’s Social Theory”, in Charles Lemert and Ann Branaman (eds.): The Goffman Reader. Oxford: Blackwell. Brent, Edward E. et al. (1989): “Erving: A Program to Teach Sociological Reasoning from the Dramaturgical Perspective”. Teaching Sociology, 17 (1):38–48. Brissett, Dennis and Charles Edgley (eds.) (1990): Life as Theater (Second Edition). Chicago: Aldine de Gruyter. Brown, Robert E. (2005): “Acting Presidential: The Dramaturgy of Bush versus Kerry”. American Behavioral Scientist, 49 (1):78–91. Burke, Kenneth (1945/1969): A Grammar of Motives. Berkeley: University of California Press. Burns, Tom (1992): Erving Goffman. London: Routledge. Clark, Candace (1990): “Emotions and Micropolitics in Everyday Life: Some Patterns and Paradoxes of Place”, in Theodore D. Kemper (ed.): Research Agendas in the Sociology of Emotions. Albany: State University of New York. Collins, Randall (1981): “Three Stages of Erving Goffman”, in Sociology Since Midcentury. New York: Academic Press. . (1986): “The Passing of Intellectual Generations: Reflections on the Death of Erving Goffman”. Sociological Theory, 4 (1):106–113. . (2004): Interaction Ritual Chains. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. Colomy, Paul and J. David Brown (1996): “Goffman and Interactional Citizenship”. Sociological Perspectives, 39 (3):371–381. Combs, James and Michael Mansfield (eds.) (1976): Drama in Life. New York: Hastings House. Cooley, Charles Horton (1902/1964): Human Nature and the Social Order. New York: Scribner’s. Corradi, Consuelo (1990): “The Metaphoric Structure of Sociological Explanation”. Philosophy & Social Criticism, 16 (3):161–178. Cosgrove, James F. (2008): “Goffman Revisited: Action and Character in the Era of Legalized Gambling”. International Journal of Criminology and Sociological Theory, 1 (1):80–96. Crossley, Nick (1995): “Body Techniques, Agency and Intercorporeality: On Goffman’s Relations in Public”. Sociology, 29 (1):133–149.


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Davis, Peter (1980): “The Reluctant Self-Presentation of Erving Goffman”. The Times Higher Education Supplement, September 19th. Dell, Peter and Dora Marinova (2002): “Erving Goffman and the Internet”. Theory of Science (Teorie Vedy): Journal for Theory of Science, Technology and Communication, 4:85–98. Dillard, Courtney, Larry D. Browning, Sim B. Sitkin and Kathleen M. Sutcliffe (2000): “Impression Management and the Use of Procedures at the Ritz-Carlton: Moral Standards and Dramaturgical Discipline”. Communication Studies, 51 (4):404–414. Denzin, Norman K. and Charles Keller (1981): “Frame Analysis Reconsidered”. Contemporary Sociology, 10 (1):52–60. Ditton, Jason (ed.) (1980): The View From Goffman. London: Macmillan. Drew, Paul and Anthony Wootton (eds.) (1988): Erving Goffman—Exploring the Interaction Order. Boston: Northeastern University Press. Eliasoph, Nina (1990): “Political Culture and the Presentation of Political Self: A Study of the Public Sphere in the Spirit of Erving Goffman”. Theory and Society, 19 (4):465–494. Elkind, David (1975): “Encountering Erving Goffman”. Human Behavior, 4 (3):25–30. Erwin, Robert (1992): “The Nature of Goffman”. The Centennial Review, 36:327– 342. Fine, Gary Alan and Philip Manning (2003): “Erving Goffman”, in George Ritzer (ed.): The Blackwell Companion to Major Contemporary Social Theorists. Oxford: Blackwell. Fine Gary Alan and Gregory W. H. Smith (eds.) (2000): Erving Goffman: A Four Volume Set (Sage Masters in Modern Social Thought Series). London: Sage Publications. Fontana, Andrea (1980): “The Mask and Beyond: The Enigmatic Sociology of Erving Goffman”, in Jack D. Douglas (ed.): Introduction to the Sociologies of Everyday Life. Boston: Allyn & Bacon. Frideres, James S. and Lyle G. Warner (1980): “Attitude-Action Relationships”. Canadian Review of Sociology and Anthropology, 17 (2):109–121. Friedrichs, Robert W. (1970): A Sociology of Sociology. New York: Free Press. Friedson, Eliot (1983): “Celebrating Erving Goffman”. Contemporary Sociology, 12 (4):359–362. Gamson, William A. (1985): “Goffman’s Legacy to Political Sociology”. Theory & Society, 14 (5):605–622. Garfi nkel, Harold (1967): Studies in Ethnomethodology. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall. Giddens, Anthony (1988): “Goffman as a Systematic Social Theorist”, in Paul Drew and Anthony Wootton (eds.): Erving Goffman—Exploring the Interaction Order. Boston: Northeastern University Press. Gillespie, Joanna B. (1980): “The Phenomenon of the Public Wife: An Exercise in Goffman’s Impression Management”. Symbolic Interaction, 3 (2):109–126. Goffman, Erving (1949): Some Characteristics of Response to Depicted Experience. Unpublished master’s thesis, Department of Sociology, University of Chicago. . (1953): Communication Conduct in an Island Community. Unpublished PhD thesis, Department of Sociology, University of Chicago. . (1959): The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books. . (1961): Asylums: Essays on the Social Situation of Mental Patients and Other Inmates. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books. . (1963a): Behavior in Public Places: Notes on the Social Organization of Gatherings. New York: Free Press.



. (1963b): Stigma: Notes on the Management of Spoiled Identity. Chicago: Aldine. . (1964): “The Neglected Situation”. American Anthropologist, 66 (2):133– 136. . (1967): Interaction Ritual: Essays on Face-to-Face Behavior. New York: Pantheon Books. . (1969): Strategic Interaction. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. . (1971): Relations in Public: Microstudies of the Public Order. New York: Basic Books. . (1972): Encounters: Two Studies in the Sociology of Interaction. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books. . (1974): Frame Analysis: An Essay on the Organization of Experience. New York: Harper & Row. . (1979): Gender Advertisements. New York: Harper & Row. . (1981a): Forms of Talk. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. . 1981b): “A Reply to Denzin and Keller”. Contemporary Sociology, 10 (3):60–68. . (1983): “The Interaction Order”. American Sociological Review, 48:1– 17. . 1989): “On Fieldwork”. Journal of Contemporary Ethnography, 18 (2):123–132. Gonzales, Phillip B. (1993): “Shame, Peer and Oscillating Frames in DWI Conviction: Extending Goffman’s Sociological Landscape”. Symbolic Interaction, 16 (3):257–271. Gouldner, Alvin W. (1970): The Coming Crisis of Western Sociology. New York: Basic Books. Gregersen, Bo (ed.) (1975): Om Goffman—11 artikler. Copenhagen: Hans Reitzels Forlag. Grimshaw, Allen D. (1983): “Erving Goffman: A Personal Appreciation”. Language in Society, 12 (1):147–148. Hacking, Ian (2004): “Between Michel Foucault and Erving Goffman: Between Discourse in the Abstract and Face-to-Face Interaction”. Economy and Society, 33 (3):277–302. Hancock, Jeffrey T., Catalina Toma and Nicole Ellison (2007): “The Truth about Lying in Online Dating Profi les”. CHI 2007 Proceedings, April 28–May 3. Available at: Hannerz, Ulf (1980): “The City as Theater: Tales of Goffman”, in Exploring the City: Inquiries Toward an Urban Anthropology. New York: Columbia University Press. Hare, Paul and Herbert Blumberg (1988): Dramaturgical Analysis of Social Interaction. New York: Praeger. Hatch, J. Amos (1987): “Impression Management in Kindergarten Classrooms: An Analysis of Children’s Face-Work in Peer Interactions”. Anthropology & Education Quarterly, 18 (2):100–115. Hettlage, Robert and Karl Lenz (eds.) (1991): Erving Goffman: Ein soziologischer Klassiker der zweiten Generation. Bern: Haupt. Hochschild, Arlie R. (1983): The Managed Heart: Commercialization of Human Feeling. Berkeley: University of California Press. Hughes, Everett C. (1969): “Review of Erving Goffman: Interaction Ritual”. American Journal of Sociology, 75 (3):425–426. . (1971/1984): The Sociological Eye: Selected Papers. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers. Hymes, Dell (1984): “On Erving Goffman”. Theory and Society, 13:621–631.


Michael Hviid Jacobsen

Isaac, Joseph (ed.) (1989): Le parler frais d’Erving Goffman. Paris: Éditions de Minuit. Isaac, Joseph (2002): Erving Goffman et al microsociologie (Second Edition). Paris: PUF. Jacobsen, Michael Hviid (2010): “The Presentation of Sex in Electronic Life: Taking Erving Goffman into the Internet Era”. Unpublished manuscript. (forthcoming). Jacobsen, Michael Hviid and Søren Kristiansen (2002): Erving Goffman—sociologien om det elementære livs sociale former. Copenhagen: Hans Reitzels Forlag. . (2006): “Goffmans metaforer—om den genbeskrivende og rekontekstualiserende metode hos Erving Goffman”. Sosiologi i dag, 36 (1):5–33. . (2009): “Micro-Recognition: Erving Goffman as Recognition Thinker”. Sosiologisk Årbok/Sociological Yearbook (forthcoming). Jaworski, Gary D. (2000): “Erving Goffman: The Reluctant Apprentice”. Symbolic Interaction, 23 (3):299–308. Jerolmack, Colin (2004): “Rethinking the Interaction Order: Sociability Among Pigeons and People”. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Sociological association, Montreal, 2004. Available at: http://www.allacademic. com//meta/p_mla_apa_research_citation/0/9/4/3/5/pages94358/p94358-1.php. Kalekin-Fishman, Devorah (1988): “Games, Rituals and Theater: Elements in Goffman’s Grammar of Social Action”. Sociologia Internationalis, 26 (2):133–146. Kang, Mee-Eun (1997): “The Portrayal of Women’s Images in Magazine Advertisements: Goffman’s Gender Analysis Revisited”. Sex Roles, 37 (11–12):979–996. Kristiansen, Søren (2000): Kreativ sociologi—Om Erving Goffmans sociologiske teori og metode. Unpublished PhD thesis, Department of Social Relations and Organisation, Aalborg University. LaPiere, Richard T. (1934): “Attitudes versus Actions”. Social Forces, 13 (2):230– 237. Ledger, Marshall (1982): “The Observer”. Pennsylvania Gazette, February 28th:36–42. Lemert, Charles and Ann Branaman (eds.) (1997): The Goffman Reader. New York: Blackwell. Levine, Donald N. (1989): “Parsons’ Structure (and Simmel) Revisited”. Sociological Theory, 7 (1):110–117. Link, Bruce G. & Jo C. Phelan (2001): “Conceptualizing Stigma”. Annual Review of Sociology, 27:363–385. Lofland, John (1984): “Erving Goffman’s Sociological Legacies”. Urban Life, 13 (1):7–34. Lyman, Stanford M. and Marvin B. Scott (1970): A Sociology of the Absurd. New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts. MacIntyre, Alasdair (1969): “The Self as a Work of Art”, New Statesman, March 28:447–448. Manning, Peter K. (2008): “Goffman on Organizations”. Organization Studies, 29 (5):677–699. Manning, Philip (1989): “Goffman’s Revisions”. Philosophy of the Social Sciences, 19:341–343. . (1991): “Drama as Life: The Significance of Goffman’s Changing Use of the Theatrical Metaphor”. Sociological Theory, 9 (1):70–86. . (1992): Erving Goffman and Modern Sociology. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press. Marx, Gary T. (1984): “Role Models and Role Distance: A Remembrance of Erving Goffman”. Theory and Society, 13:649–662. Meyrowitz, Joshua (1990): “Redefi ning the Situation: Extending Dramaturgy into a Theory of Social Change and Media Effects”, in Stephen H. Riggins (ed.):



Beyond Goffman: Studies on Communication, Institution and Social Interaction. New York: Mouton de Gruyter. Miller, Hugh (1995): “The Presentation of Self in Electronic Life”, paper presented at a conference on Embodied Knowledge and Virtual Space, at Goldsmith’s College, June 1995. Available at Mills, C. Wright (1959): The Sociological Imagination. New York: Oxford University Press. Nahavandi, Firouzeh (1979): Introduction à la sociologie d’Erving Goffman. Brussels: Editions de l’université. Nizet, Jean and Natalie Rigaux (2005): La sociologie de Erving Goffman. Paris: Éditions La Découverte. Oromaner, Mark (1980): “Erving Goffman and the Academic Community”. Philosophy of the Social Sciences, 10:287–291. Petrunik, Michael (1980): “The Rise and Fall of ‘Labelling Theory’: The Construction and Destruction of a Sociological Strawman”. Canadian Journal of Sociology, 5 (3):213–233. Posner, Judith (1978): “Erving Goffman: His Presentation of Self”. Philosophy of the Social Sciences, 8:67–78. Psathas, George (1977): “Goffman’s Image of Man”. Humanity and Society, 1 (1):84–94. . (1996): “Theoretical Perspectives on Goffman: Critique and Commentary”. Sociological Perspectives, 39 (3):383–391. Raab, Jürgen (2008): Erving Goffman: Klassiker der Wissenssoziologie. Konstanz: UVK Verlagsgesellschaft. Rawls, Anne W. (1987): “The Interaction Order Sui Generis: Goffman’s Contribution to Social Theory”. Theoretical Sociology, 5:136–149. Renfrow, Daniel G. (2004): “A Cartography of Passing in Everyday Life”. Symbolic Interaction, 27 (4):485–506. Rettie, Ruth M. (2009): “Mobile Telephone Communication: Extending Goffman to Mediated Interaction”. Sociology, 43 (3):421–438. Richard, Michel P. (1986): “Goffman Revisited: Relatives vs. Administrators in Nursing Homes”. Qualitative Sociology, 9 (4):321–338. Riesman, David, Nathan Glazer and Reuel Denney (1953/2001): The Lonely Crowd: A Study of the Changing American Character. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press. Riggins, Stephen H. (ed.) (1990): Beyond Goffman: Studies on Communication, Institution and Social Interaction. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter. Rigney, Daniel (2001): The Metaphorical Society: An Invitation to Social Theory. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. Rogers, Mary F. (1977): “Goffman on Power”. American Sociologist, 12 (2):88– 95. Ross, Drew A. R. (2007): “Backstage with the Knowledge Boys and Girls: Goffman and Distributed Agency in an Organic Online Community”. Organization Studies, 28 (3):307–325. Sarmicanic, Lisa (2004): “Goffman, Pets and People: An Analysis of Humans and Their Companion Animals”. ReVision, 27 (2):42–47. Scambler, Graham (2006): “Jigsaws, Models and the Sociology of Stigma”. Journal of Critical Realism, 5 (2):273–289. Scheff, Thomas J. (2006): Goffman Unbound!—A New Paradigm for Social Science. Boulder, CO: Paradigm Publishers. Schein, Edgar (2006): “From Brainwashing to Organizational Therapy”. Organization Studies, 27:287–301. Schwartz, Howard and Jerry Jacobs (1979): Qualitative Methods: A Method to the Madness. New York: Free Press.


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Sijuwade, Philip O. (1995): “Counterfeit Intimacy: A Dramaturgical Analysis of an Erotic Performance”. Social Behavior and Personality, 23 (4):369–376. Simmel, Georg (1903/1959): “The Problem of Sociology”, in Kurt H. Wolff (ed.): Georg Simmel, 1958–1918. Columbus: Ohio State University Press. Smith, Greg (1988): “The Sociology of Erving Goffman”. Social Studies Review, 3:118–122. . (1989): “Snapshots ‘Sub-Specie Aeternitatis’: Simmel, Goffman and Formal Sociology”. Human Studies, 12:19–57. , (ed.) (1999): Goffman and Social Organization: Studies of a Sociological Legacy. London: Routledge. . (2006): Erving Goffman. London: Taylor & Francis. . (2003): “Chrysalid Goffman: A Note on ‘Some Characteristics of Response to Depicted Experience’”. Symbolic Interaction, 26 (4):645–658. Strong, Philip M. (1983): “The Importance of Being Erving”. Sociology of Health and Illness, 5 (3):345–355. Taylor, Laurie (2000): “Erving Goffman”, in Gary Alan Fine and Gregory W. H. Smith (eds.): Erving Goffman: A Four Volume Set (Sage Masters in Modern Social Thought Series). London: Sage Publications. Time Magazine (1969): “Exploring a Shadow World”. Time Magazine, January 10th:50–51. Treviño, A. Javier (ed.) (2003a): Goffman’s Legacy. New York: Rowman & Littlefield. . (2003b): “Erving Goffman and the Interaction Order”, in Goffman’s Legacy. New York: Rowman & Littlefield. Turner, Ronny E. and Charles Edgley (1976): “Death as Theater: A Dramaturgical Analysis of the American Funeral”. Sociology and Social Research, 60 (4):377–392. van den Berghe, Pierre (1970): Academic Gamesmanship: How To Make a PhD Pay. New York: Abelard-Schuman. Verhoeven, Jef C. (1993): “An Interview with Erving Goffman, 1980”. Research on Language and Social Interaction, 26 (3):317–348. Wagner, Wolf (1978): Uni-Angst und Uni-Bluf: Wie Studieren und sich nicht verlieren. Berlin: Rotbuch. Wax, Murray L. (1990): “Erving Goffman and Chicago Sociology”. Man (New Series), 26 (1):163–164. Weber, Eugen (1986): France—Fin de siècle. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press. Wedel, Janet M. (1978): “Ladies, We’ve Been Framed! Observations on Erving Goffman’s The Arrangement Between the Sexes”. Theory & Society, 5 (1):113–125. West, Candace (1996): “Goffman in Feminist Perspective”. Sociological Perspectives, 39 (3):353–370. Wexler, Mark N. (1984): “The Enigma of Goffman’s Sociology”. Quarterly Journal of Ideology, 8:40–50. White, Robert and Dallas Hanson (2002): “Corporate Self, Corporate Reputation and Corporate Annual Reports: Re-Enrolling Goffman”. Scandinavian Journal of Management, 18:285–301. Wicker, Allan W. (1969): “Attitudes versus Actions: The Relationship between Verbal and Overt Responses to Attitude Objects”. Journal of Social Issues, 25:41–78. Williams, Robin (1983): “Sociological Tropes: A Tribute to Erving Goffman”. Theory, Culture & Society, 2:99–102. . (1988): “Understanding Goffman’s Methods”, in Paul Drew and Anthony Wootton (eds.): Erving Goffman—Exploring the Interaction Order. Boston: Northeastern University Press.



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Part I

Dissecting Goffman


Goffman’s Greenings Yves Winkin

INTRODUCTION At some point in his life, Erving Goffman was a kid. Perhaps hard to believe. It is worth reconstituting his personal, social and intellectual environnment from available historical data, from interviews and biographies of peers and fellow Canadians of his time. The ultimate objective is to delineate the main characteristics of the habitus which shaped Goffman the kid—and Goffman the adult (Boltanski 1973; Wacquant 1988; Winkin 1988, 1999).

QUIET LIFE IN DAUPHIN Let us imagine the following picture. The whole Goffman family stands solemnly in front of their ‘Department Store’ on 4th Avenue, Dauphin, Manitoba, Canada: father Max, short, stocky, solid; mother Ann, thin, almost frail, looking much younger; Frances, 13 years old, already quite mature; Erving, 10 years old, short and sturdy, looking mischievous— probably pulling his sister’s hair when the picture is taken. The picture does not show the next shop to the right, the clothing store owned by Eli Bay, Max Goffman’s loyal competitor and old friend. Eli has two sons: Sol, who will later take the store over, and Charles (Chuck), who will later marry Frances, Max’s daughter. In 1932, there are eight stores in Dauphin selling clothes. They compete for attention in the Dauphin Herald and Press. While Eli Bay, who has been in the business since 1909, uses understatements like “Dauphin’s Busiest Store”, Max Goffman, who only came to Dauphin in 1926, offers the “greatest sales on earth” several times a year. He specialises in merchandise bought in bulk in Montreal; the Dauphin community knows his annual buying trips, as they are reported in the local press.1 When he returns to Dauphin with his load of garments, he announces the event in the same newspaper. The 1932 advertisements are rhetorical jewels:2 “Emphatically an event not to be overlooked if you want a smart frock at an unusual saving”. “We honestly believe that these models will set a new standard of value giving . . . ” “You’ve never seen such a diversity of stunning hat styles. All designed to lend you the sort of individuality you admire in stunningly groomed women”.

52 Yves Winkin Erving will not be trained in his father’s business. It may be conjectured at this stage, however, that one of his earliest intellectual ‘habit forming forces’ originates in his father’s stress on fashion as a ‘symbol of class status’, to allude to the title of his fi rst published paper (Goffman 1951) or as a tool of ‘impression management’, to refer to The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life (Goffman 1959). A “stunning hat” enables the female buyer to display “the sort of individuality” admired in other women, i.e. to put a new self on stage. The argument seems to lead all the way to Gender Advertisements (Goffman 1979). Max Goffman arrived alone in Winnipeg in 1916 or 1917 from Novokrainka, in Ukrainia.3 He had escaped the pogroms and the likely fate of being conscripted into the Czar’s army for as many as twenty-five years, starting at the age of 12, since that was the way to Russify the Jewish community invented by Czar Nicholas I (Stanislawski 1983). Floods of Jewish immigrants from Russia arrived in the United States and in Canada in the late decades of the 19th century and the early decades of the 20th century—about two million in total.4 Canada had started to accept Russian Jewish refugees in 1882, with the idea of assigning them lands in the Northwest. From Montreal or Toronto immigrants were sent to Winnipeg by boat and train and then dispatched through Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta. The Jewish community soon started to grow; Jewish farm colonies began to spread throughout the Prairie; and many small towns got a Jewish tailor, peddler or grocer. Actually the Jewish ‘colonies’ were not agriculturally as skilled as the Icelanders, Mennonites and Ukrainians who were also settling en masse; rather they fit the niches of artisans and small merchants. When Max Goffman arrived in Winnipeg, he was probably helped by his landmanshaft. Such ‘associations of fellow countrymen’ structured the Jewish community of Winnipeg, helping the newcomers to find a room, a job and possibly a wife too (Gutkin 1980). As the story goes in the Goffman family, one of his friends once announced: “Max, I found the perfect girl for you”. Max was introduced to Ann (Annie) Auerbach, who had arrived in Winnipeg with her family in 1911. She mastered some English language and worked in a jewellery store. They got married in 1918; she was 18, he was 28. They fi rst moved to Mannville, a very small town of 300 inhabitants in Alberta, where their daughter Frances was born in 1919, and their son Erving Manual in 1922. They started a women’s and men’s readyto-wear store. But the business was not too good, and they wanted to get closer to Ann’s family in Winnipeg. So they moved to the far larger town of Prince Albert (still in Saskatchewan). But the business did not pick up. Ann and the children went back to Winnipeg and stayed with the Auerbach family, while Max kept searching around for a good business spot. Their story started to sound like Papa Brusel’s in Raisins and Almonds, Fredelle Bruser Maynard’s autobiography (1964), in which she tells how her Russian-born father went in the 1920s and 1930s from one small town to

Goffman’s Greenings


the next in Manitoba in search of a good place to have his dry goods store prosper. Yet, Papa Goffman was not Papa Brusel. In late 1926 he settled for good in Dauphin, about 180 miles northwest of Winnipeg. This proved to be a good choice. Dauphin was a prosperous ‘wheat and rail’ junction town of 4,000 inhabitants, with a strong Ukrainian community, whose early members arrived at the turn of the century (Little 1988). The town worked as a service centre for the rural surroundings, with train and bus connections to Winnipeg. Wheat was collected throughout the area, piled up in grain elevators standing by the station, and shipped on freight trains to Winnipeg and the world. It certainly was not a shabby little Prairie town by the time the Goffmans started to run their ‘Department Store’ on 4th Avenue. It had all the public and commercial conveniences a mid-size town could offer in the 1920s, with primary and secondary schools, a general hospital and a public library. Movies were seen at the Gay Theatre and at the Dauphin Theatre. There were plenty of sports, several ‘dramatic societies’ and town bands. People danced all over town every weekend in schools, community halls or dance parlours, like the Orange Hall, the Elk’s Hall or the Roseland Dance Garde (Watt 1932). And there were many churches: Methodist, Presbyterian, Congregationalist, Baptist, Roman Catholic, Ukrainian Catholic, Ukrainian Orthodox— but no synagogue. There were about a dozen Jewish households scattered through Dauphin.5 Families knew each other but did not constitute a strong community, spatially and socially. They did not feel on the defensive; there was no blatant public discrimination against Jews in the 1920s and 1930s in Dauphin, only isolated individual acts. But they did not feel integrated either. Only a lawyer like Alex Katz or a local politician like Sam Solomon moved freely in all strata of the Dauphin society and beyond. The artisans and merchants like the Goffmans and the Bays “kept to themselves”, as Charles Bay put it.6 They were on greetings terms with the Gentiles, and that was it. Max Goffman loved cards, and played bridge and poker with anyone who agreed to sit down. His daughter Frances used to play with children of very proper Anglo-Saxon descent. But both Max and Eli did much of their business with the Ukrainians because they spoke their language and gave them good credit.7 An alliance of the dominated, so to speak.8 Many years later, Erving Goffman wrote to his colleague anthropologist and linguist Dell Hymes: “You forget that I grew (with Yiddish) in a town where to speak another language was to be suspect of being homosexual” (Hymes 1984:628). The tone is not so playful—almost vengeful. While Jewish adults may have felt fairly comfortable in Dauphin, because they fitted niches quite accepted and respected in the Prairie towns of the 1920s (Gutkin 1980:84–86), Jewish children may have been more often harassed by their peers and by the environment because their non-occupational role did not protect them from verbal and symbolic aggressions. Fredelle Bruser, who was five in 1927—exactly Erving’s age—described very acutely her


Yves Winkin

own mood as she lived in Birch Hills, Saskatchewan (“two streets, a line of grain elevators, and a railway station”: not unlike Dauphin, though much smaller): Being Jewish, I had long grown accustomed to isolation and difference. Difference was in my bones and blood, and in the pattern of my separate life. My parents were conspicuously unlike other children’s parents in our predominantly Norwegian community. Where my schoolmates were surrounded by blond giants appropriate to a village called Birch Hills, my family suggested still the Russian plains from which they had emigrated years before. (Bruser Maynard 1964:19) Erving Goffman was never more autobiographical than in the two lines quoted above (which were not written to be published). It is difficult to evaluate to what extent his early childhood experience matched Bruser’s. Dauphin was not as isolated as Birch Hills, but when it comes to the resentment a child may develop when he/she is deprived of Christmas presents, the size of the town matters little. Erving’s sense of alienation may have been close to Fredelle’s: All year I walked in the shadow of difference; but at Christmas above all, I tasted it sour on my tongue. There was no room at the tree. ‘You have Hanukkah’, my father reminded me. ‘That is our holiday’. (Bruser Maynard 1964:21) The Brusers were not Orthodox Jews; they cannot be said to have reinforced their daughter’s estrangement by a strict religious stand vis-à-vis the Gentile community at large. Neither did the Goffmans: they were in the middle on the continuum of orthodoxy and secular Judaism. Max and Ann Goffman still spoke some Yiddish at home but they did not systematically teach the language to their children. Erving could affectionately call Frances ‘Schwester’ and drop a few words in Yiddish but that was the extent of his command of the language. The Goffmans celebrated Sabbath and Passover at home, kept kosher and cooked traditional foods such as chicken soup, but Erving was not systematically trained in the Talmud or in Jewish observances and rituals. He had a Bar Mitzvah but did not attend a synagogue after that. Just as Fredelle’s sense of otherness derived from her own perception of objective differences, it may argued that Erving felt estranged very early on for the same reasons. He was in any case a different child: strong, bright and impossible.9 He knew how to play cards by the age of five, as he used to watch the games behind his father’s back. “My son will either be a genius or a gangster”, once said his father to Chuck Bay. Erving also knew very early on what boys did to girls. He loved to poke the eyes out of his sister’s dolls. He also enjoyed conducting small experiments on animals. For example he once observed the reaction of the neighbour’s cat when funnelled alcohol

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of his own composition (the cat reportedly spent the whole night in the tree and refused to come down). But it was sheer accident when he suffocated his white rabbit; he loved it so much that he squeezed it to death on his chest.10 While Frances was calm, delicate, obedient to her parents and to her teachers, Erving was an ebullient daredevil. Yet, her mother admired him most—the more she spanked him. “He was the chosen one”, as his sister put it sixty years later. When he was in Junior High, ‘Goofy’, as his friends called him, received a chemistry set. He was enthralled. He soon went beyond the instructions. He could make powder that exploded under the feet (for example, in the staircases of the school). He also became good at electrical experiments. He once got hold of long carbon rods and linked them with wires in order to produce electric arcs. He asked his buddy Hugh Fox to come up and give him a hand. They climbed on the flat roof of the house and pointed the rods towards the neighbour’s windows. A beam of very bright light flooded the house. The neighbour’s panic barely matched ‘Goofy’s’ laughter. Possibly because he was too busy experimenting, Erving was not too good in Junior High, to his father’s worry: “How come Frances is always fi rst in class? How come you’re only 20th?”. Erving: “Don’t worry, Dad, there are twenty behind”. And so life went on in Dauphin in the 1930s. Those were Depression years but “the extreme conditions of the drought were not felt in the Dauphin area, since it was blessed with a more adequate rainfall than much of the rest of Western Canada” (Little 1988:186–187). As the 1932 Dauphin Herald and Press expressed in many ways, business did not shut off in Dauphin during those years. Max Goffman did not suffer like many smalltown Jewish storekeepers who went out of business because they “extended credit to hard-pressed farmers” (Gutkin 1980:205). As a matter of fact, Max bought a second shop, called the ‘Model Shoppe’, in the early 1930s and sold it back to a corporate group in 1938. He saved enough money in his fi rst ten years in Dauphin to buy a nice house in Winnipeg in 1937 and move the whole family out of Dauphin. Erving was 15. He had completed Junior High. He was ready for the big city and the big school.

WINNIPEG NORTH END A big city, it was—250,000 inhabitants by 1935. Like Chicago, Winnipeg attained its stature at the turn of the century, when trains started to run across Canada, when the wheat and the cattle from the West were processed in town, when hundreds of thousands of immigrants arrived from Europe— among them, many Russian Jews fleeing the Czarist regime. By 1931 (year of the national census), there were 17,632 self-declared Jewish households in Winnipeg (Canadian Jewish Yearbook, 1939). A majority of them settled in the so-called “North End” section of the city, a three by three–mile territory bound by the Canadian Pacific Railroad tracks to the south and the Red River


Yves Winkin

to the east. It was a self-contained community where “row on row of lookalike frame houses stood elbow to elbow on their narrow lots, with a summer kitchen tacked on at the back to take the overflow of household operations, and a porch in front where the family might enjoy a quiet summer evening” (Gutkin and Gutkin 1987).11 The commercial axis, along Selkirk Avenue, offered bakeries, banks and barbershops, as well as doctors, dentists and druggists. But the North End was also composed of Jewish newspapers, schools, book and record shops and also many synagogues and fraternal societies. If the early waves of Jewish immigration brought to the North End traditional, religiously oriented men in black coats and fur hats who cultivated Hebrew, the later waves were made of many secular, ‘radical’ men and women who considered Yiddish not only as their everyday tongue, but also as their language of culture. Against the Orthodox, exclusive veneration of the Talmud Torah, they opened the ‘Peretz School’, in the honour of the Polish man of Yiddish letters Isaac Leib Peretz (1852–1915). The Peretz school not only provided night classes in the history and culture of the Jewish people, it also offered a regular primary-school curriculum to many children, who later went to the public high school of the North End, St. John’s Technical High School.

THE SHARKS OF ST. JOHN’S TECH Picture of ‘Ten B’ in the 1938 edition of The Torch, the yearbook of St. John’s Technical High School: here he is. First row, the very last to the right. He sits on the floor with his arms circled around his legs, hands clasped. While most of his classmates crossed their arms on their chest, like obedient students are supposed to do, he took a different pose. He was different. Brian Burke (third row, third to the left) remembers that Erving appeared “out of the blue” in tenth grade.12 Some people in the class had known each other for many years, so Erving was the ‘new guy’ who could not be easily incorporated—neither was he willing to let himself be assimilated. He was very short, very boyish looking, but well muscled. He was impatient with classmates, if not with slow teachers. He was ahead of everybody in gymnastics—“an impressive performer on parallel bars and the vaulting box”.13 Nevertheless, he was not involved in collective sports, in beer, or in politics, whether national (the Cooperative Commonwealth Federation was getting very popular with young people throughout Canada) or international (the Zionist Movement was very strong in Winnipeg). “Goff”, as Meyer Brownstone, one of his schoolmates from St. John’s, put it, “was in a different world”.14 He was “encapsulated”, “aloof” and “remote”. He was one of the boys, but different, for three reasons. First, he lived on the other side of Machray Avenue; that meant that his family was better off than most of the fi rst-generation Jewish immigrants living in the North End of Winnipeg. The two-story house on Scotia Street

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bought by Max Goffman in 1937 was quite nice. The street was lined by trees, and surrounded by lawns, and the Red River gently gurgled in the back.15 Erving apparently kept the house off limits to his peers. “We never were in Goff’s house”, Meyer Brownstone said. It was “partly because of his personality, partly because of an objective difference in status”, he suggested, contrasting Erving’s distance with the closeness of Ruben Simkin, one of Meyer’s best friends: “We were in each other’s house all the time”— because both families were equally poor and equally set ideologically. This is a second difference with Erving. Meyer was political to the bones, and he got his early education at the Simkin’s, who regularly hosted union leaders, radicals and anarchists. Meyer eventually became deputy minister in the CCF government of Saskatchewan (and later national chairperson of Oxfam-Canada); Erving never entered the political arena. That set him apart, as did a third factor—his lack of ‘Jewishkeit’. While Meyer and many of his friends received a thorough Jewish education, both through their family and through systematic schooling, Erving never attended evening Jewish classes while at St. John’s, did not attend the synagogue and even showed contempt for all those rituals. For Meyer, young Goffman was a rootless Jew, who did not have much fondness for his origins. There was still another reason for his particular aura among his classmates: he pleased girls differently. ‘Goff’ would invite the girl to his house— a rare privilege indeed—offer her a drink of his own composition, and put on a record playing Wagner. “We kids may have known some classical music”, laughed Meyer, “but not Wagner!”. What is more, it was difficult to go out with Goff. At the movies, for example, he would laugh his heart out when the audience was silently crying at the final reconciliation scene. But it was also fun to be with ‘Goff’. When Meyer and Erving played in the St. John’s production of Hamlet, “the two of them lent an authentically boisterous note to the drama by substituting real liquor for the stage variety provided” (Gutkin and Gutkin 1987:147). From all accounts, St. John’s Technical High School was an excellent public institution. The principal, George Reeve, came from Ruskin College, the left-leaning college at Oxford, with new educational ideas. He established night classes for adults. He opened the school to the sons and daughters of newly arrived immigrants so that, by 1929, more than half of the student population was Jewish (Ferns 1983:12, 45). He assembled a team of highly dedicated teachers who pushed the students to their highest level. The pedagogy was ‘elitist’: the top three classes were meant for the University and segregated from the rest of the school. Within that pool of students, the cream of the cream—straight As—were allowed to participate in the production of The Torch, the school yearbook, in close association with a few selected teachers.16 The pedagogy paid off. St. John’s produced more graduates who went to complete PhDs than “any other high school of the same size on the North American continent”.17


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Like elite American ‘prep schools’ or French khâgnes,18 St. John’s bred competitiveness and arrogance—but it was rather joyful, at least according to novelist Jack Ludwig, one of Goffman’s “closest friends” in eleventh grade.19 In Requiem for Bibul, a partially autobiographical short story, he evoked St. John’s intellectual atmosphere: We were a roomful of competitive sharks—physics sharks, English, Latin, history sharks—secretly, often openly sure that we surpassed our teachers in brains and know-how. Joyfully arrogant, we shook off the restricting label of ‘high school student’, considering ourselves pros— mathematicians, scientists, writers, artists. In our own minds we had already graduated from the university, had passed through Toronto or Oxford, were entangled in public controversies with the great names in our respective fields, ending right but humble, modestly triumphant. (in Gutkin and Gutkin 1987:242) One of the ‘competitive sharks’ was definitely Erving Goffman. He was not only ahead of most of his classmates but he needed to win them over. As Brian Burke recalled, Erving “trashed” him in a simple speech contest focused on the question: “What is best: coffee or tea?”.20 Erving was so fierce and animated in the debate that Brian prudently threw down the gantlet. He had no competitor in chemistry: “We thought he was a natural science genius”, recalled Brian Burke. The reason was that he had his own laboratory in the basement of the family house. The story in the family goes that he came close to blowing the house up at least once, and that he knew as much as any college graduate in chemistry. One of his mother’s cousins was a professor of education at the University of Manitoba. He was so intrigued by Erving’s experiments that he asked two colleagues from the Chemistry Department to come and probe Erving’s knowledge in the field. They found him to be as advanced as their third year students. It is hard to assess the energy and creativity he put to the 1939 edition of The Torch, with Jack Ludwig as editor-in-chief. He is mentioned in the credits with Meyer Brownstone as comrade-in-arms, for his participation in the ‘Social Department’ and in the ‘Photography Department’. Did he take photographs for the yearbook? Did he participate in the ‘socials’ surrounding graduation? This is hard to substantiate, easy to fancy—Erving swirling in the gymnasium with a lovely brunette (or rather, given his future proclivities, a gentle blonde). Actually, the only story left to posterity is that he contributed stinkballs to the Night Prom of 1939. Remember: he hated ceremonies.

A FOOL’S PARADISE Picture of ‘Eleven C’ in The Torch of 1939. They all look older than their age except for him. Four rows of young men around a teacher. Erving sits

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on the floor again, elbows on his knees, hands apparently fidgeting, head slightly tilted, with a thick layer of hair across the forehead. Most of his classmates smile. He does not: he looks annoyed. Most of them stand or sit with shoulders erect. He does not: his shoulders are sagging. Most of them positioned their body so that they allowed room for each other just before the picture was taken. He did not: he flattened his legs, and the classmate to his right had to back up a bit. Erving may not have been easy to be with in Eleven C. But wait. The legend of the picture mentions ‘Irving Goffman’ as the third boy on the left of the bottom row, and not the fifth, as just described. Now, is Erving the person receding in the shade, head down, barely visible at all? Just like on the picture of the ‘NATO Advanced Study Institute’ at Birbeck College in 1979, he was present—but so much in the shade that his face did not appear at all. The legend of the ever-invisible Goffman may well have started at St. John’s Tech in 1939. The young Erving never seemed to have harshly experienced the ‘real world’, like many of his classmates, whose parents suffered much economically during the Depression. He lived in one of the best streets of the North End, and his father apparently maintained steady if not increasing income throughout the 1930s. He never seemed to have encountered blatant antiSemitism, either in his neighbourhood or in school. While some of his contemporaries still lived in fear, 21 Erving quietly experimented with chemical reactions in his basement, read a lot and taught himself classical music. At St. John’s, he lived in a “fool’s paradise”, as Jack Ludwig put it: “Jewish or not, we were all intellectuals” (in Gutkin and Gutkin 1987:242). Were those young Jewish intellectuals, whose parents had all come from Europe, well aware of the doom awaiting the world? Maurice Victor, who graduated from St. John’s in 1936, believed so: As I look back at those years in high school and then in college, I recognize that two things touched everybody in our class, in our group and in our community, the Depression and the rise of Hitlerism in Europe. Long before the Anglo-Saxon community had any awareness of it, we recognized the cloud hanging over us, and we knew intuitively that the catastrophe of war would come down on the world. (in Gutkin and Gutkin 1987:73) In 1939, the war was already raging in Eastern Europe. Was the class of 1939, and Erving Goffman in particular, worried about it? In spite of Maurice Victor’s enlightened comments, it may be argued that the protective shell of the school kept world events at a distance, especially for those students, like Erving, who had no political activity. But once they emerged from the cocoon, they got caught full blast. Many of Erving’s classmates stayed on for their twelfth grade, in order to get an automatic access to second year level at the University of Manitoba


Yves Winkin

(and save one year of tuition). Erving left St. John’s after eleventh grade and enrolled at the University of Manitoba in September 1939 in the Junior Division of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences with no award, or scholarship. 22 Predictably enough, his courses were mainly in the natural sciences: mathematics, physics and chemistry.

GOFFMAN’S HABITUS Let’s stop the narrative here. Erving Goffman is not alone any more. He is a shark in a pool of sharks, to use Jack Ludwig’s term. They all share the same basic profile. They are all Jewish. They all live in the same neighbourhood of the same big town. Their parents came from Russia as refugees. They were poor, they had little formal education, but they were closet intellectuals. They had books, they talked ideas, they read newspapers, and they all put their children through high school and well beyond. So how come Erving Goffman did not become Meyer Brownstone or Jack Ludwig (and vice versa)? No matter how subtle, a sociological analysis cannot give a defi nite answer. But a few differences may offer leads. First, Erving Goffman did not grow up in the North End; his parents settled in the community when their children were adolescents already. A contrast also appears with the parents of the members of his cohort in terms of economic capital (Erving’s parents were probably better off) and cultural capital (Erving’s parents were probably less endowed intellectually than most of his friends’). And fi nally, he was a strange science ‘nerd’, who was less involved in the world around him than in the worlds of classical music and chemical interactions. He may have perceived his intellectual ‘handicap’ and may have tried to compensate for it with a ferociously competitive energy. He just needed to be the best among the best. He may have noted that he was decidedly different—in stature, in status, in interests—and may have decided early on to cultivate such differences. He may have wanted to foreclose his Jewishness, to secularise forever, to gentrify for good—away from his friends’ cultivation of that difference. Yet, no matter how he resented, resisted or ruled out his origins, he would have to face the fact that they kept creeping back. Like Joseph Gillis, né Galsky, Jack Ludwig’s (anti)-hero of Confusions (1963), he was doomed to reenact one more time the “Jewish struggle with modernity” (Cuddihy 1975). His entire work may be read in such a perspective. 23

NOTES 1. “Max Goffman left on his annual buying trip to Montreal Tuesday”, The Dauphin Herald and Press, “The Local Round”, fi rst week of February 1932.

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2. When his daughter Frances saw the advertisements in 1991, she stressed they did not represent her father’s personal style. The image she kept of him is of a very quiet, pipe- or cigar-smoking man, not the least commercially aggressive. The 1932 advertisements must have been designed by the local advertising professional, Doc Dawson, as suggested by her husband, Mr. Charles Bay. 3. Information based on interviews with Sol Bay (May 29, 1991), Charles Bay (June 1, 1991; June 1, 1998), and Frances Bay-Goffman (June 1, 1991; June 1, 1998). There are about ten towns called “Novokrainka” in Ukrainia, and ten more with a similar name, like “Nova-Ukrainka”. I was thus unable to locate the place of Max Goffman’s origins. Special thanks to Wilbur Pierce (Philadelphia) for his help with the Jewish Genealogical databases. 4. The literature on early-20th-century immigration to Canada is very important. I mainly used Gutkin (1980). For background information on Jews in the Russian Empire, I used Gilbert (1993). 5. The Jewish presence in Dauphin is never explicitly mentioned in Little (1988). According to Charles Bay, there were no more than seventeen Jewish households in Dauphin in the late 1920s (interview, June 1, 1991). The Canadian Jewish Yearbook of 1939, using the figures of the 1931 national census, mentions 61 self-declared Jewish households in Dauphin. 6. Interview, June 1, 1991. 7. Interview in Dauphin with Jo Kostuchuk and his father, who still remembered Max Goffman, on May 30, 1991. 8. When the fi rst waves of Ukrainian immigrants arrived in the area, they were given advice like “Do not buy in Jewish stores” but “most Ukrainians still felt comfortable dealing with old world merchants—even if they were the Jews, a group that the Ukrainians had historically regarded as their adversary” (Petryshyn 1985:93–94). 9. Profi le based on interviews with Frances Bay-Goffman (June 1, 1991) and with Hugh Fox, a primary school and junior high school classmate of Erving (Dauphin, May 29, 1991). 10. He was so remorseful that he told the story to his friend Liz Bott fi fteen years later with the same guilt. 11. Most of my information on the North End comes from this extremely welldocumented book, which is based on the biographies of eighteen Jewish ‘successful people’ in different fields who grew up in the 1920s and 1930s in the North End community of Winnipeg. In most cases, their parents came penniless from Russia, and St. John’s Technical High School was the launching pad into Canadian society. Erving Goffman is not one of the eighteen interviewed; he is only mentioned by two of them, Meyer Brownstone and Jack Ludwig. 12. Interview with Brian Burke, Winnipeg, on May 30, 1991. 13. Letter from Beth Simkin to Yves Winkin, September 14, 1987. Beth Simkin’s husband, Rubin Simkin, was a classmate and good friend of Erving Goffman at St. John’s. Beth Simkin turned out to be a wonderful resource for me over the years, writing to her friends to look for more information, hosting me in Winnipeg in 1991 and arranging meetings. 14. Interview with Meyer Brownstone, Toronto, March 30, 1993. 15. Description based on my visit to Scotia Street in 1991. A more historically accurate description of the street in the 1920s is offered by Harry Gutkin: “Eastward from Main (Street) to the Red River, the well-to-do Jews lived in style, gradually encroaching on the ‘English’, who occupied the leafy, elegant Scotia Street running along the river to Kildonan Park” (Gutkin 1980:145). 16. Information collected in Gutkin and Gutkin (1987:202, 242) with complements provided in interviews by Meyer Brownstone, Brian Burke and Beth Simkin.

62 Yves Winkin 17. Sybil Shack, as quoted by Gutkin and Gutkin (1987:18). 18. Khâgnes are special preparatory classes in top French lycées (high schools), preparing highly selected students for entrance examinations to the ‘Ecoles Normales Supérieures,’ which train future university professors and top public officers. Khâgneux students know that among the élèves of ENS Ulm are figures like Jean-Paul Sartre, Pierre Bourdieu and Jacques Derrida. 19. As a sign of his long-lasting friendship, he jocularly named the main character of his novel A Woman of Her Age (1973) “Mrs. Goffman”. 20. Interview with Brian Burke, Winnipeg, May 30, 1991. 21. “I was exposed to anti-Semitism from my earliest days. At Passover, when we lived in Elmwood, the neighbourhood hooligans would bang on our door, yelling that we were drinking Christian blood. And this was in North Winnipeg, in the twentieth century, not in the Russia of the czar . . . Yet, we had non-Jewish neighbours who were very nice to our family . . . These good neighbours allowed us to enjoy a semblance of normalcy and security, but lurking over our shoulders there was always this constant fear” (interview of Monty Hall in Gutkin and Gutkin 1984:29). Similar experiences are told by several interviewed. 22. Information provided to Greg Smith by C. A. Santoro, Archivist, Department of Archives and Special Collections, University of Manitoba, in a letter dated June 13, 1983. I express my gratitude to Greg Smith for sharing this information with me. 23. I want to thank Renée C. Fox, Steve Murray, Greg Smith and Wendy LeedsHurwitz for their careful reading of earlier versions of this paper. All historical mistakes are mine.

REFERENCES Boltanski, Luc (1973): “Erving Goffman et le temps du soupçon”. Information sur les sciences sociales, 12 (3):127–147. Bruser Maynard, Fredelle (1964): Raisons and Almonds. New York: Doubleday. Cuddihy, John M. (1975): The Ordeal of Civility: Freud, Marx and Levi-Strauss and the Jewish Struggle with Modernity. New York: Basic Books. Ferns, Henry Stanley (1983): Reading from Left to Right: One Man’s Political History. Toronto: University of Toronto Press. Gilbert, Martin (1993): Atlas of Russian History. New York: Oxford University Press. Goffman, Erving (1951): “Symbols of Class Status”. British Journal of Sociology, 11 (2):294–304. . (1959): The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life. New York: Doubleday/ Anchor Books. . (1979): Gender Advertisements. New York: Harper & Row. Gutkin, Harry (1980): Journey into Our Heritage: The Story of the Jewish People in the Canadian West. Toronto: Lester & Orpen Dennys. Gutkin, Harry and Mildred Gutkin (1987): The Worst of Times, the Best of Times: Growing Up in Winnipeg’s North End. Markham: Fitzhenry & Whiteside Ltd. Hymes, Dell (1984): “On Erving Goffman”. Theory and Society, 13:621–631. Little, Adam S. (1988): From Dogtown to Dauphin. Winnipeg: Watson & Dwyer. Ludwig, Jack (1963): Confusions. Toronto: McClelland & Stewart Ltd. . (1973): A Woman of Her Age. Toronto: McClelland & Stewart Ltd. Petryshyn, Jaroslav (1985): Peasants in the Promised Land: Canada and the Ukrainians, 1891–1914. Toronto: James Lorimer.

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Stanislawski, Michael F. (1983): Tsar Nicholas I and the Jews. Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society of America. Wacquant, Loïc (1988): “L’habitus de Goffman”. Cahiers internationaux de sociologie, 85:365–370. Watt, Gladys C. (1932): “Dauphin Cultural Aspect”. The Dauphin Herald and Press, September 22nd. Winkin, Yves (1988): “Portrait du sociologue en jeune homme”, in Les Moments et leurs hommes. Paris: Seuil/Minuit. . (1999): “Erving Goffman: What Is a Life? The Uneasy Making of an Intellectual Biography”, in Greg Smith (ed.): Goffman and Social Organization: Studies in a Sociological Legacy. London: Routledge.


Labelling Goffman The Presentation and Appropriation of Erving Goffman in Academic Life Michael Hviid Jacobsen and Søren Kristiansen

There is a constant search for the man to fit the epithets. —Robert Musil, The Man Without Qualities

Once an identity peg has been made ready, material, if and when available, can be hung on it; a dossier can be developed, usually contained and fi led in a manila folder. —Erving Goffman, Stigma

THE MANY GOFFMANS Recent years have witnessed an extraordinary revival of sociological interest in the work of Erving Goffman unprecedented in the foregoing decades and unmatched at any other time since Goffman’s death almost three decades ago (see e.g. Jacobsen and Kristiansen 2002; Kim 2003; Treviño 2003; Scheff 2006; Smith 2006). Torrents of literature dealing with, presenting, interpreting, applying, using, discussing, dissecting, analysing, assessing and debating Goffman’s contribution have flooded the discipline of sociology as well as related fields of study. Quite a substantial amount of this literature has also concerned itself with categorising, classifying or inscribing Goffman’s sociology within already known and time-honoured paradigms, schools of thought and research traditions. The result is that Goffman at various times and by a variety of interpreters has been seen as a proponent, exponent or representative of a multitude—and quite often widely contradictory—perspectives and positions thereby obscuring who he was and what he in fact stood for. Erving Goffman was without any doubt an exceptional sociologist. N. G. Hartland commented that despite Goffman’s “accessible prose, it is difficult for social theorists and researchers to appropriate Goffman. His concern with such mundane matters as lying, play-acting, sport, joking and games means that he slips through the carefully constructed categories

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of sociological self-appraisal” (Hartland 1994:251). Later, Ian Hacking observed how Goffman was known as “an independent spirit, impossible to classify” (Hacking 2004:292). As a consequence, a multitude of different epithets and labels have throughout the years been awarded, applied or pinned to Goffman and his work. Despite such numerous and often ingenious attempts, Goffman remains difficult to pigeonhole or categorise. There is a distinct slippery quality to his work making its nature difficult to grasp and determine once and for all. Although Goffman’s academic production culminated in a period when many of the great paradigms in social science were initially established, his work in many ways was decidedly anti-paradigmatic. In a commemorative essay, Dean MacCannell described how “Erving Goffman’s publication career precisely coincided with the appearance of the ‘great paradigms’ in the social sciences and humanities: existentialism, structuralism, phenomenology and semiotics”. And yet it appeared as if “Goffman seemed to be coming from nowhere” (MacCannell 1983:1). MacCannell went on to describe how Goffman’s work throughout the years fl irted with, combined and espoused the ideas from a wide range of intellectual traditions such as existentialism, structuralism, phenomenology and semiotics—but, as we will show later in this chapter, this is just the top of the iceberg. And true, several others have also pointed to and been fascinated by the incredible variety and hybridity of Goffman’s work by showing how his academic career went through different identifiable stages during which the content of his work, almost as a chameleon, changed its colours and concerns (Collins 1981, 1986; Winkin 1999). Thus, as Howard Schwartz and Jerry Jacobs once mused: “Goffman is fi ne, but how many Goffmans are there?” (Schwartz and Jacobs 1979:184). The short answer, as we will show, is: many. In fact, there are not just many Goffmans but also many readings and interpretations of Goffman. One consequence of the previously noted slippery character and changing nature of Goffman’s work—as well as the controversy over his proper paradigmatic placement, scholarly identity or group affiliation—has perhaps been that really successful efforts to cumulatively systematise his concepts, insights and ideas is missing from much commentary and critical literature. As Peter K. Manning recently claimed: “In my view, there has been little progress in Goffman-based work in the last twenty-five years because Goffman’s ideas have been instanced as illustrating this or that theory rather than a brilliant, unique and masterful evocation of the central dilemma—posed as a question—of modern life: what do we owe each other?” (Manning 2008:677–678). Although we are not quite sure that this is the crux of the many interesting questions raised by Goffman, we do agree with Manning that scholars roundly and routinely have shown a keen interest in placing, locating and appropriating Goffman’s work as part of established theoretical frameworks thereby making it manageable and safe. It is, however, the contention and conclusion of this chapter,

66 Michael Hviid Jacobsen and Søren Kristiansen which we here already prematurely anticipate, that Goffman’s work—despite or perhaps because of its affinities with, legacy from and inspiration to a number of traditions—may best be appreciated and understood as a unique, original and creative contribution to sociology. And although we agree with Jef C. Verhoeven who long ago stated that “comparing Goffman’s approach to other paradigms seems not only to be a negation of the creativity of this writer but is strongly disliked by Goffman, when such comparisons have nothing but labelling as their purpose” (Verhoeven 1985:70), in this chapter we will nevertheless perform exactly such a paradigmatic comparison. Moreover, we admit that Goffman is damned difficult to pin down and place in rigid or iron-clad categories. His work remains elusive because it was everevolving and because his conceptual apparatus—despite its continued focus on human interaction—constantly took him into new territory. Therefore, we will seek to steer clear of the Scylla of rigid classification that has caused shipwreck to so many other interpreters while also avoiding the Charybdis of relativistic and inconclusive non-classification. Whether we are successful in this endeavour, we will leave to the reader’s discretion. As already Steve Crook and Laurie Taylor (1980) commented in their dissection of Goffman’s ‘version of reality’, the task of compartmentalising his work into neat classificatory schemas such as interactionism, phenomenology, structuralism or semiology can indeed be seen as a rather pedantic exercise as Goffman himself happily and willingly acknowledged the sheer tentativeness of his work. Later also George Psathas, for example, asserted how “Goffman can be read in many ways, as an incipient but unsuccessful phenomenologist (Ostrow 1996), as almost, but not quite, feminist (West 1996), and a modernist who offered an approach to ‘interactional citizenship’ (Colomy and Brown 1996)” (Psathas 1996:384). However, as Goffman himself knew better than anyone else, such appearances are notoriously layered, deliberated and deceptive. The resulting confusion about Goffman’s intellectual origins and paradigmatic loyalties thus made Psathas conclude: Goffman remained uninterested in connecting his own theorizings with those of others, of using concepts in the ways that others had used them. In this regard, his originality must be celebrated. But his disconnection with other developments in philosophy and the social sciences must also be lamented. (Psathas 1996:391) As we shall show throughout this chapter, Goffman was in fact far from disconnected—rather, his work was so closely connected with so many different theoretical traditions and positions that he was relentlessly appropriated and perhaps even taken hostage by a variety of perspectives and paradigms. If the saying that success has many fathers but failure is an orphan rings true, then Goffman indeed proved perhaps even more successful with his ideas than he had ever dared to imagine.

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There are many ways to approach and appreciate the work of Erving Goffman. One can look at his metaphors and other stylistic devices as unique modes of presenting social scientific fi ndings. One can look at his substantial contributions to as variety of sub-disciplines such as labelling theory or the sociology of everyday life. One can look at how his original ideas have inspired or fertilised new developments in, for example, tourism studies or media sociology. In this chapter, we will, in a somewhat roundabout way, instead look at how his work has been received by the academic community. We will show how Goffman has been appropriated and adopted by proponents of a variety of different theoretical traditions: symbolic interactionism, functionalism, structuralism, existentialism, phenomenology, critical theory and postmodernism.1 Throughout the chapter we illustrate and discuss the adequacy, accuracy and potency of each of these endeavours before, in the end, suggesting that Goffman’s work is so multi-facetted and slippery that most of these epithets may prove more or less valid and reasonable. This is primarily due to his constant dissociation from all existing traditions and paradigms and his ability to mix a creative cocktail from a multitude of theoretical material. Before we venture into the substantial part of the chapter, let us initially deal a bit more with this labelling obsession that Goffman in his own books detected as an integral part of everyday encounters, e.g. when meeting stigmatised individuals, but which he also detected as extending into the world of academia.

AGAINST LABELLING No doubt decades, perhaps even centuries, will pass before Erving Goffman recedes into oblivion within sociology. However, the further a thinker fades into the historical past, the more interpretations emerge which seek to appropriate and angle his or her work. This interpretive well seems almost inexhaustible—especially within the social sciences. A substantial amount of the scientific efforts taking place after the death of a great thinker thus consists of interpreting, dissecting, classifying and categorising the work of the recently departed. Goffman’s case provides no exception. Eleanor Rosch once stated how the general purpose of categorisation and classification was to “provide maximum information with the least cognitive effect . . . Thus maximum information with least cognitive effect is achieved if categories map the perceived world structure as closely as possible” (Rosch 1978:30). Earlier Gordon Allport observed how “the human mind must think with the aid of categories . . . Once formed, categories are the basis of normal prejudgment. Orderly living depends on it” (Allport 1958:19). Not just orderly living but also orderly textual analysis and interpretation depend on such categories which form the very foundation of any normal prejudgment and especially if the categories succeed in appropriating the perceived object of analysis with the least cognitive effect.


Michael Hviid Jacobsen and Søren Kristiansen

This so-called ‘categorical impulse’ (Ellen 2006) quite often materialises more as a categorical obsession. Categorical impulses or obsessions are normally bent on classifying or labelling things, events or people so that they fit the orderly and preconceived universe one aims to uphold as closely as possible. Categories are cognitive matrices which serve the purpose of comparing and ordering a number of identical but sometimes also confl icting images and impressions into neat and rigid categories or typologies. Ronny E. Turner and Charles Edgley, in their insightful and witty essay on ‘sociological semanticide’, stated how people, and also scholars, “have refi ned their classificatory schemes many times and in many ways, with each new scheme heralding the latest discovery of reality”. They went on to suggest that “classification creates pragmatic degrees of order and regularity as people seek to define the world about them as humanly meaningful and significant. Not only do classifications help mitigate against the threat of unexpected events, but also they are tools for mastering that which is named” (Turner and Edgley 1980:595). As such ‘tools for mastering’, classifications—when used for example on the nature and proper placement of the work of great thinkers in the world of social science—normally aims at ordering and not least appropriating the object under scrutiny. It is therefore also a way of taming, a means of domesticating that which sticks out or appears to be at odds with our currently concocted and available categorical schemas. That precisely Goffman has so often been labelled, classifi ed and categorised may seem like something of a paradox. He for years stood as one of the main inventors and proponents of the so-called labelling perspective—but perhaps he was also one of its prime victims within sociology. As Marek Czyżewski insightfully contended: “Goffman has fallen into a situation he described himself: in the eyes of a wide circle of readers his personal identity has been constructed around fragmentary, selectively chosen pieces of information and quotations which serve as an ‘identity peg’” (Czyżewski 1987:40). Although Goffman mastered the art of selfpresentation—personally as well as academically—he could not entirely escape the intricate processes of academic labelling or perhaps even stigmatisation throughout his own lifetime and even more so after his death. There are many reasons for this. According to some commentators, many contradictions, confusions and internal inconsistencies mark Goffman’s work, and Mark Wexler once noted how Goffman—wittingly or unwittingly—may have collaborated in the interpretative entanglements regarding his paradigmatic positioning by retaining a mysterious ‘enigmatic silence’ on such matters: If one remains silent, or mostly so, when attacked, and most believe you capable of an ardent defense, it is not unlikely that you will be perceived as an enigma. Contradictory views of your work will emerge . . . Lend to the silence and exacerbate the enigma, Goffman does not

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provide his colleagues or readers with a map to his intellectual turf . . . What is essential in Goffman’s silence is that in formulating a passive form of authorship, Goffman incites the kind of uncertainty which requires that others—readers, confl icting theorists, admirers—actively propagate their perception of his work. (Wexler 1984:41–42) When labelling and categorising, a discrepancy or even confl ict—as Goffman taught us—may arise between the ‘victim’s’ actual identity and his virtual identity. This was perhaps one of the outcomes of Goffman’s reluctance to engage in debates over his own proper placing within the discipline. In one of the few interviews with Goffman conducted by Verhoeven, he, for instance, commented rather defiantly about being labelled a ‘symbolic interactionist’: I don’t believe [a] label really covers anything . . . I’ve never felt that a label was necessary. If I had to be labelled at all, it would have been as a Hughesian urban ethnographer. (Goffman in Verhoeven 1993:317– 318) Later in the same interview he continued by stating: What an individual says he does, or what he likes that he does, has very little bearing very often on what he actually does. It seems to me that you can’t get a picture of anyone’s work by asking them what they do or by reading explicit statements in their texts about what they do. Because that’s by and large all doctrine and ideology. You have to get it by doing a literary kind of analysis of the corpus of their work. I don’t think it’s worthwhile to do that; for a sociologist by and large, I don’t think it merits that kind of effort. (Goffman in Verhoeven 1993:322) Thus, Goffman, almost verging on the point of tediousness, throughout his career continued to resist the tendency, which he found widespread elsewhere, of ‘grinding paradigms’ and ‘self-labelling’: the necessity to position oneself among one’s peers according to time-honoured labels and epithets and by making a virtue out of that necessity. In one of his few direct refutations of criticism, Goffman therefore stated that he believed that “pronouncing and counter-pronouncing are not the study of society; I can’t recommend either part of the exchange as worth attention” (Goffman 1981b:61). In this way, Goffman took an almost perverse pleasure in mystifying himself by discarding and rejecting all labels and by refraining from commenting on such matters. Although generally regarded as part of the symbolic interactionist and anti-positivist social science movement in post-war America, Goffman only once broke this silence and—perhaps most of all provocatively—ventured into labelled himself a ‘positivist’ and saluting the ideals of value-free social

70 Michael Hviid Jacobsen and Søren Kristiansen science (Verhoeven 1993:325–326). But actually Goffman throughout his career consistently refused to be drawn into academic charades of selfcategorisation or flashing a badge of intellectual allegiance. In his aforementioned reply to critics Goffman stated how the labelling, affiliating or placing of scholars according to specific scientific paradigms or traditions (in this concrete case as a ‘structuralist’) amounted to nothing less than absurd scholasticism. He sarcastically went on to suggest an important point recounted below in toto: One proclaims one’s membership in some named perspective, gives pious mention of its central texts, and announces that the writer under review is all off by virtue of failing to qualify for membership. A case of guilt by pigeonholing. As if a writer’s work is a unitary thing and can be all bad because he or she does not apparently subscribe to a particular doctrine, which doctrine, if subscribed to, would somehow make writings good. This vested interest in treating an individual’s diverse efforts as a succinctly characterizable corpus supports a crude fallacy: That at any current moment in his working life, the true nature and purpose of his doings can be unmasked, reconstituting how they are to be correctly understood, and predicting what can become of the hereafter. I appreciate that graduate students in sociology might have need for this ideological format (a need also for schools of thought and of ‘paradigms’), in order to show their examiner that they have sociological convictions and some sense of sociology as a field, and I appreciate that their instructors might have recourse to the same slogans in order to establish standing in the classroom; but I feel sad about the recent tendency to make a publication out of these necessities (Goffman 1981b:61).2 Despite his adamant attempts to avoid such labels, Goffman did—as so many other people—far from succeed in escaping the labelling process. Below we will in turn deal with and discuss some of the labels most typically attached to and associated with Goffman’s work and briefly evaluate their validity and accuracy.3

GOFFMAN—A SYMBOLIC INTERACTIONIST? The fact that Goffman should ever be called a ‘Chicago School’ sociologist probably comes as no surprise. Actually, it almost amounts to a self-fulfi lling prophecy coming true and to most stands as a rather uncontroversial badge of honour. Indeed, Goffman was one of the most prestigious products coming out of the so-called ‘Chicago spirit’ flourishing during the early decades of the 20th century on the American continent and culminating in the ‘Second Chicago School’ after World War II (Fine 1995; Wax 1990). He

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wrote his PhD thesis while enrolled at the University of Chicago and was supervised by one of the major Chicagoans, Everett C. Hughes. Moreover, some of the neglected antecedents of Goffman’s own work were Chicago stalwarts or associates such as Robert E. Park, Charles Horton Cooley, Bertram Wilbur Doyle and Hughes (Creelan 1987; Jaworski 2000a), and although Goffman was perhaps a rather ‘reluctant apprentice’ of the Chicago School founders (Jaworski 2000b), he nevertheless carried on their interest in the mundane world of human interaction and in the quotidian concerns of everyday life encounters. One of the central tenets of Chicago sociology was its interactionist underpinnings and Horst Helle has stated that there are certain “methodological continuities that connects Goffman with Simmel, Mead and with symbolic interaction theory, and his work as well as his biography place him among the most prominent representatives of the Chicago School” (Helle 1998:189–190), thereby showing the continuous link from early Chicago sociology via symbolic interactionism to Goffman’s own work. Moreover, Goffman has also—despite his critical attitude towards certain assumptions of the ethnomethodologists—been regarded as an intellectual forerunner to the ethnomethodological movement (Attewell 1974),4 thereby providing an important connection between early symbolic interactionism and later developments within micro-sociology. Based on such observations of Goffman’s symbolic interactionist roots and sources of inspiration, Horst Helle asked the pertinent question, if Goffman then was to be labelled as a symbolic interactionist? His answer to this question was somewhat tergiversating and ambivalent: The answer to the question of whether Erving Goffman is a symbolic interactionist will be ‘yes’, if the term is understood the way Arnold Rose [in Human Behaviour and Social Process] used it, and ‘no’, if the narrower defi nition is applied, since, obviously, what Goffman did is not the same as what Blumer did. (Helle 1998:185) Despite such inconclusiveness, there is no doubt that Goffman in many respects by most interpreters was seen as an interactionist. The most frequently applied label attached to the work of Goffman by most interpreters is therefore that as a symbolic interactionist and Greg Smith claims that Goffman is “the best-known representative of the symbolic interactionist tradition in sociology” (Smith 1988:118), Stephen W. Littlejohn termed Goffman “a symbolic interactionist of the dramaturgical tradition” (Littlejohn 1977:485), while Michael Stein proposed that “the sociology of Erving Goffman is most widely associated with the tradition of symbolic interaction” (Stein 1991:424), and Thomas J. Scheff (2005) more recently believed that Goffman descended from the academic blood-line of Charles Horton Cooley because an interest in and continuous emphasis on the idea of ‘the looking-glass self’ runs through Goffman’s own

72 Michael Hviid Jacobsen and Søren Kristiansen work. Yet others have claimed that Goffman best belongs to the strand of symbolic interactionism termed ‘neo-symbolic interactionism’ (Morris 1977:31). The reasons for the appropriateness and frequent use of specifically the symbolic interactionist label are several, and we will address some of these in the following. It is, however, worth mentioning that Goffman did not perceive of himself as a devoted symbolic interactionist. In the aforementioned rare interview, he claimed that he considered himself a “symbolic interactionist as much as anyone else” and then added that he did not believe that “the label really covers anything” (Verhoeven 1993:318). This being said there are, of course, substantial reasons for categorising much of Goffman’s work within the framework of the symbolic interactionist paradigm. Perhaps the most obvious and general parallel between Goffman’s sociology and symbolic interactionism is the fundamental notion that human beings communicate with each other by way of symbols which are ascribed specific meanings. In social interaction people read and decipher the symbols that are communicated among the interacting parties and social acts are thus based on the meaning that is negotiated through this interaction. Based on such a broad defi nition, Goffman’s work may be placed in the vein of symbolic interactionist thought. Another symbolic interactionist flavour to Goffman’s sociology lies in his adaption of the Meadian idea of ‘role taking’. According to George Herbert Mead, communication, self-formation and socialisation is impossible without the ability to take the attitude of the other and elements of this way of thinking are reproduced in parts of Goffman’s work, especially in his writings on the self and the techniques by which actors control and arrange information about themselves. However, one of the most illustrative examples of this is Goffman’s concept of ‘impression management’, by which he describes an actor’s capacity to control the impression others might generate by assuming the other’s position and thereby evaluating what might be the most suitable behaviour in the particular situation (Abels 1998:163). On the other hand, Goffman signalled quite explicitly that although people learn about themselves and the most profitable lines of behaviour by taking the attitude of others toward themselves, this only tells parts of the story of the social production of selves. In his essay “The Nature of Deference and Demeanor” this is stated very explicitly: The Meadian notion that the individual takes toward himself the attitude others take to him seems very much an oversimplification. Rather the individual must rely on others to complete the picture of him of which he himself is allowed to paint only certain parts. Each individual is responsible for the demeanour image of himself and the deference image of other, so that for a complete man to be expressed, individuals must hold hands in a chain of ceremony, each giving deferentially with proper demeanour to the one on the right what will be received with deferentially from the one on the left (Goffman 1967:84–85).

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Goffman was thus inspired by the Meadian idea of the social self, although he transcended the idea of role taking by integrating in his analysis the ritual theory of Émile Durkheim. In analysing the social mechanisms involved in the formation of the human self, Goffman also differed from Mead. While to Mead the self is created through a process of ‘internalisation’, Goffman takes it the other way around by focusing on the ongoing ‘externalisations’ (involving ‘body gloss’ and other techniques) and information management by with the actor attempts to project a certain image of himself to others (Laursen 1997:1–2). Although there are clearly certain symbolic interactionist elements in Goffmans works, it has also been asserted that such labelling might complicate a more fine grained conception of Goffman’s way of thought. Thus, Randall Collins has remarked how “Goffman never referred to Mead, W. I. Thomas, Cooley, Blumer or the other leaders of Symbolic Interactionism, except occasionally in critical footnotes” (Collins 1986:107). According to Collins, Goffman’s loyalties should rather be ranked among the British social anthropologists such as Alfred Radcliffe-Brown. In a similar vein George Gonos (1977) stated that an understanding of Goffman purely as an interactionist misunderstands important parts of Goffman’s contribution to contemporary sociological thought. According to Gonos (1977:855) Goffman’s work is not founded on traditional symbolic interactionist thinking but on Goffman’s own and unique version of a structuralist framework—a point which can be supported by Goffman’s own words in the interview with Verhoeven (1993:318). According to Gonos, symbolic interactionism stresses the importance of the uniqueness of social situations. Not two situations are alike but depends on a special set of qualities of the interacting parties and this particular notion collides, Gonos asserts, with the strong element of formal sociology in Goffman’s thinking: “While interactionists attempt to deal with the unfolding of actual everyday events, it is Goffman’s intent to ‘see behind’ this constant activity to what, in modern parlance, would be referred to as the ‘structures’ that invisibly governs it” (Gonos 1977:857). In Goffman’s own words, such structures are termed ‘frames’ and throughout most of his writings he explores and classifies the rules and structures that governs actor’s behaviours during social interaction. As Gonos points out, Goffman compares the rules of a frame with the syntactical structure of language. By way of such analogy Goffman stresses that social interaction within a frame should be considered a somewhat stable structure—a conception which is obviously opposed to the voluntarism of symbolic interactionism (Gonos 1977). Goffman’s frames with their element of stability and externality thus differ from the actor-generated situations implied by symbolic interactionists. In a similar vein it has been argued by Gaile McGregor (1986:538) that Goffman’s “conception of the critical relation between the individual and the social setting” strongly opposes him to the voluntarism and individualism of traditional symbolic interactionism. At the core of Goffman’s

74 Michael Hviid Jacobsen and Søren Kristiansen thinking lies a conception of the social actor as strongly connected to and determined by the invisible and normative aspect of social reality and this indeed marks a contrast to interactionist and social constructionist ideas of autonomy, creativity and agency. We agree with McGregor that Goffman in some respects stands in sharp contrast to symbolic interactionism and that the deep Durkheimian layers of his writings maintain focus on the coerciveness of social life (McGregor 1995:31). We also contend, however, that the symbolic interactionist inspiration and heritage is unmistakable in most parts of Goffman’s work.

GOFFMAN—A FUNCTIONALIST? Goffman’s much publicised symbolic interactionism, however, never crystallised in any pure or systematic form. As he revealed in the interview with Verhoeven: I guess I’m as much what you call a symbolic interactionist as anyone else. But I’m also a structural functionalist in the traditional sense . . . Where I differ from social constructionists is that I don’t think the individual himself or herself does much of the constructing. He rather comes to a world, already in some sense or other, established. So there I would differ from persons who use in their writings the notion of social construction of reality. I am therefore on that side closer to the structural functionalists, like Parsons and Merton. Just as they were closer to initial functionalist anthropology. (Goffman in Verhoeven 1993:318, 324) Thus, Goffman can also be regarded—and evidently saw himself—as a champion of functionalism, albeit a somewhat special kind of functionalism as we shall see. Conventionally in sociology, functionalism and symbolic interactionism are seen almost as archenemies, counter-paradigms or diametrically opposed approaches to social life. Whereas symbolic interactionists stress human ability to and interest in communicating with one another because they strive to establish subjectively meaningful interaction with others, plainly speaking, according to functionalism, social phenomena exist solely because they serve a function which is evident in the fact that they persist to exist. To most functionalists, what individuals actually think, feel or do is of little importance compared to the necessity of maintaining and securing the workings of the overall social system. On the face of it there might therefore be little reason to characterise Goffman’s sociology a functionalist one. What kind of functionalist thinking would possible fit into his detailed ethnographic and microscopic explorations of people interacting and communicating in everyday life situations? The short answer to this question is that Goffman practised a sort of micro-level functionalism, and that this functionalist strand presents

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itself most clearly in his writings on rituals and dramaturgy. By this we do not claim, of course, to have discovered an entirely new layer in Goffman’s sociological thought. Almost forty years ago Alvin W. Gouldner (1970) labelled Goffman a ‘micro-functionalist’ and more recently James J. Chriss (2003) has repeated this characterisation. This micro-functionalism evident in Goffman’s work is emphasised by the importance he places on interaction rituals in maintaining and supporting social order at the micro-situational level. By practicing ‘facework’ and acknowledging principles of ‘deference’ and ‘demeanour’, actors display responsibility not only to each other but also—and more importantly—to the actual social situation and by doing so a micro-moral and micro-social order is maintained. As such, parts of Goffman’s writings may be coined ‘micro-functionalism’ because certain micro-functional prerequisites maintain and make safe the multitude of situational meetings between strangers—e.g., his insistence on the constitutive, normalising and stabilising functions of the many everyday courtesies, the endless stream of respectful interaction, the rule-following behaviour and the recognition of the other as participant in upholding a delicate micro-social order all reveal functionalist elements in Goffman’s perspective. Another important issue here is that of normality. At the core of Goffman’s works lies a specific understanding of normality and this particular understanding may illuminate certain parts of the functional vein running through his sociological mindset. Normality in Goffman’s writing is a product of interactional work—it is the result of actors working together in maintaining a shared and suitable definition of the situation. As has been pointed out by Barbara Misztal (2001), Goffman’s acknowledgement of the complexity of people’s obligation to maintain orderliness in social interaction made him argue that social actors support the notion of orderly exchange for a number of different reasons and in number of ways. Amongst these, Misztal argues, are a variety of normative lines (i.e. the obligation to show proper involvement) and a set of strategies that enable other parties in the interaction to act in accordance with these same lines. On the basis of this analysis she concludes that an exhaustive and full understanding of Goffman’s concept of normality implies a recognition of both “his insistence of the functional necessity of normalcy and also his assumption that people, as a matter of ordinary common sense, deal with complex realities by employing various strategies” (Misztal 2001:322). In other words, normality (i.e. what is perceived as normal by the interacting parties) is functionally dependent of the orderliness that characterise the co-minglings of people in such everyday life encounters. This orderliness, in turn, is produced partly by a stock of tacit knowledge and the ceremonial rules that impose themselves on interacting parties making them come into play and maintaining a shared focus of attention. As we have pointed out elsewhere, Goffman’s ideas and concepts pose a challenge to but also an expansion of the recent and still dominating

76 Michael Hviid Jacobsen and Søren Kristiansen recognition-discourse in contemporary social theory (Jacobsen and Kristiansen 2009). However, within the Goffmanian framework we are not paying respect to other people due to some innate humanity or ethical subjectivity embedded within them, but because we, as interactants, share certain cognitive and normative prerequisites (Goffman 1983a:5). Hence Goffman’s concern is with how we construct and maintain a stable social order and in this process the recognition of the other, whether staged or sincere, seems to be an important and constitutive element. His overall sociological project addressed the workings and presuppositions of the interaction order and not how the cognitive and normative necessities of such order have been produced and installed in the mindsets of social actors. Thus, from Goffman we can learn about the function and importance of recognising the other in face-to-face interaction and not about the ways in which such interactional ground rules have been generated. In Goffman’s universe, cognitive and social recognition of the other is therefore a functional necessity or prerequisite since everyday life interaction is conceptualised as a series of staged performances or episodic exchanges, in which all parties—alter as well as ego—accept obligations to act in accordance with the prevailing definition of the situation, to maintain a suitable involvement and to make acceptable self-presentations. One of Goffman’s most cited books, The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life, paints a picture of such staged symbolic exchanges. As performers, we must offer something to an audience, and this ‘something’ must be recognised or rewarded by the audience. In other words, our presentations of self have to be adapted to the expectations of the audience being present at any given time (Kristiansen 2008). Thus, in Goffman’s dramaturgical approach . . . individuality is attained in the process of accommodation to social expectations as they are articulated in different situations. Individuality and social order are reconciled in a never-ending process of staging where the individual shows what he/she has to offer and the audience returns its approval or disapproval. (Münch 1986:53) Moreover, a chapter in Behavior in Public Places bears the telling title “The Structure and Function of Situational Proprieties” and details how there is a need for structure and normative regulation in situational involvements. The mere choice of chapter title signals a certain preoccupation with conventional functionalist concerns—structure, function and proprieties— albeit within a situational context. Also in this chapter, Goffman describes how the situation can be seen as a ‘little society’: “The little society involved is that of the gathering in the situation, and the little social system found therein is made up from conduct performed in accordance with the norms of situational propriety” (Goffman 1963b:196). This quotation has a certain unmistakable Durkheimian or Parsonian—and thus functionalist— ring to it.

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As it appears, the functionalism that can be detected in Goffman’s works relates to his analysis of the functionality of certain practices and behaviours that serve to maintain and stabilise social order in everyday interactions. Labelling Goffman as a functionalist thinker thus needs some qualifications similar to those of P. M. Strong who contended that “only in a very special sense, Goffman is a kind of functionalist: a temporary, bounded micro-functionalist of appearances. He writes of self-equilibrating systems, but these are to be found solely at the level of face-to-face interaction, and not in society as a whole . . . Moreover, this micro-functionalism deals only with surfaces” (Strong 2006:59). Strong continues by stating that Goffman’s “micro-functionalism is, thus, a matter of routine, etiquette, of ceremonial duty; not something which everybody necessarily believes in or internally acts upon” (Strong 2006:59). In a similar vein, Randall Collins and Michael Makowsky captured the content of the micro-functionalist connotations in Goffman’s work: Goffman sees ceremonies as functionally necessary to maintain social order. He explores the underside of life, but he is not really sympathetic to the underdog . . . Goffman’s analysis of the rules of politeness and social ceremony is carried on without irony. In his view individuals who do not live up to the rules of polite interaction are justly punished by embarrassment, self-consciousness or ostracism, for such rules are functionally necessary for the social reality to be kept alive. (Collins and Makowsky 1972:212) By stressing and repeating the term ‘functional necessity’, it may even be seen as a strong type of functionalism expounded by Goffman, not merely a modicum of functionalism. However, if anything, Goffman was most of all a micro-functionalist who in no way extended his functionalism beyond the confi nes of the social situation or the micro-ecological level of analysis.

GOFFMAN—A STRUCTURALIST? Structuralism is yet another label that from time to time has been associated with the work of Goffman. Although he was conventionally identified as an interactionist or micro-sociologist par excellence (see e.g. Isaac 1998), there may also be certain more macro-structural elements discernible in his work—elements that may point to a more structural understanding of social phenomena. Therefore, several scholars throughout the years have either debated or detected structural aspects in Goffman’s work—especially in his later work such as Frame Analysis (Denzin and Keller 1981; Gonos 1977, 1980; Lenz 1991). For example, Avery Sharron characterised Goffman’s view of interaction in Frame Analysis as “a series of predictable,


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predetermined, stagnant and structuralised stage performances, with little room for improvisation and spontaneity” and went on more generally to claim that “Goffman has to push his theory into a structural straightjacket in arguing that the performances of the theater-like society are symbolic, ritualised ceremonies, in which rules are followed and obeyed by ‘actors’” (Sharron 1981/2000:94, 102). Thus, just as Goffman—as mentioned above—may be labelled a ‘micro-functionalist’, so his work can apparently also be seen as containing certain micro-structural components making the label ‘micro-structuralist’ equally meaningful. When Goffman was fi rst—during the last years of his life—confronted with accusations of being a structuralist by Norman K. Denzin and Charles M. Keller, his reply revealed that he was not only annoyed but also somewhat flabbergasted or mystified by this accusation (Goffman 1981b). For example, Denzin and Keller saw Goffman’s frames as ‘frozen forms’, his selves as ‘sidelined’ and as a result his “contributions to an interpretive social science become limited” (Denzin and Keller 1981:59). Goffman’s surprise at being associated with the structural label—and fuelled by his statement in Frame Analysis that he made “no claim whatsoever to be talking about the core matters of sociology—social organisation and social structure” (Goffman 1974:13)—probably owes to the fact that conventional structural components such as class or power only seldom entered his conceptual universe (for a notable exception, see Goffman 1951). And although the structure of the spoken language—a key concern among many structuralists since Ferdinand de Saussure’s notion of parole—began to interest Goffman in his last years (Goffman 1981a, 1983b), he never ventured into constructing a coherent system of binary oppositions, linguistic taxonomies, semiotic signs or deep structures. Even when Goffman embraced or fl irted with elements of structuralism, it still seemed as if he always in the end remained true to the interactionist perspective by embedding language and its performance in concrete contexts of interaction. Goffman’s potential structuralist predilections, like with the many other labels discussed in this chapter, obviously depends on how one defi nes structuralism. Karl Lenz (1991) provided an extensive and detailed response to the quarrel over the alleged structuralism of Goffman. He argued that structuralism—and especially the French variant of the tradition—consists of a basic linguistic model stressing binary oppositions between categories, an anti-historical and synchronic view of social development, a focus on context-independent and invariant properties of social organisation, an objectivistic theoretical orientation and an anti-empirical stance towards social research. Lenz concluded his systematic and thorough review of Goffman’s alleged structuralism by stating: In summary, it can be stated that there is no proof for the thesis proclaiming Goffman a representative of structuralism. The search for

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similarities between French structuralism and the work of Goffman has revealed obvious and unambiguous differences. (Lenz 1991:284) This, however, does not preempt the possibility that structuralism was somehow present in parts of Goffman’s work. Evidently, one can regard ‘the situation’ as well as ‘the interaction order’ and perhaps especially ‘the frame’—Goffman’s basic units of analysis—as social structures, albeit on the micro-level, which may impose situational-structural constraints on human action. Diane L. Miller has therefore pointed out how Goffman’s interaction rituals of everyday life have an unmistakable structural edge to them, not dissimilar to Durkheim’s analysis of totemic ceremonies, and she stated that “by analyzing micro-actions in face-to-face interaction, Goffman does not lose sight of the larger context of society . . . Situated meaning is derived from and contributes to the meaning of broader systems” (Miller 1982:123). Also Albert Bergesen testified as to how Goffman’s main focus was on the ‘micro-structures’ of everyday life and “since the social material they reproduce are institutional structures, they could just as easily be considered components of larger social dynamics . . . Rituals and interpersonal relations help sustain institutional identities and the status categories out of which the macro capitalist mode of production is constituted” (Bergesen 1984:53). Thus, despite his time-honoured preference for situational and interactional analysis, Goffman’s work evidently also encompassed and touched— albeit fleetingly—upon large-scale structural components or determinants such as gender, economic status and cultural hegemony, as he, for example, hinted at in Stigma: In an important sense there is only one completely unblushing male in America: a young, married, white, urban, northern, heterosexual Protestant father of college education, fully employed, of good complexion, weight, and height, and a recent record in sports . . . Any male who fails to qualify in any of these ways is likely to view himself—during moments at least—as unworthy, incomplete, and inferior. (Goffman 1963a:128) Subscribing to certain structuralist ideas, however, is not equivalent to ignoring all micro-social aspects of life. As Bruce H. Mayhew observed on the micro-focus of structural sociology, “macro-level phenomena are defined on networks of relations between individual human organisms, usually, but not invariably, in face-to-face groups . . . The unit of analysis is always the social network, never the individual” (Mayhew 1980:349). Thus, to most structuralists, the individual human actor admittedly receives little if any attention—at any rate, focus is shifted from individual actors with feelings, wants and consciousness to social structures and more impersonal institutional arrangements, something which resonates well with Goffman’s

80 Michael Hviid Jacobsen and Søren Kristiansen programmatical remark: “I personally hold society to be fi rst in every way, and any individual’s current involvement to be second” (Goffman 1974:13). Elsewhere he stated that his object of analysis was “not, then, men and their moments. Rather moments and their men” (Goffman 1967:3). That episodes, moments, encounters, situations or gatherings may impose certain normative or cognitive expectations and constraints on individual actors can indeed be interpreted as a sort of micro-structuralism. In Behavior in Public Places Goffman also hinted at his own style structuralism by stating: There is reason then to view a social gathering as a little society, one that gives body to a social occasion, and to view the niceties of social conduct as the institutionalized binds that tie us to the gathering. There is reason to move from an interactional point of view to one that derives from the study of basic structures. (Goffman 1963b:244) A similar structural perspective privileging society and social and institutional forces on behalf of individual actors’ interpretations or defi nitions can also be detected in Stigma when Goffman states: “Whether we interact with strangers or intimates, we will fi nd that the fi nger tips of society have reached bluntly into the contact, even here putting us in our place” (Goffman 1963a:70–71). These ‘fi nger tips of society’, mentioned by him, may be regarded as a residual yet important structural component—perhaps even an exemplary deus ex machina—in an otherwise predominantly interactionist perspective. Whether this warrants labelling Goffman a ‘micro-structuralist’ is more than anything a matter of taste and emphasis.

GOFFMAN—AN EXISTENTIALIST? Goffman’s work to a large extent culminated and coincided with the rise of existentialism in mid-century Western philosophy, sociology and literature. These were the heyday of beatnik culture, absurd theatre, absurd literature, absurd philosophy, the threshold of the ascendancy of David Riesman’s other-directed personality type and the rise of the surplus and complacent society after the inconceivable and inhuman horrors of World War II—however also a society producing as much meaninglessness and anomie as order and a sense of coherence. The young Goffman could not help being shaped— either pushed or pulled—by these intellectual impulses. Thus, John Lofland concluded his chapter “Early Goffman: Style, Structure, Substance, Soul” by stating that Goffman’s “early work is properly thought of as an existentialist sociology” (Lofland 1980:48). Throughout the years, many other scholars have directed attention to Goffman’s presumable predilection for and affinity with existentialist thought (Ashworth 1985; Fontana 1980; Raffel 2002).

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For example, Mary Jo Deegan captured Goffman’s version of existentialism by stating: Although existentialism is not the only, or perhaps even the primary belief of Americans, the reader almost feels that Goffman has studied Kafka’s ‘K’ (1961) or Camus’ ‘Stranger’ (1946), that, in fact, they are his closest and most intimate friends. This world view is modern and Western. It is part of our tradition and heritage. It is reflected in the ‘God is dead’ philosophy, and this world view is found in the façade of Goffman’s performance. The absurd world is populated in America. (Deegan 1978:43) Others have rather claimed that Goffman’s work remains at odds with existentialism (Hall 1977). Although Goffman generally, as mentioned above, considered individuals (or at least their involvement) to be secondary in relation to the social forms (those socially constructed interactional forms within which individual behaviour can be displayed) and social order of society, there nevertheless are existentialists intimations in parts of his work. Existentialism has many faces and proponents (among the most famous are Albert Camus, Karl Jaspers, Jean-Paul Sartre, Samuel Beckett, Franz Kafka, Martin Heidegger, Søren Kierkegaard and Maurice Merleau-Ponty) but most of them share a common set of beliefs, convictions and assumptions. Most existentialists consider human beings as free individuals in a life-long progressive process of ‘becoming’, they consider human individuals as the principal agents of action, they consider humans as integral beings composed not only of thought and cognition but also of feeling, sensing and apprehending and they acknowledge the links between the reality ‘out there’ and human being who is thinking and feeling ‘inside’ (Lyman and Scott 1970:2; see also Barrett 1962; Kotarba and Fontana 1984; Manning 1973). To claim a distinct Goffmanian existentialism would, of course, be an overstatement. In his dramaturgical metaphor, Goffman was clearly inspired by the Sartrean understanding of the self and Sartre is in fact quoted a few times in The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life (Raffel 2002). However, for readers of this book, it also seems evident that Goffman was sensitive to and recognised the ‘human being’ inside (or within) the various displays, fronts, roles and characters. In fact, it could be argued that some of the complexities of his work arise from his efforts to unite a clear-cut structural or functionalist interest in social structure, social forms and social order on the one hand, with the free, non-determined, sensuous actor of existentialism on the other. In the final chapter of The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life Goffman gives an explicit analysis of the relation between character and role: The individual who performs the character will be seen for what he largely is, a solitary player involved in a harried concern for his production. Behind many masks and many characters each performer tends to

82 Michael Hviid Jacobsen and Søren Kristiansen wear a single look, a look, a naked unsocialized look, a look of concentration, a look of one who is privately engaged in a difficult treacherous task. (Goffman 1959:235) Such juxtapositions of ‘human nature’ and social order bring Goffman close to existentialists like Sartre (Manning 1976:15), and it confi rms the picture of a sociological scholar genuinely determined on integrating structural perspectives with an existentialist’s interest in the human being ‘behind the mask’ or what Goffman famously dubbed ‘our all-too-human selves’ (Goffman 1959:56). It needs to be mentioned though that Sartre and Goffman proposed quite different analyses of situations involving adhering of social ‘traffic rules’. Whereas Sartre described queuing up at a bus stop as a form of alienation because the meaning of this situation is defi ned exclusively by situationally-external goals and structures, Goffman would interpret the same queue as an example of one of the most moral and human encounters since it is not externally organised and even requires a ‘genuine’ engagement in the interaction order for its own sake (Rawls 1987:142). In the words of Stanford M. Lyman and Marvin B. Scott (1970:7) existentialist thought stands in clear contrast to the functionalist outer-directed conception of humans as unperceiving the social forces and mechanisms that form and determine their destinies. Existentialists, in contrast, emphasise the human being as a sensuous, autonomous, meaning-seeking creature that forms his own destiny as well as the social situation where feelings, meanings and attitudes are expressed. The idea of the self as something that is represented and projected in front of others in social situations was prominent in the work of Sartre and it is plausible that Goffman’s concepts of self-presentations and struggles over the definition of the situation was greatly inspired by his readings of Sartre and other existentialist thinkers (Rawls 1984:223). As it appears, one of Goffman’s great merits was his attempt to integrate structural-functionalist and existentialist thinking in an integrated analysis of social interaction. The social encounters in the Goffmanian universe do not, as Manning (1976:15–16) contends, involve absolutist or transcendental rules or norms governing the actor’s behaviours and assessments. On the contrary, Manning argues, the individual’s authority is deeply rooted in the particular ‘label’ that is ascribed to him during social encounters and this label in turn determines the ‘weight’ and power by which the actor’s performances can be delivered. Social structures and the stratification of social life played a major part in the sociology of Goffman but in a very special and micro-oriented blend also involving a concept of the self as the deity of everyday life (Collins 1973). In his major ethnographic study of the hospitalisation of mental patients Goffman also declared a rather explicit existentialist view in his support for the idea that the self in fact is nothing in and of itself. The self, Goffman proposed, is created in an ongoing process of accepting and distancing from official identity ascriptions. Such an existential sentiment in the

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understanding of the struggle between self and society can be detected in Asylums when Goffman states: Without something to belong to, we have no stable self, and yet total commitment and attachment to any social unity implies a kind of selflessness. Our sense of being a person can come from being drawn into wider social units; our sense of selfhood can arise through the little ways in which we resist the pull. Our status is backed by the solid buildings of the world, while our sense of personal identity often resides in the cracks. (Goffman 1961a:320) Here Goffman expresses quite clearly the core existentialist notion that human beings are nothing in themselves but need to develop into being through a process of identification and opposition. In such light the Goffmanian concepts of ‘role distance’ and ‘secondary adjustments’ exhibit strong existentialist connotations. In sum, the existential flavour of Goffman’s sociology can properly be described as a unique combination of micro-structuralism and the recognition of the free, sensuous and meaning-seeking aspects of modern human beings, or, as Manning puts it: “It is the careful attention to sentiments and social forms which sets Goffman apart from Parsonian structuralfunctionalism and symbolic interactionism as articulated by interpreters of Mead” (Manning 1976:16).

GOFFMAN—A PHENOMENOLOGIST? There is an intimate link between existentialism and phenomenology in that they both stress human agency and in their focus on human meaningcreating capacities but whereas existentialism is often oriented towards deciphering the potentially confl ictual discrepancy between self and society, phenomenology is much more descriptive and less focused on the conflicting aspects of life. Unsurprisingly, there are therefore also certain phenomenological undertones to be discovered in Goffman’s work. As Edward A. Tiryakian, comparing Goffman and Sartre, claimed: Goffman no less than Sartre begins with a phenomenological view of the person as a social participant, but each of them radicalizes this to a form of social behaviourism from which no depth analysis of the person can emerge. Some of the difficulty involves viewing the social mask as a mere façade behind which there is nothing. (Tiryakian 1968:82) Also other commentators have touched—either affi rmatively or dismissively—upon Goffman’s affi nity with phenomenological theory and also with its ethnomethodological offspring (e.g. Attewell 1974; Jameson 1976;


Michael Hviid Jacobsen and Søren Kristiansen

Lanigan 1988; Mote 2001; Ostrow 1996; Psathas and Waksler 1973/2000; Smith 2005). For example, Sheldon L. Messinger et al. (1962) were dissatisfied with Goffman’s version of phenomenology because his dramaturgical accounts of the activities in everyday life were seen as wavering between the analyst’s and the subject’s views of the world, whereas Greg Smith—while dating Goffman’s ‘phenomenological turn’ to the publication of Frame Analysis in 1974—pointed to his ‘phenomenological omissions’ such as a lack of sustained focus on the Other, human motivation, intentionality and consciousness (Smith 2005). Thus, there are diverging evaluations as to the actual phenomenological character of Goffman’s work. It seems almost trivial to say that Goffman was a somewhat distant and cynical observer of the co-minglings of people in everyday life situations. Such understandings of Goffman’s approach and scholarly style are widespread and perhaps rightfully so. He seemed less concerned with human consciousness and experience than he was about the social regulation and forming of human behaviour and Randall Collins observed how “Goffman always stressed that social structure comes fi rst and subjective consciousness is secondary and derivative” (Collins 1994:277). Others (i.e. Gonos 1977; Lanigan 1988) have claimed that Goffman is not a phenomenologist since he does not take his analysis beyond the point of description and because he does not adopt the phenomenological dictum of focusing on the conscious experiences of the unique individual human being (Lanigan 1988:340). To some extent we agree with this characterisation of Goffman and we also accept that Goffman’s somewhat ‘sociologistic’ view of the individual will be at odds with a phenomenological analysis in the traditional sense of that word. In the preface to Frame Analysis Goffman claimed that he “personally hold[s] society to be fi rst in every way and any individual’s current involvement to be second” (Goffman 1974:13) and such a statement obviously rules out a traditional phenomenological analysis since the individual is portrayed not as a unique and conscious agent but more as a structural artefact of society (Lanigan 1988:343). We also acknowledge that the Goffmanian method was not one of empathy and sympathetic listening but one of observation and interpretation of externalised and publically accessible signs and symbols. In addition it should be added that Goffman did not perceive the social world as an intersubjective achievement or construction but more as a reality-in-process made up by social norms and rituals (Burns 1992:362). On the other hand, it is our contention that there are elements in Goffman’s work that deserve a phenomenological label. The Goffmanian phenomenology is a descriptive form of phenomenology (Lanigan 1988:342–343) that, among other things, focuses on the ways people organise experiences in order to create meaning in specific interactional contexts. By applying a broader defi nition of phenomenology, one which encompasses and emphasises human organisation of social experience, Goffman placed himself at

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the outskirts of this tradition. Goffman’s version of phenomenology thus focuses on the forms and tools people apply in order to constitute, order and change their social reality (Lindgren 1994:101–102) and this kind of descriptive phenomenological analysis, in our view, is in the forefront of Frame Analysis.

GOFFMAN—A CRITICAL THEORIST? Within most quarters of critical theory—classical and contemporary— Goffman is generally seen as a rather conservative thinker with little or no contribution whatsoever to the debunking of official institutions or to the revolutionary overthrow of society as we know it and its injustices and inequalities. Goffman’s dramaturgical sociology is regarded as reactionary and as a vehicle for middle-class and conformist values instead of taking a keen interest in the political issues of false consciousness, exploitation and alienation. Moreover, his dramaturgy has been seen as supporting a society of conmen and gamesmen who through their surface-plays on the so-called ‘personality market’ promote their own interests with no concern for wider social issues (Gouldner 1970). It is indeed true that Goffman never did take any serious interest in such traditional Marxist concerns as stratification, alienation and repression. Furthermore, power as a macro-phenomenon was an absent theme in his analyses (Rogers 1977). In contrast to those Marxists who believed that their clarion call was to redeem the masses from false consciousness, Goffman’s approach therefore appeared much more cynical and apolitical, as he himself admitted in Frame Analysis: It can be argued that to focus on the nature of personal experiencing . . . is itself a standpoint with marked political implications, and that these are conservative ones. The analysis developed does not catch at the differences between the advantaged and disadvantaged classes and can be said to direct attention away from such matters. I think that is true. I can only suggest that he who would combat false consciousness and awaken people to their true interests has much to do, because the sleep is very deep. And I do not intend here to provide a lullaby but merely to sneak in and watch the way people snore. (Goffman 1974:14) As such there apparently seems to be no reason whatsoever to discuss Goffman’s potentials as a critical thinker. However, Ronny E. Edgley and Charles Turner once actually labelled Goffman a ‘critical theorist’ and went as far as suggesting that “the sort of praxis critical theorists seek needs a Goffman to carry it out, and in a more positive role than as the symbolic whipping boy for anti-revolutionary status-quoism” (Edgley and Turner 1984:26). Also T. R. Young spotted a critical potential in Goffman‘s writings and labelled him a ‘radical sociologist’—a view which was


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qualified by stressing how “as a radical political activist in the late fi fties and through the sixties, Goffman liberated a generation of sociologists from their naïve partisanship on behalf of the establishments they examined” (Young 1971:278). Therefore, the labels of critical theorist as well as radical sociologist—although perhaps appearing absurd or unlikely— are yet other epithets that have been associated with Goffman’s writings. Today a vast theoretical territory exists that is covered by different variants of critical theory making it difficult to boil the tradition down to all-covering, single-line programmatical statements. However, Zygmunt Bauman’s incisive defi nition of critical theory captures some of the central tenets by stating that it is a type of theory that will not be . . . satisfied with the optimally faithful reproduction of the world ‘as it is’. It will insist on asking, ‘How has this world come about?’. It will demand that its history be studied, and that in the course of this historical study the forgotten hopes and lost chances of the past be retrieved. It will wish to explore how come that the hopes have been forgotten and the chances lost. (Bauman 1991:280–281) Seen in this light, Goffman’s sociology—ahistorical and descriptive as it is—may perhaps not qualify as a critical theory in any such conventional sense of the term. That being said, however, several of his writings clearly inspired critical thinking among colleagues and students and instigated institutional change at least at the intermediary levels of society. For example, Goffman’s anti-psychiatric and deviance-oriented books Asylums and Stigma earned him a place alongside other major social critics of his time. Marshall Berman, in his review of Relations in Public, thus stated how “in [Goffman’s] own language, we might characterise the sixties as a time when, in nearly every institution in our culture, the under-life boiled over. And Goffman, along with Laing, Goodman, Marcuse, Norman O. Brown, Ginsberg and Dylan, must be ranked—perhaps against his will— as one of the major prophets of this overflow” (Berman 1972/2000:271). Although Asylums and Stigma were written with an almost clinical and ironic distance to the daily lives of those incarcerated or stigmatised, they nevertheless were—and were perceived as—a defence for the human possibility to be different and as an all-out assault against prevailing social and institutional conventions of normality. Such conventions of normality crush diversity and create a society of people permanently anxious to pass as ‘normals’. Moreover, as Goffman emphatically stated towards the end of Behavior in Public Places—something that may have appealed especially to radicals, deviants or the maladjusted sections of society of his time—social life “is a tight little room; there are more doors leading out of it and more psychologically normal reasons for stepping through them than are dreamt of by those who are always loyal to situational society” (Goffman 1963b:241).

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Not only Goffman’s deviance theoretical contributions but also his general sociological perspective on everyday life courtesies and self-presentations contained certain critical potentials. Although Goffman only infrequently touched upon the theme of alienation—and then merely from an interactional and not structural perspective (Goffman 1957)—Lauren Langman (1992) nevertheless associated Goffman with a critical social psychological contribution to an understanding of alienation among consumers in a thoroughly privatised and commercialised postmodern world. As Langman noted: Goffman’s analyses of self presentations and interaction rituals of everyday life, strategies of winning interpersonal and material games in the context of a culture of consumption, inform the nature of modern alienation . . . Commodified self-presentations and interaction rituals often can be seen as expressions of alienated selfhood, characteristic of today. (Langman 1992:108–109) The dramaturgical or ritualised society described by Goffman thus contains the seeds of thoroughly commodified, privatised and alienated living which is perhaps best of all captured in his notions of ‘civil inattention’ and ‘strategic interaction’. In short, it is a society with many constraints and few escape routes. Perhaps it was Goffman’s most spectacular ‘trick’ to criticise without seeming critical. Anyway, in her comparison of the social theories of Goffman and Victor W. Turner, Mary Jo Deegan testified to Goffman’s somewhat roundabout perspective on politics by stating: Because Goffman portrays a world without anti-structure, he is making a political statement on alienation. He makes a further political statement in his lack of condemnation of such an order or world. It is almost as if he said, ‘this is an absurd world and here is how we live it’. There is a certain dignity and honesty in facing such an abyss, but it does not provide the actor with hope, communication or joy. (Deegan 1978:43) Whether Goffman was a critical theorist or not thus remains a matter of some controversy, and whether he intended to criticise the selfsame society he described or merely aimed at painting a dispassionate and disinterested picture of social reality will continue to be a hot topic among Goffman interpreters for years to come. What should be emphasised, though, is that Goffman was not a subservient, radical or muckraking sociologist in any straightforward sense of the term. Neither was he normatively engaged in the many ideological battles of his time. He was defi nitely not a critical theorist in the tradition of Marxist social theory preoccupied, as it was, with debunking capitalist society and in the calling to arms of intellectuals, workers and citizens. In many ways, Goffman’s goal was much more


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modest. But perhaps he was a critical theorist because the world he presented and sensitized the reader to was a world devoid of any defi nitive answers and solutions.

GOFFMAN—A POSTMODERNIST? Despite writing and working in the era of modern Western society, Goffman has often been associated with central tenets of postmodernist thought (see, e.g., Gergen 1991; Langman 1992; Schwalbe 1993; Tseëlon 1992; Vester 1989), and in many respects Goffman was in fact postmodern prior to the rise to prominence of the postmodernists and he has therefore even been labelled a ‘precursor to postmodern sociology’ (Battershill 1990). By the early 1970s the idea of the ‘performing self’ began to strike root within the academic community (Poirier 1971) and Goffman’s work is particularly often associated with this conception of the so-called ‘performative self’ or ‘postmodern self’. The notion of the postmodern self implies that the self does not exist as a fi rm, coherent and continuous phenomenon. In the postmodern manifesto The Saturated Self Kenneth J. Gergen proposed that the postmodern self is a relational, non-essentialist and discursive thing made up through an “acquisition of multiple and disparate potentials for being” (Gergen 1991:69). Also Jean-François Lyotard (1979), one of the main proponents of postmodernism, argued that the self had been decentered and dissolved into a relational and episodic entity generated through communicative exchanges in various contexts and situations. Such postmodernest characterisations of the self or the subject obviously come pretty close to the analyses also found throughout Goffman’s work and especially in his dramaturgical metaphor (O’Neill 1972:15–17). Here it is evident that the Goffmanian self is a non-organic and ahistorical effect produced in actual social situations by performers on a stage in cooperation with an audience and that this self is an object of the interaction rituals and the regionalised strategic struggles (Branaman 1997:lxiii). In the concluding chapter of The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life, Goffman clearly expresses this ‘pre-postmodern’ version of the self: The self, then, as a performed character, is not an organic thing that has a specific location, whose fundamental fate is to be born, to mature, and to die; it is a dramatic effect arising diffusely from a scene that presented, and the characteristic issue, the crucial concern, is whether it will be credited or discredited. (Goffman 1959:245) This relentless rejection of an inner, real, stable, lasting and authentic self behind the social mask is also evident elsewhere—e.g. in Goffman’s role theoretical contributions. In his essay “Role Distance” he explores how role distance occurs not only in relation to the profane regions of the actor’s

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activities but also in the sacred ones. In other words, even in their most sacred and seemingly authentic relations people employ, play and manipulate with a variety of social masks. Goffman states this quite clearly: “When the individual withdraws from a situated self he does not draw into some psychological world that he creates himself but rather acts in the name of some other socially created identity” (Goffman 1961b:120). In Frame Analysis, Goffman went all the way in situationalising and decentering the self when stating: Something will glitter or smolder or otherwise make itself apparent beyond the covering that is officially worn . . . This discrepancy between person and role, this interstice through which the self peers, this human effect, need no more depend upon the world beyond the current situation than does the role itself. Whatever a participant ‘really is’, is not really the issue. His fellow participants are not likely to discover this if indeed it is discoverable. (Goffman 1974:298) Later in Frame Analysis, this view of the self became even more pronounced when Goffman stated that “what is presented by the individual concerning himself and his world is so much an abstraction, a self-defensive argument, a careful selection from a multitude of facts” (Goffman 1974:558). It makes sense, then, to characterise the Goffmanian self as postmodern. The surface play of Goffman’s actors fits well with the multi-phrenic, simulated or culturally recycled personalities of much postmodern identity theory. In Goffman’s world the self does not exist outside social interaction—it is produced, maintained and destroyed through interactional processes whether cooperative or competitive. Through his contributions to and revisions of traditional role theory (the self is not a fi rm and stabile unity but a collection of personally coloured and socially situated roles), his dramaturgy and the related conception of the self as a projected and interactionally confi rmed picture, Goffman did in fact anticipate the postmodernist idea of the dissolution and decentring of the self (Schwalbe 1993; Tseëlon 1992). Moreover, not merely substantially but also stylistically one can see in Goffman’s way of doing or performing social science—his essayism, his metaphors, his irony and his rejection of conventional research designs—a harbinger of the postmodern showdown with modernist conceptions of systematic scientific practice. Even though Goffman’s prose was less esoteric than that of many later postmodernists, his straightforward, mundane and quite accessible vocabulary nevertheless prompted an interest in presenting scientific material in a way which was at odds with modernist science and its quantified and abstract terminology. So although Goffman never discussed postmodernism or flashed a badge of allegiance to the perspective, his work clearly inspired and anticipated the rise of postmodern social theory and perhaps even paved the way for postmodern living, as

90 Michael Hviid Jacobsen and Søren Kristiansen Hans-Günter Vester stated: “After having learned a Goffmanian lesson one should be ready to encounter the artificial hyper-realities of postmodern culture” (Vester 1989:201).

GOFFMAN—A MAVERICK In the foregoing parts of this chapter, we have gone through the cornucopia of labels and epithets conventionally associated with the work of Erving Goffman such as symbolic interactionism, functionalism, structuralism, existentialism, phenomenology, critical theory and postmodernism. We have also attempted to discuss the adequacy of these widely different and contrasting ways of appreciating and appropriating his work. Moreover, we demonstrated Goffman’s own antipathy towards such—in his opinion—either erroneous or irrelevant labelling exercises. Labels, as we stated initially, are conventionally invented and applied in order to simplify the perception of a complex corpus of phenomena or ideas and they illustrate the interpretative intellectual propensity to order a disorderly and obstreperous world. All the labels touched upon in this chapter—and all those we have necessarily left out—indeed testify to the difficulty of remaining indifferent to Goffman’s work, hence the many and incessant appropriation attempts throughout the years. Needless to say, we cannot and do not intend to conclude this chapter by stating whether Goffman most likely or rightfully belongs to or fits this or that paradigm, school or tradition. We have merely aspired to show how a variety of understandings and ideas are ceaselessly read into Goffman’s work—some of which he would probably however reluctantly have agreed to while others from his perspective most likely would have seemed utterly alien and unacceptable. One of the main reasons for these continuous appropriation attempts was perhaps Goffman’s own lack of loyalty. In his lifetime he himself gladly and eclectically borrowed from most of the great paradigms and theoretical toolboxes and combined their insights into a conceptual conglomeration of sorts. In this way, Goffman was a uniquely gestalted hybrid between a multitude of different—and apparently mutually excluding—academic camps. We would suggest that this hybridisation or Goffmanian eclecticism need be understood in the light of his overall project. Throughout his career Goffman analysed and sought to promote acceptance of a ‘new’ and special domain of social life—the interaction order (Goffman 1983a). Such an explorative endeavour, which includes analyses of the different layers of social reality, in our view calls for an intuitive and flexible approach which allows for combinations of various and often incongruent perspectives. Another reason for the various labelling attempts is that Goffman during his career jumped from stone to stone with several recourses and backspins—from intensive interactionist field studies via dramaturgical frameworks via Durkheimian functionalism via phenomenological theory to a sort of structuralism or semiotics and

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back again. He was a master chameleon ceaselessly reinventing himself, constantly shedding layers of old skin while growing ever new guises. In short, at a time when almost everyone subscribed to a particular paradigm or theoretical perspective he in many ways remained—and was generally regarded as—a marginal man, an outsider, a heretic and a maverick, who seemed disinterested in founding schools or establishing paradigms. In fact, throughout the years especially the term ‘maverick’ has been used by many commentators and interpreters to describe Goffman and captures well the special nature and character of his work as someone with an exceptional intellectual gift but also a self-imposed place at the outskirts of the establishment of the discipline (Elkind 1975:25; Manning 1992:1; Keating 2002:197). Throughout most of his career Goffman, the maverick, worked alone and hardly ever ventured into collective research programs or joint publishing projects. Even when individualism gradually started to creep its way into American culture and academia, Goffman set himself apart. Randall Collins thus recalls how “Goffman was an individualist in an era when individualism was the ideal, when the avant-garde went to all sorts of extremes to set themselves off from others” (Collins 1986:108). As is obvious from the foregoing, Goffman was a man with many qualities—perhaps even qualities in abundance. As Robert Musil remarked in his magnum opus The Man Without Qualities, and as we used as the opening quotation of this chapter, “there is a constant search for the man to fit the epithets” (Musil 1953/1995:26). Or perhaps, in the case of Goffman, there is rather a constant search for the epithets to fit the man? Either way, Goffman’s academic or professional self was far from label-less or epithet-less, although he would probably have wished it so. In Asylums, Goffman—as we stated earlier when discussing his distinctive touch of existentialism— gave a hint as to where an individual’s self quite possibly is located: Without something to belong to, we have no stable self, and yet total commitment and attachment to any social unit implies a kind of selflessness. Our sense of being a person can come from being drawn into a wider social unit; our sense of selfhood can arise through the little ways in which we resist the pull. Our status is backed by the solid buildings of the world, while our sense of personal identity often resides in the cracks. (Goffman 1961a:320). Perhaps Goffman’s own, professional as well as personal, self resided somewhere in the cracks of the solid and mighty paradigms of social theory. And perhaps the main reason for Goffman’s continued relevance and his ability to inspire new generations of sociologists owes to the fact that he did not have, and actively resisted, something to belong to—in this sense, he was selfless in his struggle to maintain self. As Michael Stein once proposed, “[Goffman’s] own presentation of self leaves the audience enlightened and amused even as they are kept guessing as to what was really going on behind the many


Michael Hviid Jacobsen and Søren Kristiansen

masks” (Stein 1991:432). In the end, perhaps the best way to describe and capture Erving Goffman’s academic self is to say that it was nothing but a ‘dramatic effect’ to deploy one of his own favourite expressions.

NOTES 1. Although Goffman was once also labelled a ‘social exchange theorist’ (Mitchell 1978), we will not venture into a discussion of the appropriateness of this label in this chapter. 2. The ‘’publication’ here mentioned by Goffman supposedly refers directly to the collection of essays published by Jason Ditton (1980) in The View from Goffman—a book he according to rumours refused to participate according to rumours in or contribute to. 3. Goffman has also been regarded as an important contributor to feminism and feminist theory because of his sensitivity towards the ‘micropolitical structures’ that circumscribe gender issues and women’s experiences (see West 1996), and his last doctoral student, Carol Brooks Gardner, throughout many writings applied Goffman’s conceptual apparatus specifically to issues of gender (see, e.g., Gardner 1989). Others, on the other hand, have claimed that Goffman in those parts of his work focusing specifically on gender issues (Goffman 1977a, 1977b, 1979) remained engulfed in and wedded to early post-Victorian stereotypes and to outdated and simplified conceptions of gender roles, interactions between the sexes and male domination (see Wedel 1978). We will, however, not venture further into Goffman’s association or quarrel with feminism. 4. Others, however, have pointed to the deep and irreconcilable differences between Goffman’s sociology and the ethnomethodologists (see, e.g., Psathas 2008; Sharrock 1999).

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Kotarba, Joseph A. and Andrea Fontana (eds.) (1984): The Existential Self in Society. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Kristiansen, Søren (2008): “Erving Goffman—Self-Presentations in Everyday Life”, in Michael Hviid Jacobsen (ed.): Encountering the Everyday—An Introduction to the Sociologies of the Unnoticed. London: Palgrave/Macmillan. Langman, Lauren (1992): “Alienation and Everyday Life: Goffman Meets Marx at the Shopping Mall”, in Felix Geyer and Walter Heinz (eds.): Alienation, Society and the Individual. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Books. Lanigan, Richard L. (1988): “Is Erving Goffman a Phenomenologist?”. Critical Studies in Mass Communication, 5:335–345. Laursen, Erik (1997): Selvet mellem personlighed og rolle. Unpublished working paper, Aalborg University. Lenz, Karl (1991): “Goffman—ein Structuralist?”, in Robert Hettlage and Karl Lenz (eds.): Erving Goffman—ein soziologischer Klassiker der zweiten Generation. Berlin: Verlag Paul Haupt. Lindgren, Gerd (1994): “Fenomenologi i praktikken”, in Bengt Starrin and PerGunnar Svensson (eds.): Kvalitativ metod och vetenskabsteori. Lund: Studentlitteratur. Littlejohn, Stephen W. (1977): “Frame Analysis and Communication”. Communication Research, 4:485–491. Lofland, John (1980): “Early Goffman: Style, Structure, Substance, Soul”, in Jason Ditton (ed.): The View from Goffman. London: Macmillan. Lyman, Stanford M. and Marvin B. Scott (1970): A Sociology of the Absurd. New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts. Lyotard, Jean-François (1979): The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. MacCannell, Dean (1983): “Erving Goffman (1922–1982)”. Semiotica, 45 (1–2):1– 33. Manning, Peter K. (1973): “Existential Sociology”. Sociological Quarterly, 14:200–225. . (1976): “The Decline of Civilty: A Comment on Erving Goffman’s Sociology”. Canadian Review of Sociology and Anthropology, 13:13–25. Manning, Peter K. (2008): “Goffman on Organizations”. Organization Studies, 29 (5):677–699. Manning, Philip (1992): Erving Goffman and Modern Sociology. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press. Mayhew, Bruce H. (1980): “Structuralism vs. Individualism, Part I: Shadowboxing in the Dark”. Social Forces, 59 (2):335–375. McGregor, Gaile (1986): “A View from the Fort: Erving Goffman as Canadian”. Canadian Review of Sociology and Anthropology, 23 (4):531–543. . (1995): “Gender Advertising Then and Now: Goffman, Symbolic Interactionism and the Problem of History”. Studies in Symbolic Interaction, 17: 3–42. Messinger, Sheldon L. et al. (1962): “Life as Theater: Notes on the Dramaturgic Approach to Social Reality”. Sociometry, 25 (1):98–110. Miller, Diane L. (1982): “Ritual in the Work of Durkheim and Goffman: The Link between the Macro and the Micro”. Humanity and Society, 6:122–134. Misztal, Barbara A. (2001): “Normality and Trust in Goffman’s Theory of Interaction Order”. Sociological Theory, 19 (3):312–324. Mitchell, Jack N. (1978): Social Exchange, Dramaturgy and Ethnomethodology: Toward a Paradigmatic Synthesis. New York: Elsevier. Morris, Monica B. (1977): An Excursion into Creative Sociology. New York: Columbia University Press. Mote, Jonathon E. (2001): “From Schütz to Goffman: The Search for Social Order”. Review of Austrian Economics, 14 (2–3):219–231.

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Continuities in Goffman The Interaction Order* Peter K. Manning

INTRODUCTION Since The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life was published, Erving Goffman has been a major and equivocal figure in sociological thought. This ambiguity is a product of his style, intensity and self-presentation. His fi nal presentation of self was selfless, as he played on his present absence, the arrogance of such presentations,and noted that the words in presidential addresses come from a person, not a page, and “one might argue that the interesting matter for all of us here (as we all know) is not what I will come to say, but what you are doing here listening to me saying it” (Goffman 1983b:1). There was no ‘I’ at the presentation of the address; indeed, as he might say, there was no ceremonial reading out. His renderings of social life are a multi-faceted mosaic, parts of an incomplete puzzle not fully rendered. This is in part because there can be no such full rendering of social life, no such comprehensive view of order, and equivocation about reality is essential in a civil society. Goffman was working on a reflexive social science (Scheff 2003:52ff). Robin Williams argued that a fundamental requirement of modern social theory is that it “be self-conscious about the meaning of what is it to know” (Williams 1983:102; see also Manning 1976:19 n). We cannot see past what is reflected around us; we live in a kind of house of mirrors. We use words like ‘order’ and ‘ordering’ as profound shifting indices of something that we cannot in fact see. It is essential to recognise that what sociologists ‘see’—structures, patterns and order— are out of sight. Because sharing a set of assumptions about interaction is a requisite to its working, these assumptions remain ‘obvious’ as long as they ‘work’. Concepts cannot capture order because the cues to this order are situated, multiple, changing, motile and mobile, and our words are inadequate to capture them. Goffman opts for the visible as a sign of the invisible. This is his legacy and it is this legacy that will be dealt with in this chapter.

READINGS OF GOFFMAN My aim here is neither to weave a full tapestry of the strands of Goffman’s coruscating work, nor an analytic re-casting of his writing. I focus on his

Continuities in Goffman 99 abiding ideas. Goffman’s writings are evocatively original. They have an almost Baroque cadence to them; they sing, rise and fall. There is much counterpoint and mischief. The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life (1959) is the most read and best understood of his works. A polished version of parts of his dissertation, it was translated into ten languages and became one of the most influential books in the modern social science era. Featuring ‘self’ in the title was perhaps misleading as his focus was always the interaction order itself. Greg Smith (2006:12–14) locates Goffman parsimoniously in the field—on one of the distant, bleak Shetland Islands in 1949–1950. Smith’s (2006:12–33) discussion of the fieldwork in the Shetlands is unique, informative and revealing of the complexity of Goffman’s initial foci. It would appear that Goffman sought to capture in stark and almost minimalist terms what social ordering required. It was not, according to Smith (2006:12, 24), an ethnography nor so presented. It has an ethnographic tone, but highlights interaction and its requirements. The physical environment on Unst, the most northern of the Shetlands, was limited, the weather abrasive, the people stoic and in public very reserved. There, at the edge of modern life, performance and performativity were valued. In effect, when people came into each other’s presence, they had to perform, albeit fleetingly and reservedly. Without it, one might say, they had nothing. Critics of the ideas in the ethnographic style of early Goffman—The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life (1959), Asylums (1961a), Stigma (1969a) and the essays in Interaction Ritual (1967)—have not accepted their role as illustrative of facets of the interaction order. They see it in the shadow of the institutional orders from which it stands apart. There is an effort at conceptual clarification in both Encounters (1961b) and Strategic Interaction (1969b). He weaves a very subtle critique of a particular and peculiar way of looking—using roles as a metaphor for life and games as rational, strategic metaphors for life-choices. He asserts the fundaments of morality underlying any such imagined interaction. The contrast of these ideas with the Goffman of Behavior in Public Places (1963), Relations in Public (1971) and Gender Advertisements (1979) is striking only in that they reside in the public sphere. Here, Goffman is taking on interaction in social space and working on it: the interaction order is featured within public spaces. Frame Analysis (1974) was his effort at a synthesis of the conditions of order. Forms of Talk (1981a), like “Felicity’s Condition” (1983a), was about why talk is not cheap, but nevertheless is secondary to all that is given off expressively in interaction. His last paper, “The Interaction Order” (1983b), an attempt at summing up while dying, echoes the famous Peggy Lee song “If that is all there is . . . ”. While most of the extant research literature is based on various ‘readings’ of The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life and Asylums, the essays in Forms of Talk and the fi nal pair are much less often cited. There are bundles of topics and frameworks; cross-referencing them is difficult if not impossible because Goffman changes his conceptual set and


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foci; he uses different terms to refer to the same general idea (self, character, person), and the same idea to refer to quite different things (see Manning 1976:17); he plays on common usages such as the self when he means the common usage, not his own reference to the idea (in the fi nal pages of Frame Analysis), and at times in the same book plays with concepts, referents and context (the concluding chapter of The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life on culture, self and organisation). As Robin Williams (1998:157) observes, there is a quasi-ethnographic focus (e.g., Asylums and his dissertation Communication Conduct in an Island Community from 1953); a naturalistic focus (most of the essays and brief papers), and an analytic-illustrative focus (e.g. Frame Analysis and Forms of Talk) which draws on fiction, movies and drama in Goffman’s work. The range of concepts he deployed were tools for seeing order as it is seen—situationally and compexly. He asserts: “Look this way!” “Look that way!” pointing as he wrote. 2 Tom Burns, once a colleague of Goffman’s at Edinburgh, argues that Goffman sought to explicate the relationship between interaction and social organisation (Burns 1992). While this is echoed by Williams (1998:154), Goffman felt that the idea of a locally-based interaction order was a work in progress—that people were constantly repairing, amending, elaborating and reconstituting it. This gives rise to what might be called ‘a sociology of situations’. Greg Smith, in his fi ne overview (2006:35), argues for a kind of situated expressivity. Smith’s summary of Goffman’s ‘nine ideas’, i.e. why social order is the interaction order (Smith 2006:25–26) is a model of clarity and scholarly exposition. Smith, like Williams (1998), makes an interesting attempt to locate Goffman within symbolic interaction (Smith 2006:31, 32, 35). There are resemblances, but perhaps the most penetrating analyses of a central theme, the interaction order, are found in Anne Warfield Rawls’ papers (1987, 2003). The notable secondary literature on Goffman includes: two edited collections of papers in the dramaturgical perspective (Brissett and Edgley 1990; Combs and Mansfield 1976) that draw heavily on the early Goffman; six edited collections of original papers based on Goffman’s work (Ditton 1980; Drew and Wooton 1988; Riggins 1990; Smith 1999; Treviño 2003 and this volume); and two collections of his work and interpretations of it, with lengthy biographical and interpretive essays (Fine and Smith 2000; Lemert and Branaman 1997).3 Yves Winkin’s (1988, 1999) appreciative biographical work is often cited, while Phillip Manning (1992), Greg Smith (2006) and Dmitri Shalin (2007) have usefully combined biography, description and analysis. Unfi nished books are sometimes mentioned— those by Robin Williams (see, however, his subtle and elegantly written commentaries, Williams 1983, 1988, 1998) and an edited collection by George Psathas. While Bennett Berger’s introduction to Frame Analysis (1986) is a useful commentary and A. Javier Treviño (2003) provides a good descriptive overview of the work, Charles Lemert and Ann Branaman (1997) is the most useful introductory essay.

Continuities in Goffman 101 Goffman’s ideas have been widely interpreted and connected to a variety of topics and concerns. These include: dramatism (Kenneth Burke’s term); Meadian symbolic interactionism (Brissett and Edgley 1990; Lofland 1969; Smith 2006); semiotics and post-modernism (Vester 1989); structuralism (Gonos 1977), cognitive phenomenology with a deep commitment to the role of intimacy and emotion (Scheff 2003, 2006—Scheff consistently and correctly pointed out the emotional base for Goffman’s critique of social science) and a unique form of theorising (Denzin 2004). His writings have been elevated as a representative of the decay of modern morality (Cuzzort 1976), a ‘sociology of fraud’ (Gouldner 1968), a model for politics in a mass democracy (Berman 1982; Chriss 1995); an example of Victorian manners and the requirements of civility (Manning 1976). Patricia Clough (1992), like Lemert and Branaman, uses a powerful media metaphor. Dimitri Shalin (2007), in a radical reinterpretation, argues for a ‘biocritical hermeneutics’ linking body, self and emotion. Alan Dawe’s review (1973) viewed the work as a kind of grotesquery—an image of the darkest side of modern life. One or more aspect of the work has been used to characterise the entire oeuvre. His work was seen as an example of a methodologist manqué (Smith 2003); a handbook for observing modern democratic manners amongst interacting strangers (Manning 1976; Collins 2004); the work of an interesting writer (Manning 1980; Becker 2003); and an amusing author who has done insufficient fieldwork (Fine and Martin 1995:169). He has been criticised as a failed interactionist who employs no self and no agency (Denzin and Keller 1981), and one who lacks a motivational nexus (Giddens 1984:70).4 Theorists of modern politics such as Murray Edelman, Richard Merelman and Joseph Gusfield draw deeply upon his insights about the role of expression, trust and performance in the politics of modern social order. Mutual regard for Émile Durkheim links his work to classics in anthropology: E. E. Evans-Pritchard, Geoffrey Leinhardt, Rodney Needham, Abner Cohen and Mary Douglas. This quote from Durkheim’s The Elementary Forms of Religious Life reveals Goffman’s basic premise: From the physical point of view, a man is nothing more than a system of cells, or from the mental point of view, than a system of representations; in either case, he differs only in degree from animals. Yet, society conceives him, and obliges us to conceive him, as invested with a character sui generis that isolates him, holds at a distance all rash encroachments, and, in a word, imposes respect. This dignity which puts him into a class by himself appears to us as one of his distinctive attributes although we can fi nd nothing in the empirical nature of man which justifies it (Durkheim 1961:259) The many conceptual frameworks and concrete examples drawn from fieldwork, novels, plays, films and other media are like a spotlight, not a


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floodlight. The shifting focus is an enduring attempt to draw attention not to the setting, the topic, the standing patterns of behaviour,or the social groups studied, but to situated interaction. Goffman does indicate a fascinating social world in the precise sense—as a limited and known social reality. This world is the world of face-to-face co-presence. It cannot be said therefore that there is an ongoing cumulative ‘theory’, but rather a set of variations on a thematic focus. Each look is a look at the same thing— metaphorically—and a way to see it.

THE SALIENCE OF THE INTERACTION ORDER The core of Goffman’s oeuvre is found in the elegantly stated arguments of the 1983 interaction order paper. The idea that interaction was orderly, had a shape, coherence, process,and a known character in and of itself is not generally seen as the centre of his writing. The claim that interaction, its tone, verbal and non-verbal aspects (with priority to the latter) and its physical location, is primary, not values, norms, outcomes or distal causes, was a striking and original emphasis. The interactional nexus of his analysis, the gestures and postures of those interacting, their evident emotional involvement and efforts to sustain order tactfully in spite of flaws, interruptions, mistakes and misunderstandings, is unique. Let us now consider what the interaction order is. The interaction order reflects in some deep sense the needs of the self to be recognised and sustained. It is morally compelling and contains the most powerful moral obligations to self and others: responsiveness, availability, emotional involvement and investment. Meaning inheres in it. It is in short the home of the self as a matter reflecting diverse collective arrangements. The concept of the self in Goffman is a shifter, as are many of his concepts, but it seems it is a bow in the direction of reflexivity—the self is a powerful presence in social life, and as a presence, its meaning changes situationally— sometimes what one thinks of one’s actions, sometimes what others think of one’s actions and expectations of these actions, sometimes the deeper sense of who am I? It is in any case not an essential matter. But, nevertheless, in some way an awareness of one’s awareness and that of others is central to being. Unlike most sociologists, Goffman includes emotion, and indeed, the interactional figure becomes human only when together with others and is otherwise naked (Goffman 1959:235). There is more to this story about the interaction order. Goffman argues that the greatest regularity in behaviour, for that is his interest, lies when it is examined up close at the situational level. One can ‘see’ regularity in the exchanges of talk. In fact, he states that it is the only sort of regularity we can see or even ‘predict’. Institutional analysis disconnected from face-to-face analysis is misleading because if it is not so based, it omits the foundations. That face to face communication can shape or alter the

Continuities in Goffman 103 macro is conceded, but influence in the other ‘direction’ he rejects (Goffman 1983b:8). Goffman perhaps overstates when he argues that without this grounding we are unable to understand what is going on at the institutional level and that there is no necessary connection between these kinds of orders except that the situational dynamics are essential. Even what is taken to be produced by values and norms such as queues for service can be explained best by the sequencing of ‘lining up’ rather than norms and beliefs in justice. The involvement in the activity is binding in itself. The interaction order is an order to itself like that of economics, psychology and the political order.

THE INTERACTION ORDER AND THE SERVICE TRANSACTION Goffman sees order as activity that is sequential in a way that sustains claims for deference from others; the level and kind of this activity is not judged (Goffman 1983b:5). For the purposes of showing how what appears to be orderly is a matter of interpersonal work, I want to consider Goffman’s treatment of the service transaction as a mode of fairness and courtesy. His general point is that the analytics required to analyse the interaction order are general and testable—they could be applied historically, cross-culturally and within and across organisations of various types (Goffman 1983b:12). Since in modern society the service transaction is the heart of business, and the belief that it is just is a deep part of modern ideology, examining how it works in spite of injustice is informative. In “The Interaction Order”, Goffman makes a lengthy analysis of serving and the ‘service transaction’ (Goffman 1983b:14–6), where the server and the served fi nd themselves in the same situation (Goffman 1983b:14). The guiding rules or basic understandings are: all candidates for service will be treated (1) equally and (2) courteously. Such a combination of tacit ground rules constitutes the outline of an efficient means for processing service. This has some obvious implications. Consider the equality and queueing rule—fi rst come, fi rst served. This system might be informal or formal. Goffman focuses on such things as lines, numbered slips, using the body as a marker, announcing to others one’s position,and managing one’s position in sub-queues with multiple servers. He notes that much of the initial orderings is assumed to be “a part of . . . [a] presupposed competence” of those so gathered.” (Goffman 1983b:14). Of course, queue members have to “sustain queueing discipline among themselves”. There is a second rule—one will be treated with courtesy. These two rules have a function as they are meant to block awareness of the fact that many attributes that are outside the situation might be relevant. These would alter the assumptions of equality and courtesy. Goffman then sets out shaping aspects of queueing—qualifying rules (who is allowed to request


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at all) and queuing restraints and reshaping; face-to-face attending and sensitivity to gender and age; limitations on private interactions or personal relationships. Violation of this set of ground rules may lead people to feel that they have been mistreated but the looseness of the workings, in actual practice, permits modifying the social relationships controlling the flow of service. The implication of his argument, to be empirically examined, is that these local conventions do not override the basic rules or practices. Outcomes are several and informal discrimination in the traditional sense being only one. Time alters the fairness as does subqueuing. If two people arrive at the same time, the obligation of the bigger, stronger is to defer to the smaller or weaker. Local determinations shape how these interactions are modified by time, place and situation. External attributes are attended; equal treatment is not sustained by what actually goes on. Goffman ends this section of the paper by concluding: “What can be sustained and routinely is sustained is the blocking of certain externally based influences at certain structural points in the service framework. Out of this, we generate a sense that equal treatment prevails” (Goffman 1983b:16). The question is then to illustrate these ‘certain structural points in the service framework’.

THE INTERACTION ORDER ILLUSTRATED The following ethnographic notes are intended to highlight the importance of the interaction order and its relevance to contemporary sociology. While they come from a modest study of the local order of two small Boston campus bars, they speak to the question of order and local order. They are chosen as sites because they are overtly homogeneous, fair and equal in service and known as ‘campus/student bars’. They are unpretentious and serve simple food and drink. How is fairness generated from a variety of practices which are decidedly personalised and personal and in that sense are ‘unfair’? How is a fair and just sense maintained when it is visibly not produced? The observations here made regularly during week day evenings and occasionally on weekends for the last eight years. Occasional notes and observations have been transcribed from time to time and interviews done with staff, managers/owners and regular clients. This is an ethnographic snippet, not a monograph; it is limited by time and place, and comparisons should be undertaken in bars more stratified in staff, setting, complexity of goods and services,and clientele. The purpose of the observations is to illustrate the ‘ground rules’ or practices and how they are systematically and routinely violated without causing an alteration of the flow of commerce. These points are meant to support the contradictions in practice between the ground rules of courtesy and fairness and how they are mediated over time in the interaction order.

Continuities in Goffman 105

Bar A and Bar B Bar A has pretences to serving other than local college students (forty-three colleges and universities are found in the area). There are two large universities and many smaller ones within a few miles. Let us consider a number of points about the interactions in Bar B. The material from Bar A is source of an occasional example. Bar A serves mixed drinks, dresses staff in a visible uniform and managers in shirts and ties and it stays open until 2 AM—it has a full liquor license. It has a bar room, a back bar for private parties and dancing when a DJ performs, and a main dining room. The menu includes sandwiches and snacks. No main course meals are available. The bar is owned by a family that owns several bars in the city. The owner, a family member, is intent on making a profit, and he produces schemes to do so from time to time (new lunch offerings, inexpensive appetizers, etc.). He focuses on making a profit via long-term planning, monitoring closely profits and losses, and reinvesting in the family businesses. Bar B is smaller, a ‘sports bar’. It is one long downstairs room with a bar along the rear in front of the kitchen. An alley runs behind the bar. There are seven small screens, one huge screen at the centre of the bar, and two advertising screens, one featuring ‘I am TV’ and the other showing Budweiser commercials. It does not have a full liquor license but often leads the city in selling kegs of Budweiser. The drinks and pitchers are cheap but there are no ‘happy hours’ allowed by law in the state. The bar is popular with athletes and ex-athletes and the bar hosts fundraisers for student causes and teams. There is free pool on Monday nights and ‘Trivia’ on Tuesdays. It serves sandwiches, snacks and appetizers and a few main course meals of chicken and pasta. It is owned by two young men in their thirties who met at a local Catholic high school; they tend the bar and manage it several nights a week. Several brothers of one of the owners work regularly as bartenders as second jobs. Servers, all of whom are attractive, young female students, are recruited from the friends of former servers, relatives of the managers, and their girlfriends. A lively interest is kept in sports, especially golf and hockey, and sports-betting is done quietly back-stage. The covert aim of the business is to sustain the golf, gambling and other amusements of the owners, not to build up profits for reinvestment, to buy another bar, or expand the facilities.

Ecology and Size Entrance to both bars is managed by doormen, in shirts and ties at Bar A and in t-shirts and shirts at Bar B. Those not qualified, as Goffman notes, are not allowed entry. This includes underage people, very drunk and rowdy men, known homeless men and anyone the doorman chooses to exclude. These categories of people do not qualify for the fi rst come, fi rst


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served or the courtesy rule. Special privilege can be pleaded and granted (I left my hat/credit card, etc. inside), or places can be switched in line if “extending circumstances are pleaded” (Goffman 1983b:15). More commonly at Bar A, issues arise when smokers, who must smoke outside, claim that they have a place in line vacated but held for them while they smoke. A sign announces this is not acceptable—smokers lose their places in line if they step out to smoke. Bar B closes at midnight and when it closes, many patrons (and employees) walk around the corner to Bar A. Bar A, with a full license, is packed between 12 and 2 and is seen as a ‘shit show’ and pick-up scene. It is the scene of regular fights and one accidental death from a fall down a back stairway. The ecology of Bar B, known to regulars and those at the periphery of that status (those who come more than once a week), reflects social status inside the bar and relationships of the patrons to the servers, owners and managers. There are three regions for sitting: at one end of the bar where the managers sit to read newspapers when they are not busy; the middle of the bar in front of the huge TV screen and the two middle segments, one in front of the huge TV screen and one close to the taps. Seating roughly reflects the status of patrons during low intensity non-ceremonial occasions. When the local professional teams play, the Celtics, Patriots, Red Sox and Bruins especially, or the local university hosts a hockey game, surges of non-regulars appear and crowd the bar, altering the usual ecology. The ecology of seating in Bar B indicates proximity to service because nonregulars do not know where to stand to get service at the bar (at the centre), whether to come up to the bar or wait at the tables for servers, and they cannot distinguish servers and managers from patrons as there is no uniform mode of dress that would distinguish them from the patrons. Dress does not distinguish regulars from others. While formal dress (business dress, or suit and tie) is notable, it does not distinguish regulars, friends of the managers, one-off visitors and the ebb and flow of student drinkers. This means it is difficult to know who to ask for service, when and where. This adds a veneer of busy efficiency which may in fact be attention given elsewhere as described later. The informal rules about where and how to order mean that casual patrons come up from the tables to pay bills or order drinks, forcing bartenders to say “I’ll send a server.” This is done because tips are based on servers ‘cashing out’ their customers and if the manager and/or bartender do it under their name, not the server’s, the tips go in the bucket. The lack of clarity about where and how to order means ‘fi rst come, fi rst served’ does not work, but appears to operate because of the two sets of rules about ordering and paying-bar and tables. In Bar B during non-busy hours, one of the owners is working, monitors at the door with interest and picks out any newcomer and is ready to serve them when they arrive at the bar or to send a server to their table once they sit. This sustains the fi rst come fi rst served notion, although regulars are often served without being

Continuities in Goffman 107 asked their choice of drink (their favourite drinks are known). In Bar A, there is a small counter at the end and curving at right angles to the main bar. Here, the manager sometimes sits with some of the regulars, doormen and others waiting to go on shift. The ‘back bar’ after 8 has entertainment. Bar A has a basement room where after hours parties take place but only employees, the owner and managers attend. Bar B sometimes closes the entire bar for family parties or fund raisers. The ecological patterning of seating in Bar B is augmented by the question of whether or not one ‘runs a tab’ and on what basis this is done. An unknown person who approaches the bar to order is asked for ID (this is never asked to others, of age or not, who are known to the bartenders). This is ironic in this state where those under 21 can tend bar and serve, but cannot drink and legally could not even be in the bar after food is no longer served. Customers are then asked if they want to run a tab and usually in the early evening if they want to see a menu. If they say “yes” to running a tab they are asked to produce a credit card. This is placed in pile near the tips bucket by the cash register and referred to each time an order is entered on the touch screen. If they say “no”, customers slide the money across the bar after they get their order. Pitchers are cheap (“seven dollars, please” is the request). Other clients—whether regulars or friends of the managers— are never asked if they are running a tab. They are known and they are ‘running a tab’ once they order. This tab may be a mental one, kept in the head of the server, or actual, in the computer, and the patron does not know which. If a new bartender arrives, he may ask for cash or credit card from a regular, but oral knowledge alters by the second time the regular comes in and he is no longer asked. Every non-regular either pays or leaves a credit card—unlike the custom in the Midwest, patrons in these bars rarely leave money on the bar from which a server takes ‘as and when’. The seating and the regular appearance of friends of the bartenders/ owners produces an onion-like layering of customer service. The bar has a hole at the far end (on right as you face the bar) near which the managers usually sit, and they can duck under to act quickly if need be. The servers rarely use it; they prefer to pour and collect pitchers of beer and food and deliver it by walking through the kitchen and out a small hallway at the left side of the bar (as you face it). The bar itself is a barrier marking frontstage and back-stage—those who are regularly back-stage are the cooks, servers, bartender and manager. Friends of the owners from high school or from college, some from both backgrounds, family and friends are a ‘core’. They may come in by the back door and through the kitchen or through the front door. These people drift in and out from behind the bar. They are allowed to violate the front-stage/back-stage division marked by the physical bar itself. They may hang around the small office that is behind the big 50-inch TV screen and talk about sports bets, use the computer and internet and socializeise. Managers eat their dinner there, while servers stand up and use a shelf for the plate. Core members leave backpacks or


Peter K. Manning

coats in the small office. Former servers and bartenders also make it a point to come in through the backdoor from time to time, even if they are asked only to work one night to ‘fi ll in’. A few cars can park in rented slots in the back alley. This area is used by managers, owners and day employees with permission. The next level of the onion is constituted by ‘current or past rugby, soccer and hockey players and coaches’ from several local universities. Then, at the third layer of the onion, are regulars, those who frequent the bar more than a couple of evenings a week. Last, the outer layer, are ‘patrons’, usually not known by name but by face perhaps and are assumed to be students unless dressed in formal dress. Rarely, someone comes into the bar and orders a mixed drink and they are immediately known as fi rsttimers because others know that the bar does not have a full license. Being included in the fi rst three levels is indicated by practices—being called by fi rst name, hands shaken if a male, and perhaps a brief exchange or question e.g. “any travel plans”?, “teaching this semester”?, “ . . . have you seen Jordie lately”? or “I see you were screaming at your friend Glen the other night”. These practices reflect familiarity, biographical particulars and past interactions. These personal relationships, Goffman notes, alter the order of service and perhaps the content and length of a given interaction. Small talk and questioning does not take place with non-regular patrons; only regulars, core friends and athletes are sometimes asked questions. These exchanges, however, are short—one or two questions and a summary comment. They are ended by the bar tender when he walks away. Only family and close friends merit longer conversations and standing in front of the patron whilst talking. These status particulars are indicated further by: (1) Location of seating at the bar. Those at that end of the bar can chat with ‘insiders’. If the bartenders do not know the people sitting there, they either do not talk or do not sit there. (2) Joking relationships (either with the person or about a third party as a kind of rude gossip). (3) Known history or their time in the bar as well as other experiences that have been shared. (4) Past known regular customers. Service for regulars is at times a source of joke—“You drank us out of the Molson last time; Bud heavy?”. Like the interaction in Donald Roy’s (1959–1960) article “Banana Time,” some routines are repeated—a menu will not be given to a man who orders virtually the same food every time he eats there; a bottle will be slid down the bar while the bartender goes to get a glass for a regular who always wants a glass and will not drink directly from the bottle; old irritating customers will be named and stories told about them to make jokes with regulars. “Have you seen your old buddy, Joe?” (This was a story referring to an irritating talkative nuisance who once worked across the street from the bar). The key to understanding a regular’s service is that the order is never verbally given for “Molson with a glass”, “Newcastle Brown or bud draft?”, “No, Guinness . . . ?”. Non-verbal anticipation makes the beer slid down the bar and the glass

Continuities in Goffman 109 that appears later appear to be ‘gifts’. The drink is given without a verbal request, thus emulating a gift (even though the person may be charged for it in due course). It was not ordered. Regulars’ tabs are kept ‘in the heads’ of bartenders, while all others must either close the tab upon purchase, or leave it open by leaving a credit card. The status of the regular also is mirrored in the ambiguity of the bill. For example, at times drinks slide down the bar to regulars, one after the other, without a request; some beers are sold in a set of four for ten dollars. The last one can often appear to the drinker without request. Usually after the fourth, the fi fth is a gift. On some occasions, four or five are drunk, and the bill appears for five dollars (fee for two). If the bartender is keeping a mental tab or if a bartender and an owner/manager are working together behind the bar, they have to consult on how much will be charged. It is a negotiated fee that changes from occasion to occasion. After consultation, an amount will be entered and the customer given a receipt. Regulars do not pay a flat fee per drink. They may be told: “ . . . this is on me, it’s customer appreciation day”, or “your all set,” or a shake of the head when an effort is made to pay. Regulars are also given shots (liquors such as Goldschelager, etc.) when, for example, friends of managers are given them, or the managers are buying. Sometimes they are clearly a gift when regulars are asked to share when others are buying. These shots are never charged to the regular, but may be to the friends ordering. In effect, the regular is seen as one of the drinkers whilst his/her status to the buyer is unclear. Here, the equal treatment rule is repeatedly violated as equal pay for equal service or goods rarely holds. On the other hand, one is allowed to ‘skip out’ on a tab intentionally. ‘Intentionally’ is defi ned when a regular is reminded to pay and ‘forgets’ or leaves; this becomes clearly intentional on the second violation. This is of course a gift only permitted a regular since if someone sitting at a table ‘skips out’ without paying; they have not been reminded and left intentionally by defi nition.

Order and Queueing When sitting at the bar, unlike a British pub where scrupulous order is kept, bartenders may ask who was here fi rst, and people sometimes ask each other or tell each other “you were here fi rst” (a matter Goffman calls ‘queue discipline’). In Bar A, informal rules hold and these are unknown to the customers. Known patrons get earlier service and some do not pay if the manager so indicates, but in Bar B a mental queue is kept and is never revealed by questions to customers. Eye contact, a sweep of the bar for empty or partially full glasses or a raised hand or eye of a regular suffices. Others are routinely ignored until the bartender is ready to serve, and except for regulars, and waiters/servers (almost all are female in the eight years of observation). The massive TV, always on but not always with audible volume, at the centre of the bar dominates attention and draws eyes

110 Peter K. Manning forward. This focus allows one to avoid eye contact with others, or actually watch a game or TV sports ‘talk show’. Looking, staring and watching are all possible. This is a permanent distraction allowing rules of courtesy and fi rst come, fi rst served rule to be obviated without an account or excuse. Apologies for late service are never offered by bartenders; only spills by bartenders or servers provide a warrant for apologies. An exciting game on TV produces tension between the immediate visuals and the service obligations of the bartender. A chipped glass means a free refill, but can be the source of joke: “Oh, hey, I just noticed a chip” (when the glass is empty). This is a kind of negotiated gift since a chipped glass requires a free refi ll no matter when it is noticed. Another periodic distraction is the phone that hangs visibly on the back wall of the bar; when it rings, it is answered quickly by the bartender or one of the owner/managers (if he is working with the bartender) and is fi rst priority. Managers/bartenders also use their cell phones and wander back and forth while talking and making drinks, fetching glasses and so on. Orders for take-out food come in and are sometimes picked up by a messenger service. The food is paid for via credit card, but must be cooked and packaged for the messenger and ready for collection. Regulars routinely trump-jump the queue even at crowded times (a bottle of beer is handed over the heads of waiting customers to a regular), or when the bartender is on a phone, walking back and forth behind the bar from the refrigerator to one or the other end of the bar to service while talking. He works by intuition or nods and raises eyebrows that lead to another beer being served. This multi-tasking indicates that sub-queues do not exist visibly, and serves to sustain the assumption that fi rst come, fi rst served is operating. There may be ‘intuitive sub-queues’, but they are not made visible to customers. Thus, the usual negotiation, switching ends of the bar seeking service occur, but there is no way to compare one’s success with others on the basis of priority. The queue is invisible. Service at the pooltable is always an ambiguous matter, since most poolplayers come up to the bar and order and place the pitcher on a ledge at the side of the table or on a nearby table. If the pool players know a server, or if she decides to serve them, they are brought the pitchers and the food. Finally, some servers rotate and observe the tables systematically and ask if refi lls are needed, while others do not and wait to be stopped. This is especially true when Bar B is busy and all the tables are full. People at tables have no idea what the service rota is, although servers discuss the order and who will serve people who arrive and sit at a table. Since Bar B only serves beer, wine and liquors, there is seldom any variation in the serving time based on complexity of drinks. Only making the occasional shot that requires two or more ingredients and is served to more than two or three people takes time. Most service is pitchers and bottled or draft beer. The complexity of some mixed drinks creates uneven service time at Bar A, especially when an inexperienced bartender does not know how to mix a drink and others are waiting for beer or soft drinks. In Bar A

Continuities in Goffman 111 also, differential knowledge of employees’ names and biographies can alter service priorities, but this is a resource rarely tapped to sustain the appearance of egalitarian service. In Bar A, university employees, working-class men who mind the physical facilities and grounds of nearby universityowned properties have lunch or dinner and flirt and tease the female bartenders (there are none at Bar B). However, they are not seen as regulars, not given free drinks or allowed to run a tab even though they are regularly there. Here, democratic service works because if status and gender and age were to prevail, the middle-aged men would dominate the young women.

Qualifying Rules Entrance to the bar is based on implicit rules and status as noted above, even when there is a queue outside as on St. Patrick’s Day, the day of the running of the Boston Marathon or on some Friday nights after ten. The exception that is another tempering of the fi rst come, fi rst served rule is that attractive girls, known or not to the doormen, are let in without or without IDs or with clear knowledge they are ‘underage’. On the other hand, Bar A checks IDs at the door, uses a scanner to record ids, and has a book of fake ids meant to be studied by doormen. At Bar B, friends of the owners, regulars and known former workers and workers not working that particular ‘shift’ are allowed to ‘jump the queue’ and come inside even in violation of city regulations about the stated capacity of the bar. The mass infusion days, St. Patrick’s Day, the day of the Boston Marathon or those at semester’s end, when people begin drinking at 10 or 11 in the morning and stay longer, neutralizeise the status of friends, regulars and former employees except as noted above, primarily because of numbers and the need for greater efficiency. There is little time for small talk, jokes or lingering to trade stories. As people become more drunk, after ten in the evening or so, more efforts are made to separate people and at times to throw them out. A few regulars stay this late only if they are watching a late broadcast of a ‘west coast’ baseball or basketball game, or some playoff match.

Reciprocity and Tips Tips are a somewhat ambiguous matter. In Bar B, tips to servers directly at the table go into their pockets, while tips at the bar go in a large steel bucket to be divided between managers and servers at the end of the shift. In Bar A, the rules about tipping out the kitchen help and the dishwasher are clear and done at the end of the server’s shift. Unlike the servers, bartenders’ tips are not known and cannot be reconstructed from their entries (by a code) into the cash register. Servers’ tips can be estimated from the servers’ customer receipts and/or credit card records. Seven bartenders have been fired in Bar A for giving free drinks to friends, tak-ing money from the till and lying about their tips (they are supposed to be spilt with the dishwasher and kitchen help,


Peter K. Manning

too). This has not happened in Bar B because the owners spilt the tips between the acting manager and themselves. The kitchen help are paid above minimal wage and the second doorman works as a secondary dishwasher bringing out glasses and ice when he arrives for the late shift. In some ways, the indirect aspects of tipping in Bar B sustains morale and the presence of the owner/ manager means that the gift giving is direct whereas in Bar A the management stands apart from tips and the owners never act operationally. Managers are not on salary so that if tips are low, the owners give the manager money to resemble a normal wage. This practice adds to the personalizeised character of money exchange. In Bar A, money and tips is part of an ongoing conversation among employees, bartenders, managers and servers, and patrons, and there is considerable tension and gossip about whether some bartenders are honest in their reporting. In Bar A, anomalies arise: bartenders are paid less than minimum wage (under three dollars an hour); reported tips are the basis for taxes, and taxes are estimated before the pay check is issued, thus bartenders have received bi-monthly checks for amounts under a dollar.

SUMMARY Let us review, then, the practices that sustain the interaction order in Bar B. The scheme that would attribute behaviour to roles such as ‘client’, ‘owner’, and ‘server’ would not differentiate the situated nature of the interactions. For example, since the servers are also sometimes lovers of the bartenders or relatives of the owners, and some patrons are kin of the owners, rules concerning touch and proximity behind the bar are violated routinely. While the rule of first come, first served is apparently honoured, this is confounded by door entry practices favouring regulars, employees and pretty girls, and by seating and recognizaisable faces, histories and stories. Tips, bills and gifts circulate unknown to non-regulars. The uneven role of service at tables or at the bar obscures who is being served in what order. There is an informal status order that shapes ordering, service and preferences for seating (of managers and bartenders with patrons). The actual order of service is intuitive, kept by the bartenders/managers. This is signalled by eye contact and recognizaisable practices (when drinking from a glass or bottle noting flow and speed of drinking). The large TV screen and the telephone intrude as legitimate diversions or times out that do not appear to alter service (but they do as the intuitive queues are still in latent operation). While mass occasions overload the informal system of queuing, it does not overwhelm them—regulars and friends remain first priority when seen or when they signal for service. On the other hand, first come, first served works in light hours, among tables as servers note who comes in, at the door apparently, and in the eyes of the non-regular patrons. The courtesy rule applies generally as each person is greeted (differentially of course), and when asking patrons to pay, bartenders politely say “seven dollars, please” and “thank you” for being paid or given

Continuities in Goffman 113 a credit card. Courtesy is observed by limiting the time of storytelling, small talk, or reminiscences about previous friends, patrons, or employees. Only occasionally, when friends are drunk and loud, does the courtesy rule vary— the noise and awkwardness of demeanor of these people are tolerated much longer than other patrons. Bar A maintains the ordering more assiduously as regulars are ignored visibly until all others are served first. Goffman has pointed out that the apparent equality in the interaction order that obtains in the service transaction is sustained by a variety of practices that visibly maintain first come, fi rst served, and the courtesy rules. The shaping of these practices by ‘larger’ processes, institutional orders, cannot be determined tightly, but the interactional practices are visible and repeated and sustain democratic ordering. Perhaps the degree of variation generally outside these bars reflects the status of customers, their class, gender, race and so on. The question might be posed: has Goffman failed to see ‘power’ in these settings? The power that operates in situational fashion is, for example, evident in the overlooking of priorities to serve hockey players or family members; serving free drinks that sustain the regulars and the appearance of a full and lively bar even in slack times; responding to an ecology of seating that shapes much service priorities; providing small courtesies and discourtesies in the course of service; paying and tipping largely determined by the bartenders; and banning or throwing out customers on personal bases. All of these maintain interactional power. Bar A maintains the rational objective of profit and observes fewer ‘personalised’ relationships and categories of people—it only features regulars, but penalizeises known favouritism by termination. The power of the owners of Bar B is much greater as they operate a traditional patrimo-nial business where loyalty produces power.

CONCLUSION Erving Goffman’s influence is pervasive, indirect and subtle as was his work. It would be difficult to assert a direct line of influence in any single area of study but it would be possible to articulate influences in many areas. One might consider under influence work in the following areas: criminology, methods, socio-linguistics, organizaisational analysis, social theory qua theory, labelling, deviance and gender roles. On the other hand, his early basic conceptual paraphernalia, that of team, performance, presentation of self, stigma, deference and demeanor, back-stage and front-stage, betrayal funnel, working consensus, total institution, management of appearances, and the tension between institutional orders and orders of the self are taken as part of the basic sociological language—cited without a specific reference because they are known. It should be pointed out that Goffman’s ideas about the self and other, drama and performance, the situated nature of action and the importance

114 Peter K. Manning of sequences of action are accepted widely, but his critique of the institutional ‘top down’ view of order, the centrality of the interaction order itself (Rawls 1987), has not been. There is no sociology of situations and sociologists continue to see the self as powered primarily by institutional constraints (Rawls 2003). The problem that arises is that if ‘context’ and ‘situated matters’ change the ways in which the sequence of orderly interaction is constituted, one either needs a typology of situations or a list of cues and stimuli that produce the ordered sequence. Conversational analysis has shown that the sequence of statements and responses over time has powerful ordering consequences but shrinks the field of interest to the verbal and conversational (Schlegloff 2007). The thrust of Goffman’s work, like Harold Garfinkel’s (1963, 2008), is to orient us to the nonverbal gestures, postures and embodied movements as well as the tone, register, dialect and stylistics of language. He also attends to the sequences of action which produce meaning and order. The essays in Forms of Talk (1981a) and “Felicity’s Condition” (1983a) all make clear that the tacit assumptions that lie behind talk pop in and out of situations and are coped with. It is not a conversation in the common sense meaning of the term, but a situated expression of commonality dramatizeised or elevated by talk. Thus, what is needed is something resembling a sociology of situations, not a conversational analysis. The impact of Goffman’s work is yet to be seen, and there are several reasons one can adduce for this circumstance. His work is often confused or conflated with near approaches in the ‘family’ of interpretative sociologies including dramatism, symbolic interactionism, phenomenology and ethnomethodology. The aspects of his work that resemble these—his focus on the relevance of the self, his sensitivity to practices and situated action, his concern for how people manage impressions and relationships interpersonally, his occasional reference to rules (actually practices, not rules), and his consistent concern for situated efficacy and morality—add credence to the associations. His work on ethnography and organizaisations seem most appreciated for their substance more than their analytic thrust (Manning 2008). These resemblances and the almost relentless effort to show facets of situated action by altering concepts have lead to fallacies of misplaced emphasizeiss such as calling him a ‘microsociologist’. His point, made repeatedly, is that order is only revealed visibly in interaction; it may occur elsewhere but it can only be imputed via concepts like beliefs and personalities, and the rest he has repeatedly stated are not his concern. Goffman felt to the end that only what can be seen is the data and evidence of our craft and he systematically avoided speculation about the ‘inner’ aspects of selves, thoughts and motives (Goffman 1981b:62). As stated above, the effort to seize on an aspect of his work, such as the emphasis on ritual (Randall Collins), emotion (Thomas J. Scheff) or an interpersonal theory (Phillip Manning), is to overlook his insistence of the centrality of the interaction order itself, not those matters produced by or by-products of such. This has meant that much discussion is not well-considered in regard to what Goffmanian

Continuities in Goffman 115 sociology might be. His students have not produced abundant work of a consistent sort; after early appearances, largely based on published dissertations, arguably, relatively few of his students managed long and productive careers that refi ned, elaborated or specified his initial formulations. Perhaps the absence of a method, a technique or mode of working limited the continuity of his work. People say about fieldwork, well Goffman (or Howard S. Becker, or Gary Alan Fine, and more) can do fieldwork but it is a personal quality or skill. No one can teach it . . . This reduces the work to idiosyncratic particulars and so eliminates it as a source of cumulative scientific sociology. The virtue of his work was not the fieldwork that was the basis for some of the published (and unpublished work), but the laserlike penetration of everyday ethics. ‘Ethics’ in this sense revolves around what is owed in the situation. The argument here is that the operation of a modern society, one not based on con-ventional religion, kinship, beliefs or local knowledge, must be based on work, on compromise, on whatever is required to interact, regardless from time to time of personal values, beliefs and predilections. When he writes that we are situated ‘merchants of morality’, he means that the morality of the situation is maintained for we have little choice. This does not make us cynics. The cynicism attributed by Alvin W. Gouldner, Raymond Cuzzort and others implies or assumes that there is a single unified morality governing modern interactional systems. This remains to be proven. Finally, the many collections of work on Goffman, original papers, theoretical expositions and doubtless this volume do not present a Goffman easily shaped into a body of coherent, systematic work consistent with current sociological predilections. This overview of Erving Goffman’s work with special emphasis on the centrality of his concept of the interaction order—and my illustration of this order through examples drawn from a study of bar behaviour—is meant to emphasizeise his focus. I believe, as I read “The Interaction Order” paper, that he was unconvinced that his work was understood. He did not think it would alter the sociological emphasis on norms, values, and beliefs, nor dissuade sociologists from labelling him (mistakenly) as a ‘sociologist of micro-interaction’. By so doing, they reaffi rmed a meaningless distinction, and missed his point that the interaction order was not ‘micro’, suggesting that it was minor and secondary to bigger structures, but was the fundamental sociological domain. It can be observed, analyzed analysed and rendered understandable. It is, according to Goffman, the only truly observable social phenomenon. NOTES * I am grateful to Michael Hviid Jacobsen, Mike Brogden, Anne Warfield Rawls, Dmitri Shalin and Greg Smith for their comments and observations on previous drafts. I also thank Ashleigh and Matty P. for conversations about these matters.


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1. This pointing and saying resembles descriptions of Ludwig Wittgenstein’s teaching practice (Drury 1973:viii–xiv). 2. The book is 1600 pages and presently priced at around 1000 dollars. Gary Alan Fine and Greg Smith have produced the locus classicus with regard to commentaries. 3. See also Rawls (1987:136 n1) for a well-placed criticism of this idea. Rawls argues correctly that “actors’ motives do not require explanation—what requires explanation is how and why the interaction order would place such constraints on actors and situations”. She continues: “Interactional prerequisites and needs of . . . self place constraints on interaction. These constraints he referred to as interactional ground rules”.

REFERENCES Becker, Howard S. (2003): “The Politics of Presentation: Goffman and Total Institutions”. Symbolic Interaction, 26:659–669. Berger, Bennett (1986): “Foreword”, in Erving Goffman: Frame Analysis. Boston: Northeastern University Press. Berman, Marshall (1982): All That is Solid Melts into Air. New York: Penguin Books. Brissett, Dennis and Charles Edgley (eds.) (1990): Life as Theater, (Second Edition). Chicago: Aldine de Gruyter. Burns, Tom (1992): Erving Goffman. London: Macmillan. Chriss, James J. (1995): “Habermas, Goffman and Communicative Action: Implications for Professional Practice”. American Sociological Review, 60:545–565. Clough, Patricia (1992): “Erving Goffman: Writing the End of Ethnography”, in The End(s) of Ethnography. Newbury Park, CA: Sage Publications. Collins, Randall (2004): Interaction Ritual Chains. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. Combs, James and Michael Mansfield (eds.) (1976): Drama in Life. New York: Hastings House. Cuzzort, Raymond (1976): Humanity and Modern Social Thought. New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston. Dawe, Alan (1973): “The Underworld View of Erving Goffman”. British Journal of Sociology, 24:246–253. Denzin, Norman K. (2004): Performance Ethnography. London: Sage Publications. Denzin, Norman K. and Charles Keller (1981): “Frame Analysis Reconsidered”. Contemporary Sociology, 10:52–60. Ditton, Jason (ed.) (1980): The View from Goffman. New York: St. Martin’s Press. Drew, Paul and Anthony Wooton (eds.) (1988): Erving Goffman—Exploring the Interaction Order. Boston: Northeastern University Press. Drury, Maurice O’Connor (1973): The Danger of Words. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul. Durkheim, Émile (1961): The Elementary Forms of the Religious Life. New York: Collier. Fine, Gary Alan and Gregory W. H. Smith (eds.) (2000): Erving Goffman: A Four Volume Set. London: Sage Publications. Fine, Gary Alan and Donald Martin (1995): “A Partisan View: Satire, Sarcasm and Irony in Erving Goffman’s Asylums”. Journal of Contemporary Ethnography, 19:89–115.

Continuities in Goffman 117 Garfi nkel, Harold (1963): “A Conception of, and Experiments with, ‘Trust’ as a Condition of Stable Concerted Actions”, in O. J. Harvey (ed.): Motivation and Social Interaction. New York: The Ronald Press. . (ed.) (2008): Toward a Sociological Theory of Information (Introduction by Anne Warfield Rawls). Boulder, CO: Paradigm Publishers. Giddens, Anthony (1984): The Constitution of Society. Berkeley: University of California Press. Goffman, Erving (1953): Communication Conduct in an Island Community. Unpublished PhD thesis, Department of Sociology, University of Chicago. . (1959): The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life. Garden City, NY: Doubleday/Anchor Books. . (1961a): Asylums: Essays on the Social Situation of Mental Patients and Other Inmates. Chicago: Aldine. . (1961b): Encounters: Two Studies in the Sociology of Interaction. Indianapolis, IN: Bobbs-Merrill. . (1963): Behavior in Public Places: Notes on the Social Organization of Gatherings. New York: Free Press. . (1967): Interaction Ritual: Essays on Face-to-Face Behavior. Chicago: Aldine. . (1969a): Stigma: Notes on the Management of Spoiled Identity. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall. . (1969b): Strategic Interaction. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. . (1971): Relations in Public: Microstudies of the Public Order. New York: Basic Books. . (1974): Frame Analysis: An Essay on the Organization of Experience. New York: Basic Books. . (1979): Gender Advertisements. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. . (1981a): Forms of Talk. Oxford: Blackwell. . (1981b): “Reply to Denzin and Keller”. Contemporary Sociology, 10:60– 68. . (1983a): “Felicity’s Condition”. American Journal of Sociology, 89:1–53. . (1983b): “The Interaction Order”. American Sociological Review, 48:1– 17. Gonos, George (1977): “‘Situation’ vs. ‘Frame’: The ‘Interactionist’ and ‘Structuralist’ Analyses of Everyday Life”. American Sociological Review, 42: 854–867. Gouldner, Alvin W. (1968): “The Sociologist as Partisan: Sociology and the Welfare State”. American Sociologist, 3:103–116. Lemert, Charles and Ann Branaman (eds.) (1997): The Goffman Reader. Malden, MA: Blackwell. Lofland, John (1969): Deviance and Identity. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: PrenticeHall. Manning, Peter K. (1976): “The Decline of Civility: A Comment on Erving Goffman’s Sociology”. Canadian Review of Sociology and Anthropology, 13:13– 25. . (1980): “Goffman’s Framing Order: Style as Structure”, in Jason Ditton (ed.): The View from Goffman. London: Macmillan . (2008): “Goffman on Organizations”. Organizational Studies, 29:677– 699. Manning, Philip (1992): Erving Goffman and Modern Sociology. Palo Alto, CA: Stanford University Press. Rawls, Anne Warfield (1987): “The Interaction Order Sui Generis: Goffman’s Contribution to Social Theory”. Sociological Theory, 5:136–149.


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. (2003): “Orders of Interaction and Intelligibility: Interactions between Goffman and Garfi nkel by Way of Durkheim”, in A. Javier Treviño (ed.): Goffman’s Legacy. New York: Rowman & Littlefield. Riggins, Stephen H. (ed.) (1990): Beyond Goffman: Studies on Communication, Institution and Social Interaction. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter. Roy, Donald (1959–1960): “Banana Time”. Human Organization, 18:158–168. Scheff, Thomas J. (2003): “The Goffman Legacy”, in A. Javier Treviño (ed.): Goffman’s Legacy. New York: Rowman & Littlefield. . (2006): Goffman Unbound!—A New Paradigm for Social Science. Boulder, CO: Paradigm Publishers. Schegloff, Emanuel A. (2007): Conversational Analysis. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Shalin, Dimitri (2007): “Signing in the Flesh: Notes on Pragmatist Hermeneutics”. Sociological Theory, 25:193–224. Smith, Greg (ed.) (1999): Goffman and Social Organization: Studies in a Sociological Legacy. London: Routledge. Smith, Greg (2003): “Chrysalid Goffman”. Symbolic Interaction, 26:645–658. . (2006): Erving Goffman. London: Routledge. Treviño, A. Javier (ed.) (2003): Goffman’s Legacy. New York: Rowman & Littlefield. Vester, Heinz-Gunter (1989): “Goffman and Postmodernism”. Semiotica, 76: 191– 203. Williams, Robin (1983): “Sociological Tropes: A Tribute to Erving Goffman”. Theory, Culture & Society, 2:99–102. . (1988): “Understanding Goffman’s Methods”, in Paul Drew and Anthony Wootton (eds.): Erving Goffman—Exploring the Interaction Order. Boston: Northeastern University Press. . (1998): “Erving Goffman”, in Rob Stones (ed.): Key Sociological Thinkers. New York: New York University Press. Winkin, Yves (1988): Erving Goffman: Les moments et leurs hommes. Paris: Seuil. . (1999): “What Is a Life?”, in Greg Smith (ed.): Goffman and Social Organization: Studies in a Sociological Legacy. London: Routledge.


Goffman’s Textuality Literary Sensibilities and Sociological Rhetorics Greg Smith and Michael Hviid Jacobsen

GOFFMAN’S TEXTUAL PERSUASIONS No one before or since has written quite like Erving Goffman. The literary sensibilities of his work—evident in his witticisms, his odd conceptual coinages, his arresting juxtapositions of contrary ideas, his mannered “tongue-in-cheek primness of style” (Burns 1992:5)—serve as a magnet for both praise and criticism. For some commentators, Goffman—by deploying an unmistakable ‘playful style’ (Hazelrigg 1992:245)—was a ‘stylist’ projecting a distinctive sensibility and characteristic ‘voice’ proposing fresh sociological understandings (Atkinson 1989:59) in a discipline notorious for the absence of style and the suppression of voice. Goffman’s texts were, quite simply, remarkable (Smith 2006). They underscored his standing as a unique writer within sociology and a review in Time (April 10, 1972) of Goffman’s Relations in Public even described his work as “the waste of a good novelist”. Such a reputation was already established through his early publications. Thus, it was not surprising that his books and papers would come to the attention of those working in literary and cultural studies. Figures in these fields—such as Alan Bennett (1981), Richard Hoggart (1979) and Christopher Ricks (1981)—sensed a kinship between their concerns with the human condition and elements of Goffman’s own. It was not simply the sociology that drew them in. They responded to a writer who could articulate his discoveries in a persuasive way. To them it was obvious that the style of Goffman’s texts could not be easily disentangled from their sociological substance and importance. Goffman’s literary appreciators also noticed how the substance of his work, the ‘interaction order’, concentrated on the interpersonal conduct and feelings that novelists so often brought to life. In the 1950s, Lionel Trilling detected that one of the traditional grounds of creative literature— its exploration of manners and morals1—was coming to be settled by social scientists (Zussman 2001). Goffman was a leading figure in that trend. Yet, this ‘blurring of genres’, as Clifford Geertz (1980) generically identified the process (offering Goffman as one of his canonical examples of the literature/sociology blurring)2 also aroused deep critical suspicion. Most notably,


Greg Smith and Michael Hviid Jacobsen

Frank Cioffi (1971, 1992, 2000)3 used the overlaps between Goffman’s work and creative literature to question whether Goffman generated any genuinely social scientific fi ndings at all. For Cioffi, Goffman was nothing more than a storyteller posing as a theorist, clothing commonsensical ideas in an obfuscating, almost pseudo-technical terminology. Yet, Goffman was not just a counter to a popular stereotype—a sociologist who could write well.4 The writing style that sometimes impressed also bred fears that the discipline’s scientific ambitions were under challenge— that producing a striking or interesting observation might supplant making an accurate or truthful one.5 If Goffman’s writing was the vehicle of his sociological insight, if his sociological discoveries were inseparable from his inimitable style, the critics argued, then what was presented thereby was more the work of a seer than a social scientist. Questions about writing inevitably led to questions about method. In Goffman’s case questions of method lie between the lines, never quite explicitly stated. Stanislav Andreski might have had in mind the response to Goffman’s work when he wrote “the worshippers of methodology turn like a vicious hunting pack upon anybody branded as impressionistic, particularly if he writes well and can make his books interesting” (Andreski 1972:117). As if to tease his critics, Goffman was reluctant to give elaborate statements of theoretical intent and justification. He called himself “an ethnographer of small entities” (Verhoeven 1993:323)6 and the idea informing the title of Dan Rose’s 1989 book, Living the Ethnographic Life (which Goffman suggested to Rose, his student), suggests an important methodological component of how Goffman self-identified his enterprise.7 In all this underplaying of questions about method it is easy to lose sight of the textual dimensions of Goffman’s sociology. A common response to the so-called ‘crisis of representation’ (Clifford and Marcus 1986) emanating from anthropology and spreading into neighbouring disciplines such as sociology is a new interest in how ethnographic and sociological texts are rhetorically constructed (Nelson, Megill and McCloskey 1987).8 This chapter considers some key features of Goffman’s rhetoric, that is, the methods or strategies of communication, explanation and persuasion he employs in order to advance his analytical claims and make them accessible and plausible to the reader. As readers of these texts, we are persuaded of the adequacy of the claims, their plausibility, aptness, truth, judiciousness and so forth simply on the basis of resources indigenous to the texts themselves. The focus of our attention falls on how Goffman’s texts assemble and present sociological analyses, for that can be the only source of whatever rhetorical power they possess. Goffman’s persuasiveness is a thoroughly textual accomplishment. In order to better understand Goffman’s ‘literary’ or ‘socio-literary method’ (Anderson, Hughes and Sharrock 1985; Manning 1976), we follow the textual or rhetorical turn in sociological theory, seeking to examine those features of his texts—often hiding between the lines—that lend them their distinctiveness. As Goffman himself stated in interview with Jef C. Verhoeven on the

Goffman’s Textualityty


difficulties in analysing and appreciating the work of scholars by way of their explicit statements or written testimonies: What an individual says he does, or what he likes that he does, has very little bearing very often on what he actually does. It seems to me that you can’t get a picture of anyone’s work by asking them what they do or by reading explicit statements in their texts about what they do. Because that’s by and large all doctrine and ideology. You have to get it by doing a literary kind of analysis of the corpus of their work. (Goffman in Verhoeven 1993:322) Our chapter takes up this lead from Goffman and performs a ‘literary kind of analysis’ of the corpus of his work. We attempt this fi rst by considering the use of literary sources in Goffman’s writings, then examine his appropriation of the essay as the key literary form for the construction of his sociology, before turning attention to Goffman’s use of metaphor and irony as unmistakable features of his sociological imagination. We end the chapter by locating Goffman’s work betwixt and between sociology and literature.

GOFFMAN’S LITERARY SOURCES AND MODE OF ILLUSTRATION One of the great pleasures of reading Erving Goffman is the diversity of the illustrative materials he provides and employs in his books. As he is pleased to announce at the start of his fi rst book, The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life, his illustrations are of ‘mixed status’ (Goffman 1959:xi), and a cursory reading shows how, of the 282 references contained in this book, Goffman’s magnum opus, approximately 70 percent are made to conventional scientific sources, whereas 30 percent are made up of more literary or miscellaneous materials. And in Stigma the distribution of source material is even more pronounced in favour of ‘non-scientific’ or literary references, as Jack Bynum and Charles Pranter (1984:98) once documented that of the 292 references mentioned throughout the book, 42 percent derived from scientific works while 58 percent stemmed from novels, autobiographies, essays and personal conversations. If one takes a closer look at the entire corpus of Goffman’s writings, then, this ‘mixed status’ of his work becomes particularly evident: Goffman’s fieldwork investigations (major studies in the Shetlands, St. Elizabeth’s Hospital, Nevada casinos, smaller-scale studies of hospital surgery and the work of classical music DJs); his own informal observations of the life around him; research studies by social scientists;9 published personal accounts, such as autobiographies, memoirs and travel writing; psychoanalytic texts; etiquette books, newspaper reports; advertising images; and philosophical treatises. The footnotes of his books abundantly display the

122 Greg Smith and Michael Hviid Jacobsen range and diversity of these sources and also underline why these footnotes make such a poor guide to the major intellectual influences on his sociology. There is evidence that Goffman put a good deal of effort into collecting these illustrative materials, scouring popular and academic literatures for telling material to instantiate an analytic point. As Philip Manning (personal communication to GS, 2007) has noted, there is a marked contrast between the often unusual and striking illustrations found in Goffman’s writings and the quite prosaic examples that Herbert Blumer uses to make good his arguments and claims. But the heterogeneity of Goffman’s illustrative material should not be read as the work of an intellectual jackdaw, indiscriminately collecting scraps from here and there. Often, the cited sources have been culled from a much larger collection, and Goffman’s actual choice of illustration was made very deliberately and purposefully to facilitate the point he wished to make. This is not to say that the illustrations were chosen to simply confi rm Goffman’s initial preconceptions. At the beginning of the doctoral dissertation in which the term ‘interaction order’ was fi rst coined, Goffman was at pains to stress that his conceptualisations came after, not before the facts (Goffman 1953:9). Nearly three decades later, in a 1980 interview with Verhoeven (1993), he would elaborate this argument further, maintaining that the role of the illustrative material he collected was to test his intuitions. Goffman’s illustrations, we can assume, were very purposefully assembled for analytical purposes. This applies to his use of fiction as much as to his other more conventional scientific sources. As Anthony Giddens once observed: [T]he social sciences draw upon the same sources of description (mutual knowledge) as novelists or others who write fictional accounts of social life. Goffman is able quite easily to intersperse fictional illustrations with descriptions taken from social science research because he seeks very often to ‘display’ the tacit forms of mutual knowledge whereby practical activities are ordered, rather than trying to chart the actual distribution of those activities.10 (Giddens 1984:285) A simple content analysis of where Goffman employs fictional sources of illustration reveals an interesting pattern. Illustrations drawn from fiction11 begin in The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life with the famous use of William Sansom’s character Preedy, preening and strutting around the beach and via Goffman into the sociological consciousness (Goffman 1959:4–6). But Goffman only seems to have felt assured enough to use the fictional Preedy in the enlarged 1959 Anchor Book edition of The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life, not the earlier Edinburgh edition (Goffman 1956). The last illustrations from fiction placed in the main text of his books appear fifteen years later in Frame Analysis. None of Goffman’s

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papers submitted to refereed academic journals use illustrations from fiction. The use of illustrations from fiction is almost entirely confi ned to the books of the 1959–1974 period.12 By the mid-1970s it is possible that Goffman had begun to internalise those ethnomethodologically-inspired critiques (see Smith 2003) that called into question the value of invented data for the development of interaction sociology. His last two books avoided illustrations from fiction. Goffman’s selection of fictional writers seems to be disciplined by documentary concerns. He often chooses writers known either for their emotional realism or for realism in a more documentary sense. William Sansom, inventor of the Preedy character, was something of a Goffman favourite, appearing three times in his early books. Sansom was said to excel at attending to the ‘microscopic details’ of events and once described his own writing as “a bastard out of the liaison of two distinct literary wishes” (, to describe and to tell a story. At other times, Goffman draws upon writers known for their fictional works but who also write documentary reportage. Ernest Hemingway provides a good example here. In the extended essay “Where the Action Is” Goffman draws on Hemingway’s close observations of Spanish masculinity and bullfighting set out in his 1932 non-fictional book, Death in the Afternoon, and updated three decades later by The Dangerous Summer. Similarly, while Goffman mentions Pickwick Papers in Frame Analysis, it is Charles Dickens the documentarist who fi rst makes an appearance on the pages of Behavior in Public Places as author of the travellogue American Notes (Goffman 1963a:46, 152). It is sometimes said that Goffman draws upon spy novels in Strategic Interaction. However, an inspection of Goffman’s cited sources show that in fact he does not. He draws upon a number of memoirs written by people who had worked in secret organisations, such as the Special Operations Executive (SOE). Closer scrutiny of the entire corpus shows that rather fewer illustrations are drawn from fiction than is commonly thought. Fictional sources undoubtedly helped shape Goffman’s sociological outlook, but it is difficult to ascertain the nature of the fiction Goffman actually read. It is known, for example, that Goffman took a copy of James Joyce’s Ulysses with him to Unst between 1949–1951. The evidence is given in Yves Winkin’s 1988 interview with Claire Auty, one of the maids who worked at ‘Shetland Hotel’ (Winkin 1992). Goffman lived in a cottage a short distance from the hotel and worked there as a dishwasher during busy periods. Hotel staff, including Claire Auty, would drop by Goffman’s cottage in their breaks. At one meeting at his cottage, Goffman would ask Claire to read aloud pages of a book—‘You-lis?’—by a guy called ‘Joice’ (‘a weird book—rubbish—couldn’t get a word of it’). Goffman would recline on his bed and laugh. He would tell her: ‘I want to listen to the tone of your voice’ or ‘you’ve got the proper voice’. She didn’t like that,

124 Greg Smith and Michael Hviid Jacobsen she vaguely felt she was being made fun of. (Winkin 1992, reprinted in Fine and Smith 2000 vol. 1:194) Those who knew Goffman at The University of Edinburgh (Burns 1992:4–5; Michael Banton, personal communication to GS, 2008) recall that Goffman admired the work of English novelist Ivy Compton-Burnett (1884–1969).13 We might seek to discover affi nities between the prose of Compton-Burnett and Goffman. But it is difficult to trace the impact of such fictional writers upon Goffman’s own thinking and writing with any precision, not least because fictional work was just one ingredient in a pot that included other formative influences from Chicago sociology, anthropology, phenomenology, psychoanalysis and literary theory. However, there is one outstanding attempt in this direction: the 1999 paper by Andrew Travers entitled “Non-Person and Goffman: Sociology under the Influence of Literature”. Travers concentrates on the category of ‘non-person’ that Goffman introduces in his 1953 doctoral dissertation and links it to its literary origins in the writings of George Orwell. Travers shows how Goffman disconnects non-person from its important Durkheimian associations in The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life, then makes an overdrawn contrast of the notion with the concept of ‘civil inattention’ (Goffman 1963a), before fi nally, in “Normal Appearances” (Goffman 1971) emptying the concept of any precise referent. The key literary intertext in the development of non-person that Goffman acknowledges in his dissertation is Orwell’s 1933 collection, Down and Out in Paris and London. However, what Travers fi nds astonishing is the omission of Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949), which famously introduces the concept of ‘unperson’. Without indicating its possible provenance, Goffman abstracts the notion of unperson from its literary context and absorbs it into his interactional sociological frame under the new name of ‘non-person’. Travers reads this as one step in the process where, in the language of literary critic Harold Bloom’s (1973) ‘anxiety of influence’ thesis, Goffman slays his eminent precursor Émile Durkheim. Through his detailed exegesis, Travers shows how Goffman recasts Orwell’s ‘unperson’ into his own ‘nonperson’, which was then later subject to further theoretical development and refi nement. But Travers perhaps does not give enough attention to how Goffman’s annexation of Orwell’s concept retains some of the emotional valence of its precursor. While Travers is right to note that Goffman writes in “the abstract, formal language of academic sociology”, he overplays the degree in which Goffman’s own version of that language “deliberately does not accord priority to emotion, sensibility, imagination and style” (Travers 1999:161). Does not accord priority—yes; but Goffman’s own sociological language, with its inclusion of literary intertexts and literary devices, does indeed provide a space in which emotion, sensibility, imagination and style have their place, albeit one that competes with and is in tension with more scientific aspirations.

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GOFFMAN’S SOCIOLOGICAL ESSAYISM A tension between literary sensibilities and scientific ones has been characteristic of the sociological tradition since its inception (Lepenies 1988; Nisbet 1976/2002). The general thesis that sociology emerged as a ‘third culture’ between science and literature was directly relevant to graduate student Goffman in the late 1940s and early 1950s. Carla Cappetti (1993) documents the links between the great Chicago novelists of the 1930s (e.g. Nelson Algren, James T. Farrell and Richard Wright) and the classic Chicago studies of Robert E. Park, William I. Thomas and Frederic Thrasher. More directly, in 1949 Goffman’s first principal teacher at Chicago, W. Lloyd Warner, was parodied in John P. Marquand’s (1949) popular novel, Point of No Return. The contrasting analyses of ‘Yankee City’ (Newburyport, MA), one by a novelist who had grown up in the town and the other by a team of social scientists led by Warner, have become a significant point of reference for those investigating the novelistic depiction of sociology and sociologists and the differing understandings of the human condition generated by fiction and social science (Bjorklund 2001; Ingersoll 1997). Goffman’s second principal teacher, Everett C. Hughes, was an enthusiastic fiction reader, with a keen knowledge of contemporary German and African novels (Coser 1994). An awareness of the contrasting ways in which sociologists and novelists approach their shared interests in manners, morals and relationships was a central feature of the post-war Chicago sociology milieu. Goffman—like Georg Simmel, with whom Goffman is often compared (Davis 1997), and like Hughes, whom Goffman later cast as his most significant teacher (Jaworski 2000)—uses the literary form of the essay as the overarching device with which to organise most of his texts. One of the many lessons Goffman might have learned from Simmel (via Hughes) is the enormous utility of the essay as a mode of sociological expression. The modern essay as a literary genre dates back to 1580, the year of the first publication of Michel de Montaigne’s Essais. In the essay a topic is discussed in a formal or (more usually) an informal manner in a composition that is frequently shorter than book length. It is a flexible and accommodating literary form which allows wide scope for the expression of its author’s individuality. As Robert Musil once observed, an essay is an ‘attempt’, but it is an attempt that is qualified and determined: An essay is not the provisional or incidental expression of a conviction that might on a more favourable occasion be elevated to the status of truth or that might just as easily be recognised as error . . . [A]n essay is the unique and unalterable form that a man’s inner life assumes in a decisive thought. (Musil 1953/1995:301) For Musil, the essay eschews conventional notions of ‘true’ and ‘false’, ‘wise’ and ‘unwise’, but it is “nevertheless subject to laws that are no less


Greg Smith and Michael Hviid Jacobsen

strict than they appear to be delicate and ineffable” (Musil 1953/1995:301). The essay, still according to Musil, therefore lingers somewhere ‘between amor intellectualis and poetry’. Sociology as a discipline has systematic and scientific ambitions, which means that the sociological essay will depart from the literary type in order to sustain these ambitions. The sociological essay must apply or contribute to the conceptual vocabulary and theoretical discourse of the discipline. It must guard against the excessively whimsical statement and have regard for some conception of objectivity if it is to be taken seriously. Thus, a logical style of exposition is required (Catano 1986:63–64). At the same time, however, it is an intensely personal and flexible mode of expression which allows fuller expression of an author’s particular insights than more conventional academic textual modes. Goffman embraced the essay as his preferred textual format. At best only five of Goffman’s eleven books (The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life, Stigma, Behavior in Public Places, Frame Analysis and Gender Advertisements) resemble monographs. The remainder are collections of essays on related themes.14 The essay mode is particularly well-adapted to Goffman’s sociological purposes. This is clearly shown in his memorable legitimating comment opening Asylums. Each of the four essays there collected together was originally designed to be free-standing: This method of presenting material may be irksome to the reader, but it allows me to pursue the main theme of each paper analytically and comparatively past the point that would be allowable in chapters of an integrated book. I plead the state of the discipline. I think that at present, if sociological concepts are to be treated with affection, each must be traced back to where it best applies, followed on from there wherever it seems to lead, and pressed to disclose the rest of its family. Better, perhaps, different coats to clothe the children well than a single splendid tent in which they all shiver. (Goffman 1961:xiii–xiv) Here Goffman adopts the ‘conscious essayism’ that David Frisby (1981:70– 72) identifies with Simmel and Goffman not only admitted to this conscious essayism, he wallowed in it. Thus, in the introduction to Forms of Talk he asked the reader “that these papers be taken for what they merely are: exercises, trials, tryouts, a means of displaying possibilities, not establishing facts” (Goffman 1981:1). There is an ill-concealed element of sarcasm, staged modesty and professional self-presentation embedded within these lines. Goffman was never apologetic about his ‘method’, but he always seemed consciously aware that others might regard his preferred way of working with suspicion and ridicule, and, as Randall Collins (1986) remarked, Goffman was a virtuoso at using modesty as a weapon of attack. The primary justification for Goffman’s conscious essayism is that the essay is well-suited to his avowedly exploratory enterprise to develop the

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sociology of the interaction order. In particular, the essay for Goffman facilitates the on-going process of conceptual articulation that Robin Williams (1988) sees as the key to understanding Goffman’s project as a whole, for it allows piecemeal modification and development to be readily carried out (the downside being that the essay mode does not facilitate assessment of the current state of development of that process of conceptual articulation). Consider the further properties of Goffman’s essayism that have been identified by Philip M. Strong (1982). Strong states that Goffman has shown how concepts, theories and data can be selected from anywhere, provided they are germane to the problem at hand. There is no pretence of comprehensively surveying the materials relevant to the current analytical problem, but equally there are no constraints to remain within particular disciplinary boundaries when selecting materials. Even the everyday experience of the reader can be drawn upon. Since, as Goffman notes, the essay mode encourages arguments to be followed wherever they lead, digression is permissible and even obligatory. In Goffman’s writings the footnoted discussions are often no less instructive than those located in the actual text. The sociological essay in Goffman’s hands is a method of presenting sociology which is readily accessible to outsiders (Goffman is probably the most widely read modern sociologist by non-sociological audiences). Finally, Strong emphasises how Goffman’s essayism facilitates the process of invention and discovery. Science, Strong suggests, is “more concerned with the mortality of ideas than their fertility” (Strong 1982:455). The relatively free essay mode positively encourages such inventiveness. Testing and testing out those ideas is a task that can be left to others. Goffman’s talent as an essayist was also of strategic significance— through it he could persuade people to accept his understandings and assertions without stating them explicitly. As Ricca Edmondson observed: Goffman differs from other sociologists chiefly in the degree to which he concerns himself with sensitising the reader to his arguments, and in a sense this strategy is forced upon the reader. The ‘common-sense’ views Goffman wants to dispute are deeply embedded in people’s social consciousness, and are unlikely to be abandoned without considerable persuasion. Once the reader’s viewpoint has been changed, he or she is able to complete Goffman’s . . . explanations without any need for the text to make them explicit . . . Thus, Goffman’s work highlights two central themes . . . The interdependency between an author’s development of a project and the reader’s opinions and activities; and the need to look at a sociological subject from some identifi able point of view and in some identifiable frame of mind if certain propositions about it are even to makes sense, let alone seem plausible. Sociology cannot be written or read entirely non-committally. (Edmondson 1984:148, reprinted in Fine and Smith 2000, vol. 2:112–113, original emphasis)


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Another strategic consideration was that Goffman’s essayism also allowed him to cultivate audiences alternative to his academic peers within sociology. Indeed Goffman could be considered a ‘public sociologist’ well before this term was coined. As Thomas S. Kuhn (1962) and Paul K. Feyerabend (1975) have amply demonstrated, innovatory developments or anomalies in science frequently meet with resistance. Established scientific communities are often puzzled by such developments and may resist them because of the threat they represent. For an innovatory sociology like Goffman’s, the essay mode serves a levelling function which stands in contrast to the specialised knowledge and esoteric methodologies of established logics of science. In the struggle to gain acceptance for his ideas, a facility for the essay is of some considerable strategic use, for it permits communication with wider publics, in a sense making an appeal over the heads of established academic authorities.15 Goffman’s use of the essay mode contributes to the perception of a ‘modest’ authorial voice. A common observation is that he writes in an ‘accessible’ way. His analyses start from conceptual scratch, making few demands upon the reader’s prior, specialised sociological knowledge. His writing is generally clear and peppered with vernacular expressions that give it a further appeal to the non-specialised readership. It has a seductive quality, drawing the reader in to view the world in the way Goffman analyses it. This effect is achieved through a number of textual devices. Broadly speaking, these devices function to promote familiarisation (Goffman seeking to draw upon a community of experience with the reader) and defamiliarisation (Goffman’s use of metaphor and irony to indicate that ordinary experiences are not quite what the reader might think). On the interplay and mutuality of these familiarising and defamiliarising endeavours in Goffman’s work Ricca Edmondson proposed: “[Goffman] wishes to bring the reader eventually to explain as normal what he or she might once have rejected as bizarre, or to defend as reasonable conduct which might have seemed absurd (occasionally, vice versa: Goffman attacks as absurd what once looked reasonable)” (Edmondson 1984:149). Metaphor and irony are considered in subsequent sections of this chapter. Here we consider two other textual practices used by Goffman to get the reader onside with his team. The fi rst is the inclusion of illustrative material that expressly invokes the reader’s commonsense knowledge of social arrangements. Goffman sketches some features of these arrangements which he assumes will be thoroughly familiar to his readers. Here are three instances of the practice from the essay “Alienation from Interaction”: Becoming spontaneously involved in an activity is “a ticklish thing, as we all know from experience with dull chores or threatening ones”. (Goffman 1967:115) Whatever the cause of self-consciousness, we are all familiar with the vacillation of action and the flusterings through which self-consciousness

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is expressed; we are all familiar with the phenomenon of embarrassment. (Goffman 1967:119) On the right to participate in a conversation in a desultory and cavalier manner: “A father sometimes has this right regarding the mealtime conversation maintained by lesser members of the family, while they do not”. (Goffman 1967:130) The reader’s presumed familiarity with these commonplace scenes helps to secure the analytic point Goffman wishes to make. The reader is invited to agree to facts that are presented as self-evident. A second practice routinely employed in Goffman’s texts involves the use of phrases such as ‘of course’, ‘it is apparent’, ‘it is obvious’ and similar inclusive manners of speech which cast the reader into a collegial relation with the author. If Simmel was a philosopher of the ‘perhaps’, then Goffman was surely the sociologist of the ‘of course’. Here are some examples from Chapter 10 of Frame Analysis, “Breaking Frame”: Of course, frames differ widely in the involvement prescribed for participants sustaining them. (Goffman 1974:345) Now it is apparent that the human body is one of those things that can disrupt the organization of activity. . . . (Goffman 1974:347) It is also plain that when an individual misframes events. . . . (Goffman 1974:348) But, of course, here the delamination, although not prescribed, is something devoutly sought by the fabricators. (Goffman 1974:366) Of course, with neither actors present nor an audience of strangers. . . . (Goffman 1974:367) Phrases like ‘of course’ and ‘it is apparent’ underline the obviousness— almost triviality—of the analytic point about to be made to both author and reader and effectively co-opt the reader into assenting its validity. The process of incorporating the reader is also achieved through Goffman’s frequent use of ‘we’ and ‘one’ in his descriptions: Just as we can have preoccupied persons in conversational interaction, so in unfocused interaction we can have ‘absent-minded’ participants. . . . (Goffman 1967:133) Obviously, in these examples one deals with the limits of a frame. . . . (Goffman 1974:353)

130 Greg Smith and Michael Hviid Jacobsen What one has here is not merely upkeyed or downkeyed response. . . . (Goffman 1974:359) One might reason that the individual could also break from behavior in one primary framework. . . . (Goffman 1974:375) But if one assumes that the sight of the jewels on the table earlier in the evening had excited desires then amply held in check. . . . (Goffman 1974:376) The use of ‘we’ and ‘one’ in these examples is not an instance of a ‘royal we’ but is rather a device that draws on shared knowledge and reasoning to cast the reader into a collegial relation with the author. It is thus a device which closes the distance between the author’s analytic authority and the reader’s commonsense knowledge. Through these textual devices, and many others, Goffman draws his reader in to see the world the way he discloses it. This is the modest and unassuming Goffman. But sometimes textual Goffman seeks a different persona, a contrarian authorial voice. The essay mode is also helpful to Goffman here, for as George Marcus observes, “the modern essay permits, or rather sanctions, the ultimate hedge—it legitimates fragmentation, rough edges and the self-conscious aim of achieving an effect that disturbs the reader” (Marcus 1986:191). The essay mode in Goffman thus facilitates disturbing the reader—an effect primarily achieved through the use of metaphor and irony.

GOFFMAN’S METAPHORICAL CORNUCOPIA Another central component and ubiquitous presence in Goffman’s toolbox of textualities making it stand out from most other of his contemporaries in sociology—and making his affi nity with novelists and poetic writers even more pronounced—was the trademark metaphoricity of his descriptions and depictions of everyday life. In a way, the use of metaphors also emphasised Goffman’s willingness to embrace the so-called ‘unofficial’ methodology of the social sciences, and, as Wilhelm W. Baldamus contended, we must “presume that side by side with the official methodology that one fi nds in the textbooks on systematic theory, formal logics, statistical methods, survey design or interviewing procedure, there exists a reservoir of unofficial, non-formalised techniques of inquiry” (Baldamus 1972:281, original emphasis). Goffman’s metaphors, together with a host of other literary sensibilities, constitute such an ‘unofficial’ methodology that he continued to invoke alongside or in combination with other more ‘official’ methods. The main purpose of the metaphors employed by Goffman throughout most of his books was as analytical means of expressing and revealing

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meaning, interpretation and framing of people, motives, interactions, relations, events and settings. His continuous predilection for such metaphorical redescriptions of social reality has been widely acknowledged by commentators (Corradi 1990; Kalekin-Fishman 1988; Manning 1992; Williams 1983), and it can be traced as far back as to his PhD thesis in which he hinted at some of the key metaphors that later became defi ning features of his work—drama, game and ritual—by stating: “Even more than being a game of informational management, conversational interaction is a problem of ritual management” (Goffman 1953:103). A large part of Goffman’s work consisted of concept-development and most of these concepts—understood as ‘sensitising’ rather than ‘defi nitive’ concepts (Blumer 1954; van den Hoonaard 1997)—were not isolated units but inextricably linked to, elaborated through and interwoven into more extensive ‘metaphoric networks’ (Corradi 1990) inscribing and infusing them with meaning and purpose. Take as evidence of this his colourful concepts of ‘impression management’, ‘facework’ or ‘keying’, all of which are oozing with metaphorical content stretching well beyond the individual concepts themselves. Thus, although most of Goffman’s concepts related to the smallest and apparently most insignificant aspects of mundane life, they all had a sense of grandeur about them due to their metaphorical embedding. They were all part and parcel of Goffman’s elaborated language game and even though the emphasis and reliance on specific metaphors as analytical constructs changed from one published work to another, Robin Williams poignantly summarised Goffman’s overall metaphorical meaning-creating work process: The bulk of [Goffman’s] concepts were generated, developed and elaborated through the use of metaphor . . . Metaphor was used by Goffman not as imagery, nor for the purpose of embellishing some pre-existing text, but it was used directly, as a technique of research, and it is a commonplace to assert that he was a master of this trope. This was no accident of style of course, for metaphor is the most powerful of means to express the complexity of relations that are possible between concepts; not through adding power to language incrementally, but because it is itself constitutive of the power of language . . . It is not then that Goffman’s studies were made to appear innovative through the use of metaphor, but that his conceptual advances were accomplished in the only way possible, through the process of linguistic invention and development pressed into the service of a sociological perspective. (Williams 1983:101, original emphasis) As an intrinsic part of Goffman’s sociological perspectivism, his metaphors were conceptual schemes through which he viewed, described and communicated certain visions of social reality.16 Throughout the years, Goffman’s preferred metaphors were, almost in chronological fashion, drama,


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ritual, game and frame, although there were considerable overlaps between and occasional combinations of them. All of these metaphors were imaginatively applied to descriptions of his favourite realm of analysis—the ‘interaction order’ or ‘situated activity systems’—and armed with these metaphors, Goffman was able to redescribe and recontextualise the world of everyday existence with great creativity as well as astonishing accuracy (Jacobsen and Kristiansen 2006). These metaphors also allowed him to distance himself from his object of analysis while remaining devoted to it, thereby fi nding a strategic vantage point from which to analyse everyday life without being sucked into its common sense and taken-for-grantedness. As Howard Schwartz and Jerry Jacobs asserted on this formal or analytic aspect of Goffman’s work: Formal sociology’s study of the trivia and minutiae of everyday life will prove to be no easy task. By the very act of making trivia a topic of study and recognizing its prevalence and importance in everyday life, formal sociologists change the very thing they seek to study. That is, trivia is no longer trivial; it now becomes important. To the extent this is true, the sociologists’ rendering of trivia in everyday life cannot by defi nition correspond to the actors’ experience of trivia . . . This is true of Goffman’s work. While his analyses of forms of interaction in everyday life are engaging and insightful, they are not, in the sense described above, ‘true to the phenomena’. In his work, these forms become key features of everyday life, while in the lives of those he describes, they are taken for granted and go unnoticed. (Schwartz and Jacobs 1979:183) By way of metaphors, Goffman was able to transform the trivia and minutiae of everyday life into something formal and abstract amenable to social scientific scrutiny. In this way, the metaphors worked as preconceived yet relatively expandable and flexible moulds into which he could pour measured portions of reality without lapsing into either symbolic violence or disingenuous distortions, thereby giving shape to the shapeless myriad of everyday meetings and fleeting encounters. How may we appreciate the sociological significance of Goffman’s metaphors? To approximate an answer, several points need to be made. First of all, what is the purpose of invoking metaphors in social scientific practice in the first place? Why not be content to see and describe things naturalistically, as it were, as they really are, without resorting to poetic or rhetoric devices? Basically, metaphors can be regarded as part of Kenneth Burke’s (1936) ‘perspective by incongruity’. As such a perspective, the cognitive functions and analytical advantages of metaphors are manifold. The magic of metaphors consist in the fact that they by their invocation transfer meaning from one (and often quite different) realm of language to another; they creatively transform our quotidian or commonsense conception of reality; they transcend commonly held, ingrained or doxic assumptions within a discipline; they

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transgress strictly upheld boundaries between the real and the imagined; they transmute our ideas and notions about the world and its fundamental workings; and they—momentarily—transport the reader into a wonderful world of make-believe. Thus, there is a certain inherent ‘as if’ quality to metaphors— they, as matters of linguistic circumscription and mental pretension, present selective aspects of reality as if they were something else. In all these facets of metaphorical thinking, Goffman’s application of metaphors was exceptional. His use of metaphors was not only highly original—it was also relatively systematic and consistent. We regard Goffman’s metaphors as instances of Umberto Eco’s idea of ‘creative abduction’, which he defined as abductive thinking “in which the rule acting as an explanation has to be invented ex novo” (Eco 1984:42). Creative abduction is thus a way of applying a rule (e.g. a metaphor) to explain or understand phenomena (e.g. everyday interaction) in which the rule itself has been invented by its user. However, despite their obvious originality and fertility, Goffman’s metaphors were not entirely invented ex novo, from scratch, as Eco suggested, and although Goffman was indeed instrumental in popularising the dramaturgical metaphor and in promoting the frame as part of his phenomenology of the organisation of experience, Burke’s ‘dramatism’ and Gregory Bateson’s ‘ecology of mind’ anticipated Goffman’s use. Second, how did Goffman himself regard these metaphors of his? Actually, he resorted to and utilised metaphorical imagery without ever explicating the procedures involved or the methodological implications. According to him, his metaphors—although he never explicitly referred to them as such—were merely meant as temporary constructs intended a short lifespan. For example, he metaphorically likened his dramaturgical metaphor to ‘scaffolding’ and revealed how “scaffolds, after all, are to build other things with, and should be erected with a keen eye to taking them down” (Goffman 1959:246). As he went along, Goffman gradually dismantled most of his meticulously erected metaphorical scaffolds, replacing—or perhaps rather supplementing—the dramaturgical metaphor with rituals, games and fi nally frames. In this way, his inventiveness was as praiseworthy as his willingness to ‘kill his own darlings’. Finally, to what extent are Goffman’s metaphors conducive for conducting creative, innovative and high-quality sociological research? When one systematically employs metaphors it must be admitted that one necessarily sees things in a specific way which, however, simultaneously prevents one from seeing it any other possible way. Metaphors demystify as much as they mystify and, as Philip Manning (1992:54) rightly contended, metaphors may either function as illuminative ‘springboards’ for theorising or they, on the other hand, may stand as limitations or hindrances to insights, hiding more than they reveal. In short, metaphors enable and illuminate as much as they delimit and mask. In Burke’s apt terminology—that undoubtedly inspired Goffman throughout the years—metaphors may be seen as socalled ‘terministic screens’, and according to him


Greg Smith and Michael Hviid Jacobsen we must use terministic screens, since we can’t say anything without the use of terms; whatever terms we use, they necessarily constitute a corresponding kind of screen; and any such screen necessarily directs the attention to one field rather than another. Within that field there can be different screens, each with its ways of directing the attention and shaping the range of observations implicit in the given terminology. (Burke 1968:50)

Although metaphors as terministic screens inevitably direct the attention and shape the observations (if not downright determine them) of their user, exactly Goffman’s continuous application of different metaphors and a relatively relaxed methodological attitude prevented him from committing any kind of metaphorical fallacy by fi xating or freezing his perspective. Moreover, his metaphorical cornucopia not merely provided poetic meanderings to his writings or served as decorative devices aimed at making his work appear more interesting or alluring. Goffman’s metaphors were primarily invoked in order to supply his sociological perspectivism on everyday life with analytical substance and explanatory potential, and judging by the subsequent reception and frequent application of his work, he was successful in this endeavour. Therefore, it remains, to repeat after Daniel Rigney in The Metaphorical Society, “an impaired soul indeed that cannot appreciate the music of metaphor” (Rigney 2001:209). And indeed, Goffman was far from tone-deaf to the music of metaphors.

GOFFMAN’S SOPHISTICATED IRONY Apart from metaphors, other—and at least in a social scientific context rather unconventional—‘voices’ are audible in Goffman’s work. Irony— initially defi ned as an incongruity or discordance between what is being stated and what is actually being meant—is another such voice. There is an element of negation, ambiguity, antithesis and even teasing in irony, and therefore irony is a common feature of the rhetoric of fiction and literature (Booth 1974). It is however—despite routine neglect—also part of the prose and practice of sociology (Anderson and Sharrock 1983; Brown 1977; Lemert 1992; Woolgar 1983; Wright 1978), yet Goffman is one of the few sociologists who so consistently pursued irony as a conscious strategy and whose ironic sentiments have attracted such widespread acknowledgement. What epitomises Goffman’s irony is its amazing ability to mix humorous observations and awkward or embarrassing revelations with critical seriousness and methodological purpose. Alan Dawe once described Goffman as ‘a sociological jester’ (Dawe 1973:248), and as we know from historical evidence, apart from the role of the court jester as affected entertainer, he was also known to be one of the few capable of saying the unsaid and stating that which was otherwise unacknowledged, repressed or silenced

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in social life. Anyone having read books by Goffman—or perhaps rather most books by him—will be struck by his ability to utilise a template of varied tricks of trade to persuade the reader of his arguments and suggestions. Some of the most prominent of these ‘tricks’ were irony and humour that are, however, not unrelated but rather intimately linked to his aforementioned predilection for metaphorical redescription. Thus, as Ricca Edmondson rightly observed, “Goffman’s techniques of humour and irony have sensitising effects to support his reorganisations of perceived ‘natural sequences’ in everyday reality” (Edmondson 1984:155). Generally speaking, sociology is not appreciated for its humour or wittiness.17 In their elaboration of theory, methods as well as presentation and discussion of detailed data, sociology books most often make tiresome and uninspired reading to anyone but sociologists. Thus, by most sociologists, irony or humour are at worst seen as irrelevant to their scientific endeavours, while at best are regarded as personal quirks that may be allowed or tolerated only in modest measures. However, Peter L. Berger once mused how “it is quite possible that the total absence of any sense of humour actually interferes with the attempt to give an intellectually adequate picture of society” (Berger 1963:67). Therefore, irony and humour may in fact contribute positively and creatively to sociological thinking and theorising. Supposedly, Goffman sensed this and in his work irony and humour are permanent presences in a variety of ways. As Gary Alan Fine and Daniel D. Martin (1990) showed, satire, sarcasm and irony are some of the most audible and recognisable voices in his work, especially in Asylums. They point out how Asylums is saturated with sarcastic and ironic descriptions of inmate life-strategies and especially in regard to inmate relations to staff members, to other inmates and to the overall ‘total institution’. Also Tom Burns observed how, already in its title, Asylums is a thoroughly ironic book: “Beginning with the title, which one soon discovers is heavy with irony, the sheer skill in writing wins over the reader, once again, by its fluency in exposition, sheer dexterity and occasional pungency” (Burns 1992:141). This ironic stance materialised in a subtle yet relentless antipsychiatric critique of the conditions offered to inmates, of the hypocrisy of the medical profession and of the daily indignities of total institutions.18 Goffman’s aforementioned metaphors embodied and worked as vehicles of this ironic stance—they consciously presented the world, as we showed earlier, differently from what it actually is. In Asylums, they work as so-called ‘cutting metaphors’, as when Goffman compares life in a mental hospital to torture, to a fi nishing school, a dead sea and a human storage dump (Fine and Martin 1990:99). These metaphors, as ironies, critically cut to the bone and cut away all the circumbendibus and culturally accepted truth claims that mask reality and make it safe. In most of Goffman’s other book titles an unmistakable sense of irony also prevails. The titles of his books are often consciously accompanied by selfeffacing and apparently inconspicuous subtitles containing specifications


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such as ‘studies’, ‘notes’ or ‘essays’, and he regarded his most celebrated book—The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life—merely as a ‘report’. Although Goffman’s books were by no means mere drafts or sketches (and he hardly believed this himself), they nevertheless in unpretentious fashion appeared much less scientific and serious than they actually were, which, however, only added to their popularity and to the powerful messages contained in them. Thus, Goffman’s irony—in titles and in texts—was an equal mixture of self-presentation and self-effacement. In fact, in the majority—if not all—of his books, irony can substantially be detected. His pictorial presentation of women in commercial ads in Gender Advertisements (1979) ironises how they are routinely portrayed in absent-minded states, cuddly situations or inferior postures in consumer society, his musings over the carefully orchestrated verbal and non-verbal manoeuvres involved in academic lectures or attempts to correct or downplay errors in radio talk shows in Forms of Talk (1981) ironise pretentious academic self-presentations and public slips of the tongue and subsequent corrective efforts, and his observant descriptions of social labelling processes and sophisticated passing strategies in Stigma (1963b) are by and large ironic accounts of how people try to wriggle their way into having their purported selves validated in a society obsessed with identity. In general, as Geoffrey Nunberg’s proposed in his review of Forms of Talk in the New York Times, Goffman gave “a mordant irony to the pretensions and theatricality of everyday interaction” (Nunberg 1981). Without ever stating the obvious or explicating his basic assumptions, Goffman managed to hammer home hundreds of ironic points about contemporary social arrangements. And not only in writing was Goffman ironic and equipped with a dry (some might even say sordid) sense of humour—as John Lofland’s (1984) telling ‘tales of Goffman’ reveal, humour, sarcasm and irony were also in many of his personal contacts, an integral part of Goffman’s way of confronting and dealing with his surroundings. Having thus declared Goffman a great ironist, what kind of irony did he then practise? Just as metaphor may serve a variety of functions for writers and scholars, also irony performs several tasks from the merely decorative and playful to the oppositional and deadly serious (Handwerk 1985; Hutcheon 1992). In Goffman’s corpus of work, different types of irony are traceable ranging from humorous irony to satiric irony (Fine and Martin 1990), and of the four methodological forms of irony in sociology delineated by Digby C. Anderson and Wes Sharrock (1983), Goffman’s work mirrored and represented at least three of them.19 Anderson and Sharrock identified sociological irony as: (1) the ‘transformation of the frame of reference’, whereby the researcher adopts an utterly different—and often superior—standpoint to that taken by those studied; (2) the ‘enrichment of everyday life’, in which the ordinary actions of ordinary people are appreciated through the researcher’s own colourful, sensitive and often dramatic terminology; (3) the ‘decipherment of meaning’, through

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which the alienated, obfuscated or distorted world of everyday people is inscribed with new meanings and paraphrased through the new words of the researcher; and (4) ‘moral reversals’, whereby the researcher through sympathetic ethnographic descriptions show how stigmatised, irrational or morally disfavoured life-forms or sections of society may be appreciated as something good, praiseworthy or reasonable. Goffman’s work was clearly informed by the former two and the last ironic categories, and sometimes in his work—e.g. in Frame Analysis (1974)—also the third category crept in. Thus, Goffman’s writings contained and drew on a variety of different ironies underpinning his sociological perspective and sharpening its rhetorical and analytical edges. But why would Goffman resort to irony—why not stick to already tested, time-honoured and less rhetorical sociological language and schemes of presentation? There might be several reasons for this. However, we see his ironic stance primarily as a strategically employed instrument or means of communicating with his readership, academic as well as non-academic— just like his metaphors, literary sources and essayism. Moreover, on a personal level, there may have been a certain conscious role distance from more academic or technical sociology involved in his irony, or it can be seen as a defence mechanism or even as part of a presentation of self as a master of trope and prose. On the analytical level, his irony can be appreciated as a way of allowing him to say things contrary to truistic, commonly accepted or commonsensical conceptions in order to highlight ambiguities, discrepancies and fallacies. As Richard Rorty contended, irony is a means to transcend common sense and “the opposite of irony is common sense” (Rorty 1989:74), while Milan Kundera wrote how “irony irritates. Not because it mocks or attacks but because it denies us our certainties by unmasking the world as an ambiguity” (Kundera 1986:134). In short, irony defamiliarises the world and opens it up to inspection and critical interpretation. Admittedly, Goffman’s irony was not blazing, but subtle; it was not in-your-face, but curious and underacted, and according to Randall Collins, Goffman “suggests his points rather than trumpeting them” (Collins 1981:222). Despite its apparently subdued status, Goffman’s irony was far from apolitical or ineffective in confronting or changing real-world agendas. As Ronald A. Jacobs suggested, one effect of ironic discourse is that it will promote tolerance based on care for and engagement with the Other, rather than a mere indifference toward the Other . . . Ironic discourses prove highly effective in subverting totalizing conformist discourses by deflating pretensions and deconstructing assumptions about putatively common interests and realities. (Jacobs 1997:70) This was particularly true of Goffman’s ironic showdown with psychiatric institutional arrangements in Asylums but it can also be extended to most


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of the other social settings and interactional situations so characteristic of modern life of which he wrote. In resorting to and embracing a sophisticated sense of irony, Goffman was not alone in sociology. Several of his contemporaries—e.g. C. Wright Mills, Peter L. Berger and Harold Garfi nkel (despite disclaimers that his work was ironic)—accounted for an equal amount of ironic sentiment, albeit in relatively different ways. This, however, does not detract from the fact that many sociologists have been unable or unwilling to acknowledge irony as an acceptable research strategy—to the detriment of the discipline. As Søren Kierkegaard wrote in The Concept of Irony: “He who does not understand irony and has no ear for its whispering lacks eo ipso what might be called the absolute beginning of personal life” (Kierkegaard 1965:339). Goffman indeed had a keen ear to irony, and he practised and nurtured an ironic stance not only in personal life but also in academic life.

CONCLUSION The rhetorical edge to Erving Goffman’s work is indeed unmistakable (Edmondson 1984). So are the textual persuasions and literary sensibilities evident in his metaphors, irony and mode of illustration. John Lofland saw this as part and parcel of a special ‘Goffmanesque touch’ (Lofland 1980:25). Many scholars prior to us have pinpointed this quality to his work and Norman K. Denzin, for example, stated that Goffman “brought a literary sensibility to sociology. He drew on literary sources, and his was a gifted prose that was once nuanced, ironic and literary” (Denzin 2002:106). Therefore, it was not coincidence, as Allen D. Grimshaw (1983) recalls, that Goffman by The New York Times reviewers was labelled ‘a sociological Kafka or Proust’. Goffman himself was well aware of and nurtured this quality. In interview he summarised especially the nature of his last writings, although it could quite easily be extended also to the rest of his production: What I have been doing recently is not what you call research, it’s more scholarship. It’s taking some concepts or variables which I think have some relevance, significance, and reviewing various kinds of fi ndings, of research, novels, all that sort of thing, in terms of them. So it is a sort of a freewheeling, literary kind of thing. (Goffman in Verhoeven 1993:338) This ‘freewheeling, literary kind of thing’, was not, however, merely an ornamentation to his sociological analyses. Rather, his poetic adornments, exquisitely selected illustrations, persuasive language and neat prose served analytical purposes. For one, Randall Collins has praised Goffman’s ability “to write in layers” (Collins 1986:108) and there were, as we have shown, hidden messages beneath the surface titles of and claims in his texts. In

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short, there was substance to his style which brought a ‘sparkling quality’ to his work (Lofland 1980:25). In this chapter, we have documented, delineated and discussed this sparkling quality of Erving Goffman’s sociology. We have shown how Goffman blurred the genres and bridged the gap between the rhetoric of poetics and the rigour of science, between impressionism and systematic investigation, between the language of literature and the terminology of science. In this way he embraced and embodied Robert A. Nisbet’s idea of sociology as an ‘art form’ that crystallises the close affi nities between the world of science and the world of literature. As Nisbet stated: The problems, insights, ideas and forms which come to the artist and to the scientist seem to come as often from the unconscious as the conscious mind, from wide, eclectic and unorganized reading, observing, or experiencing, from musing, browsing, and dreaming, from buried experiences, as from anything immediately and consciously in view. They come . . . as often from the ‘left-handed’ processes of feeling and intuition as from the ‘right-handed’ channels of logic, empirical directness, and reason. (Nisbet 1976/2002:9, 19) Goffman drew zealously and convincingly on the ‘left-handed’ processes as much as on the ‘right-handed’ channels. To him, sociology was indeed an art form. This, however, did not detract from the sociological importance or centrality of his work. No doubt Goffman’s literary writing style, his prose and his way of presenting ideas and arguments annoyed certain sections of the sociological profession. Pierre Bourdieu, for example, in an obituary notice originally published in Le Monde, observed how “the guardians of positivist dogmatism assigned Goffman to the ‘lunatic fringe’ of sociology, among the eccentrics who shunned the rigours of science and preferred the soft option of philosophical meditation or literary description” (Bourdieu 1983:112). Goffman’s rhetoric was plain and sophisticated at one and the same time but to view Goffman’s work merely as style or as pseudo-science and neglect the substance and the depths is to commit a grave mistake. As Daniel C. Foss once rightly contended: “To read Goffman as a reporter, or as one recommending a reporter’s orientation, is to dilute any possible lesson from his writing to the extent that one could make no case for distinguishing it from simple chatter” (Foss 1972:295). The continued interest in and energy devoted to Erving Goffman’s work bears evidence to the fact that it was far from simple chatter.

NOTES 1. A few years earlier Lionel Trilling formulated a conception of ‘manners’ close to the topic matter of Goffman’s interaction order: “What I understand by manners . . . is a culture’s hum and buzz of implication. I mean the whole



3. 4.

5. 6.




Greg Smith and Michael Hviid Jacobsen evanescent context in which its explicit statements are made. It is that part of a culture which is made up of half-uttered or unuttered or unutterable expressions of value. They are hinted at by small actions, sometimes by the arts of dress or decoration, sometimes by tone, gesture, emphasis or rhythm, sometimes by the words that are used with special frequency or a special meaning ... They make the part of a culture which is not art, or religion, or morals, or politics, and yet it relates to all these highly formulated departments of culture. It is modified by them; it modifies them; it is generated by them; it generates them. In this part of culture assumption rules, which is often so much stronger than reason” (Trilling 1947/1970:209). In this way, Goffman’s work stands as an archetypal—although not exclusive—example of Geertz’s famous notion of ‘blurred genres’ that, in Geertz’s own wonderful words, is turning “away from a law-and-instances ideal of explanation toward a case-and-interpretations one, looking less for the sort of thing that connects planets and pendulums and more for the sort that connects chrysanthemums and swords” (Geertz 1980:165). See also Irving (1983) for an extended discussion of Goffman as a paradigmatic case in Geertz’s notion of a refiguration of social thought. The arguments of Frank (S.) Cioffi , a philosopher, need to be distinguished from the very different tenor of the remarks on Goffman by his nephew, writing specialist Frank L. Cioffi (2005). The stereotype was not such a rarity. Certainly, in the University of Chicago’s Department of Sociology of the late 1940s and early 1950s where Goffman was trained, his teachers included such proficient, even graceful writers as Everett C. Hughes, David Riesman and W. Lloyd Warner. See, for example, Murray S. Davis’s (1971) thought-provoking separation between ‘the interesting’ and ‘the true’ and his plea to acknowledge the importance of the former as an inseparable part of knowledge production. In this interview, Goffman also openly discussed the nature of his own work—its ‘methods’ and ‘representativeness’—by stating: “I would rather sort of leave it open. It can be done well, and it can be done badly, and I can’t provide the rules for doing it well. It isn’t necessarily an art; it’s a method of some sort. I just don’t trust so far anybody’s explications of what that method is” (Goffman in Verhoeven 1993:341). Goffman projected the persona of the ethnographer who wanted to continue his studies of ordinary social life untrammelled by the recognition that went with being a celebrity academic. This is one way we can interpret Goffman’s notorious aversion to public photographs, interviews and media appearances. He did not want his cover blown. A prominent proponent of this ‘rhetoric of science’ movement was Joseph Gusfield who criticised the so-called ‘windowpane theory’ according to which “the aim of presenting ideas and data is to enable the audience to see the external world as it is. In keeping with the normative prescriptions of scientific method, language and style must be chosen which will approximate, as closely as possible, a pane of clear glass . . . Scientists do express their procedures, fi ndings and generalizations in ‘neutral’ language. Their words do not create or construct the very reality they seek to describe and analyze” (Gusfield 1976:17). Reading the footnotes retrospectively we can see that Goffman was ahead of intellectual fashions. For example, he cites Norbert Elias on the civilizing process (the German edition) in his doctoral dissertation (1953) and Asylums (1961) or Pierre Bourdieu (albeit in English) in “Where the Action Is” (1967) long before their work became widely known in English-speaking sociology.

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10. In Behavior in Public Places Goffman admitted to the somewhat dubious quality (but also unquestionable importance) of some of his impressionistic observations, if judged by conventional scientific criteria of validity and reliability, by stating: “Obviously, many of these data are of doubtful worth, and my interpretations—especially some of them—may certainly be questionable, but I assume that a loose speculative approach to a fundamental area of conduct is better than a rigorous blindness to it” (Goffman 1963a:4). 11. We are avoiding the term ‘fictional illustrations’ since it covers both what we intend (sources drawn from fictional works such as novels and short stories) and what we wish to avoid (examples that are hypothetical or which are in some other way—usually by recourse to knowledge and experience Goffman assumes his reader shares—made up by Goffman). 12. The illustrations from fiction found in Interaction Ritual (Goffman 1967) are all contained in the one new essay in the book, “Where the Action Is”. 13. Michael Banton reports that at Edinburgh Goffman once told James Littlejohn, a lecturer in the social anthropology department, “that he had developed his distinctive vision of interpersonal behaviour from an examination of the dialogue in Ivy Compton-Burnett’s novels”. An excerpt from Compton-Burnett appears in Presentation of Self (Goffman 1959:203 n18). 14. Even here there are ambiguities. The notion ‘Essay’ figures in the subtitle of Frame Analysis, his longest and most systematic work as well as in the subtitle of Asylums. Similarly, the term ‘Notes’ appears in the subtitle of Stigma as well as Behavior in Public Places which evokes the essay mode. Moreover, other pieces of work—such as Encounters and Relations in Public—use the idea of ‘Studies’, thereby signalling a more impressionistic and perhaps also less coherent and ambitious form of presentation. 15. Goffman was apparently ambivalent towards the popular appeal of his works, especially Asylums and Stigma. He never wanted to be a celebrity intellectual. Yet, he drove hard bargains with publishers to ensure that all of his books were made available in paperback imprint at the same time as the hard-backed editions appeared—a publishing strategy of obvious populist appeal. 16. This non-naturalistic abstraction and objectification of everyday life in many parts of Goffman’s work was also noted by Gary Alan Fine and Daniel D. Martin who summarised his perspective by stating: “Goffman wishes to provide a perspective, not a photograph” (Fine and Martin 1990:95). 17. In fact, this is rather surprising, for—as Arthur Koestler (1969) convincingly argued in The Act of Creation—humour can indeed, in art as well as in science, work as a springboard for creation, discovery and innovation. Like irony and metaphor, Koestler defi ned humour as the juxtaposition of two or more mutually opposed or inconsistent perspectives. 18. Goffman not only borrowed from fiction—he also inspired it. There is little doubt that Asylums (1961)—together with a host of other books from around that period by Thomas S. Szasz (The Myth of Mental Illness, 1960), Michel Foucault (Madness and Civilization, 1961) and Ronald D. Laing (The Divided Self: A Study of Sanity and Madness, 1960)—inspired Ken Kesey’s novel One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1962) in its sympathetic depiction of patient life (a novel popularised upon Milos Foreman’s adaptation to the screen in 1975 with Jack Nicholson performing wonderfully as Randle Patrick McMurphy). 19. Typifying varieties of ironic writing was also the concern of Richard H. Brown in his A Poetic for Sociology (1977) in which he identified four different types of irony dissimilar to those of Anderson and Sharrock: rhetorical irony, irony of manner, irony of events and dramatic or dialectical irony (see also Brown 1983). Goffman’s work can be said to transcend this categorisation as


Greg Smith and Michael Hviid Jacobsen it sits astride these different varieties. Needless to say, however, his irony was equally rhetorical and dramatic, whereas the elements of irony of manner and irony of events were not part of his work—but perhaps of his personality—as they referred to real-life actions and situations. Also others, such as Steve Woolgar (1983), ventured into differentiating ironic stances in social science practice, and Woolgar suggested a separation between ‘instrumental’ and ‘dynamic’ ironic strategies, where the former merely asserts that things are different from what they may seem, whereas the latter also problematises and points to the weaknesses and fragilities of its own alternative account— and thus in principle all accounts.

REFERENCES Anderson, Digby C. and Wesley W. Sharrock (1983): “Irony as a Methodological Theory: A Sketch of Four Sociological Variations”. Poetics Today, 4 (3):565– 579. Anderson, Robert J., John A. Hughes and Wesley W. Sharrock (1985): The Sociology Game: An Introduction to Sociological Reasoning. London: Longman. Andreski, Stanislav (1972): Social Science as Sorcery. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books. Atkinson, Paul (1989): “Goffman’s Poetics”. Human Studies, 12 (1–2):59–76. Baldamus, Wilhelm W. (1972): “The Role of Discoveries in Social Science”, in Teodor Shannin (ed.): The Rules of the Game: Cross-Disciplinary Essays on Models in Scholarly Thought. London: Tavistock. Bennett, Alan (1981): “Cold sweat”. London Review of Books, October 15th– November 4th:12–13 (reprinted in Alan Bennett: Writing Home. London: Faber & Faber). Berger, Peter L. (1963): Invitation to Sociology: A Humanistic Perspective. Garden City, NY: Doubleday. Bjorklund, Diane (2001): “Sociologists as Characters in Twentieth-Century Novels”. American Sociologist, 32 (4):23–41. Bloom, Harold (1973): The Anxiety of Infl uence: A Theory of Poetry. New York: Oxford University Press. Blumer, Herbert (1954): “What Is Wrong with Social Theory?”. American Sociological Review, 18:3–10. Booth, Wayne C. (1974): The Rhetoric of Irony. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Bourdieu, Pierre (1983): “Erving Goffman: Discoverer of the Infi nitely Small”. Theory, Culture & Society, 2 (1):112–113. Brown, Richard H. (1977): A Poetic for Sociology: Toward a Logic of Discovery for the Human Sciences. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. . (1983): “Dialectical Irony: Literary Form and Sociological Theory”. Poetics Today, 4 (3):543–564. Burke, Kenneth (1936): Permanence and Change. New York: New Republic. . (1968): “Terministic Screens”, in Language as Symbolic Action: Essays on Life, Literature and Method. Berkeley: University of California Press. Burns, Tom (1992): Erving Goffman. London: Routledge. Bynum, Jack and Charles Pranter (1984): “Goffman: Content and Method for Seminal Thought”. Free Inquiry in Creative Sociology, 12:95–99. Cappetti, Carla (1993): Writing Chicago: Modernism, Ethnography and the Novel. New York: Columbia University Press.

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Catano, Gonzalo (1986): “El Ensayo Sociologico: Entre la ciencia y la literatura?” (“The Sociological Essay: Between Science and Literature?”). Revista Universidad de Antioquia, 206:50–72. Cioffi , Frank l97l: “Information, Contemplation and Social Life”, in The Proper Study: Royal Institute of Philosophy Lectures, Volume 4. London: Macmillan. . (1992): “Stating the Obvious”. The Times Literary Supplement, 4638:3– 4. . (2000): “The Propaedeutic Delusion: What Can ‘Ethogenic Science’ Add to Our Pre-Theoretic Understanding of ‘Loss of Dignity, Humiliation and Expressive Failure?’”. History of the Human Sciences, 13:108–123. Cioffi , Frank L. (2005): The Imaginative Argument: A Practical Manifesto for Writers. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. Clifford, James and Marcus George E. (eds.) (1986): Writing Culture: The Poetics and Politics of Ethnography. Berkeley: University of California Press. Collins, Randall (1981): “Three Stages of Erving Goffman”, in Sociology Since Midcentury. New York: Academic Press. . (1986): “The Passing of Intellectual Generations: Reflections on the Death of Erving Goffman”. Sociological Theory, 4 (1):106–113. Corradi, Consuelo (1990): “The Metaphoric Structure of Scientific Explanation”. Philosophy and Social Criticism, 16 (3):161–178. Coser, Lewis A. (1994): “Introduction”, in Lewis A. Coser (ed.): Everett C. Hughes on Work, Race and the Sociological Imagination. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Davis, Murray S. (1971): “That’s Interesting—Towards a Phenomenology of Sociology and a Sociology of Phenomenology”. Philosophy of the Social Sciences, 1 (4):309–344. . (1997): “Georg Simmel and Erving Goffman: Legitimators of the Sociological Investigation of Human Experience”. Qualitative Sociology, 20 (3):369– 388. Dawe, Alan (1973): “The Underworld-View of Erving Goffman”. British Journal of Sociology, 24:246–253. Denzin, Norman K. (2002): “Much Ado About Goffman”. American Sociologist, 33 (2):105–117. Eco, Umberto (1984): Semiotics and the Philosophy of Language. London: Macmillan. Edmondson, Ricca (1984): Rhetoric in Sociology. London: Macmillan. (n.d.): “Sansom, William 1912–1976”. Available at: http://www. (accessed April 3, 2007). Feyerabend, Paul K. (1975): Against Method: Outline of an Anarchist Theory of Knowledge. London: NLB/Verso. Fine, Gary A. and Daniel D. Martin (1990): “Sarcasm, Satire, and Irony as Voices in Erving Goffman’s Asylums”. Journal of Contemporary Ethnography, 19 (1):89–115. Fine, Gary Alan and Greg Smith (eds.) (2000): Erving Goffman: A Four Volume Set (Sage Masters in Modern Social Thought Series). London: Sage Publications. Foss, Daniel C. (1972): “Self and the Revolt Against Method”. Philosophy of the Social Sciences, 2:291–307. Frisby, David (1981): Sociological Impressionism: A Reassessment of the Social Theory of Georg Simmel. London: Heinemann. Geertz, Clifford (1980): “Blurred Genres: The Refiguration of Social Thought”. American Scholar, 49 (2):165–179. Giddens, Anthony (1984): The Constitution of Society. Cambridge: Polity Press.

144 Greg Smith and Michael Hviid Jacobsen Goffman, Erving (1953): Communication Conduct in an Island Community. Unpublished PhD dissertation, Department of Sociology, University of Chicago. . 1956): The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life. Edinburgh: University of Edinburgh Social Sciences Research Centre. . (1959): The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life. New York: Doubleday, Anchor Books. . (1961): Asylums: Essays on the Social Situation of Mental Patients and Other Inmates. New York: Doubleday, Anchor Books. . (1963a): Behavior in Public Places: Notes on the Social Organization of Gatherings. New York: Free Press. . (1963b): Stigma: Notes on the Management of Spoiled Identity. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall. . (1967): Interaction Ritual: Essays on Face-to-Face Behavior. New York: Pantheon Books. . (1971): Relations in Public: Microstudies of the Public Order. New York: Basic Books. . (1974): Frame Analysis: An Essay on the Organization of Experience. New York: Harper & Row. . (1979): Gender Advertisements. London: Macmillan. . (1981): Forms of Talk. Oxford: Blackwell. Grimshaw, Allen D. (1983): “Erving Goffman: A Personal Appreciation”. Language in Society, 12 (1):147–148. Gusfield, Joseph (1976): “The Literary Rhetoric of Science: Comedy and Pathos in Drinking Driver Research”. American Sociological Review, 41 (1):16–34. Handwerk, Gary J. (1985): Irony and Ethics in Narrative. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press. Hazelrigg, Lawrence (1992): “Reading Goffman’s Framing as a Provocation of a Discipline”. Human Studies, 15:239–264. Hoggart, Richard (1979): “Introduction”, in Erving Goffman: Gender Advertisements. London: Macmillan. Hutcheon, Linda (1992): “The Complex Functions of Irony”. Revista Canadiense de Estudios Hispánicos, 16 (2):219–234. Ingersoll Jr., Daniel W. (1997): “A Tale of Two Cities: Warner and Marquand in Newburyport”. Anthropology and Humanism, 22 (2):137–149. Irving, Donald C. (1983): “The Real World and the Made World: The Sociologist’s Use of Literary Analogy”. Publications of the Missouri Philological Association, 8:40–44. Jacobs, Ronald N. (1997): “Romance, Irony and Solidarity”. Sociological Theory, 15 (1):60–80. Jacobsen, Michael Hviid and Søren Kristiansen (2006): “Goffmans metaforer— om den genbeskrivende og rekontekstualiserende metode hos Erving Goffman”. Sosiologi i dag, 36 (1):5–33. Jaworski, Gary D. (2000): “Erving Goffman: The Reluctant Apprentice”. Symbolic Interaction, 23 (3):299–308. Kalekin-Fishman, Devorah (1988): “Games, Rituals and Theater: Elements in Goffman’s Grammar of Social Action”. Sociologia Internationalis, 26 (2):133–146. Kierkegaard, Søren (1965): The Concept of Irony. New York: Harper & Row. Koestler, Arthur (1969): The Act of Creation. London: Hutchinson. Kuhn, Thomas S. (1962): The Structure of Scientifi c Revolutions. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Kundera, Milan (1986): The Art of the Novel. London: Faber & Faber.

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Lemert, Charles (1992): “General Social Theory, Irony, Postmodernism”, in Steven Seidman and David Wagner (eds.): Postmodernism and Social Theory. Oxford: Blackwell. Lepenies, Wolf (1988): Between Literature and Science: The Rise of Sociology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Lofland, John (1980): “Early Goffman: Style, Structure, Substance, Soul”, in Jason Ditton (ed.): The View from Goffman. London: Macmillan. . (1984): “Erving Goffman’s Sociological Legacies”. Urban Life, 13 (1):7–34. Manning, Peter K. (1976): “The Decline of Civility: A Comment on Erving Goffman’s Sociology”. Canadian Review of Sociology and Anthropology, 13 (1):13–25. . (1980): “Goffman’s Framing Order: Style as Structure”, in Jason Ditton (ed.): The View from Goffman. London: Macmillan. Manning, Philip (1992): Erving Goffman and Modern Sociology. Cambridge: Polity Press. Marcus, George E. (1986): “Ethnography in the Modern World System”, in Clifford James and Marcus George E. (eds.) (1986): Writing Culture: The Poetics and Politics of Ethnography. Berkeley: University of California Press. Marquand, John P. (1949): Point of No Return. London: Robert Hale. Musil, Robert (1953/1995): The Man Without Qualities, Volume I. London: Minerva. Nelson, John, Allan Megill and Donald McCloskey (eds.) (1987): The Rhetoric of the Human Sciences: Language and Argument in Scholarship and Public Affairs. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press. Nisbet, Robert A. (1976/2002): Sociology as an Art Form. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers. Nunberg, Geoffrey (1981): “The Theatricality of Everyday Life”. New York Times Book Review, May 10th. Ricks, Christopher (1981): “Phew! Ooops! Oof!”. The New York Review of Books, 28 (12), July 16th. Rigney, Daniel (2001): The Metaphorical Society: An Invitation to Social Theory. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. Rorty, Richard (1989): Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Rose, Dan (1989): Living the Ethnographic Life. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications. Schwartz, Howard and Jerry Jacobs (1979): Qualitative Methods: A Method to the Madness. New York: Free Press. Smith, Greg (2003): “Ethnomethodological Readings of Goffman”, in A. Javier Treviño (ed.): Goffman’s Legacy. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield. . (2006): Erving Goffman. London: Routledge. Strong, Philip M. (1982): “Review of Forms of Talk”. Sociology, 16 (3):453– 455. Travers, Andrew (1999): “Non-Person and Goffman: Sociology Under the Influence of Literature”, in Greg Smith (ed.): Goffman and Social Organization: Studies in a Sociological Legacy. London: Routledge. Trilling, Lionel (1947/1970): “Manners, Morals and the Novel”, in The Liberal Imagination: Essays on Literature and Society. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books. van den Hoonaard, Will C. (1997): Working with Sensitizing Concepts: Analytical Field Research. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications. Verhoeven, Jef C. (1993): “An Interview with Erving Goffman”. Research on Language and Social Interaction, 26 (3):317–348. Williams, Robin (1983): “Sociological Tropes: A Tribute to Erving Goffman”. Theory, Culture & Society, 2 (1):98–102.


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. (1988): “Understanding Goffman’s Methods”, in Paul Drew and Anthony Wootton (eds.): Erving Goffman—Exploring the Interaction Order. Boston: Northeastern University Press. Winkin, Yves (1992): “Baltasound as the Symbolic Capital of Social Interaction”. Paper presented to the Conference of the International Communication Association, Atlanta, GA, May 24, 1992. Reprinted in Gary Alan Fine and Greg Smith (eds.) (2000): Erving Goffman: A Four Volume Set (Sage Masters in Modern Social Thought Series). London: Sage Publications. Woolgar, Steve (1983): “Irony in the Social Science Study of Social Science”, in Karin D. Knorr-Cetina and Michael Mulkay (eds.): Science Observed: Perspectives on the Social Study of Science. London: Sage Publications. Wright, Edmond L. (1978): “Sociology and the Irony Model”. Sociology, 12 (3):523–543. Zussman, Robert (2001): “Still Lonely After All These Years”. Sociological Forum, 16 (1):157–166.


Goffman, Still Spoiled Identities and Sociological Irony Charles Lemert

INTRODUCTION Who, in his day, would have thought that Erving Goffman’s writings would endure as long as they have? Today, after the first decade of the 2000s, almost three decades after his death in 1982, Goffman remains near the top of reading lists the world over. In Europe, he may be read more today than in his hey-day. This perhaps because the European social theorists, brilliant though many are, seem not to have the caché they once enjoyed in the Anglophone worlds. The fascination with Goffman extends to East Asia, where I was pleased to learn on a recent visit that a group of advanced graduate students at the Academica Sinica (Taiwan’s Institute for Advanced Study) were organising a reading group on Goffman’s Frame Analysis (1974). What struck me was that, beyond an evident familiarity with Goffman’s work, the students had made this choice after having worked their way through works like A Thousand Plateaus by Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari (1980/1987). In the English-reading worlds, the continuing number of books on and about Goffman’s ideas is further evidence of the resiliency of one who in his time, now a good while ago, was a bit of a curiosity, especially to the Americans.

GOFFMAN, THE FRENCH AND THE AMERICAN 1960S Alvin W. Gouldner’s once-famous dismissal in The Coming Crisis of Western Sociology of Goffman’s dramaturgy as no more than “a complexly articulated theoretical expression that resonates the new experience of the educated middle class” (Gouldner 1970:389) seems wrong for many reasons—not least due to the disappearance of the once new middle classes. As astute an interpreter as Gouldner was, he did not grasp the changes already taking hold in Europe when he left it in 1976 to return to St. Louis. Goffman, on the other hand, seems to have enjoyed a plausible affi nity with the early ideas of many of the now famous developments in European social theory, especially those in France and Italy. The point cannot be proven so much as suggested by Goffman’s well-known proclivity for Émile Durkheim, in whose later writings so many of the French who came after found warrant for the general notion that the apprehension of things in themselves is social, not mental, and thus devilishly removed from the


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positive facts represented in the musings of the social and human sciences. One could say that the now long French tradition of taking apart (one wants at all costs to avoid the much abused term ‘deconstructing’) received traditions of knowledge is not unreliably homologous to Goffman’s idea that the truth of social appearances is found not in appearances but in the strategic control of information arising from schemes construed in a backstage. That affinity is, I think, one of the reasons why Goffman remains, still, a figure of importance. I remember very well Pierre Bourdieu’s personal distress with the Americans who streamed to visit him in the 1970s only to open with the frame analysis of Bourdieu as France’s Goffman. For Bourdieu the comparison was outlandish because it gave the deference to the American; but also because his ideas (already fi xed in general outline in Outline of a Theory of Practice in 1974) had not yet caused his star1 to shine among the then more brilliant of the Parisian social thinkers—notably Michel Foucault, with whom Bourdieu forged a political alliance in the historian’s last years before his death in 1984. But these were the early years of Bourdieu’s ascent to the Collège de France and the public attentions that were, then at least, attached to the academic and literary honour. Yet, I always believed that Bourdieu seemed out of sorts with his public and scientific reception both in France and the United States. He was of course in his way very, very French in his style of writing, his deep philosophical learning and facility with ideas, and his ventures toward engaging the political and cultural issues of his day in France (nowhere more strikingly than in the paired concepts, habitus/champ). Yet, Bourdieu also sought the regard of American sociology even though his thinking was so much at odds with American empiricism. The Bourdieu–Goffman relation (or general lack thereof) is worth the mention in respect to Goffman’s remarkable staying power because, when it comes to sociology in the 1970s, Bourdieu and Goffman were symptomatic of the dilemmas global sociology was facing and, to a degree, still is. It is very easy today to forget (or, for the young, never to have experienced) the degree to which 1966–1970 (the years on either side of 1968) were a conjunctural moment in social and cultural thought. Immanuel Wallerstein, for his own (and very well founded) reasons, refers to 1968 as the year of a world revolution, by which he meant, in general terms, the revolution that spelled the beginning of the end of the liberal synthesis that had organised industrial modernity in the West, beginning (in his view) with the triumph of liberal ideologies over conservative and radical ideologies in 1848. If you accept (as I do) that Wallerstein is essentially correct in saying, in effect, that the liberal state that stood as the guarantor of the technically free market-based capitalist world-system, then 1968 was truly a global conjuncture—the end of one global culture and the beginning of a long period of uncertainty.2 In the United States, and to a lesser extent in France, the 1960s Romance comes and goes. For the French, Mai ‘68 was rooted in the originating

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revolution of July 1789. For the Americans who had experienced 1968 and were at the core of the world economy (if not of global power pure and simple), the 1960s Romance was not a renewal of an original, archetypical political moment but a quest for the foundational truths that their July 4, 1776, whatever its virtues, ignored. By 1968, France had lost its colonial stake in North Africa, if not its economic and cultural interests in the region. By contrast from 1776 up into the 1960s, even to the Obama period to which many attributed a new beginning in global race relations, the Americans retained their primordial stake in the slave trade and all that issued therefrom. The social costs of cheap labour from colonies, even former colonies, are cheaper by far than the social and moral costs of labour power descendent from a foundational slave system. Political and cultural radicals in the American 1960s were not, as often they were in France, either Maoist or Stalinist. The American New Left was, instead, a generational struggle with a still more vulgar kind of Marxism that had filtered through the vagaries of labour politics, often through family histories. The original emptiness of American political culture—that no man’s land of the racial evil that could not be thought—achieved its pure, positive expression in the terrible vacuity of the counter-culture’s preoccupation with consciousness. Steal This Book, Do It, Maharishi Yoga, The Scum Manifesto, Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, Woodstock, The Making of a Counterculture, California Dreamin’, the Zen of Motorcycle Maintenance, Apocalypse Now, Altamont, and so on and so forth were icons of ideals never before dreamt of until then in the United States—ideals, as it turned out, better forgotten as soon enough they were. When all was said and done what radical politics born then were not of a well thought-through ideology so much as a headlong rush into the struggle against war in Vietnam—a struggle won more or less on the disruptions of the then young, including the Bloods and other broken warriors in Vietnam who agreed with the words the Viet Cong put in Muhammad Ali’s mouth: “No Viet Cong ever called me nigger”.3 How, then, does the world revolution of 1968 (if we agree to call it that) figure in the currency then and still today of Goffman’s ideas? Ink has been spilt, beginning notably with Gouldner’s famous condemnation, on the question of Goffman’s politics—or lack thereof in the sense that politics were then understood. Yet, if for the sake of getting to the dark heart of the matter, one were to consider an alternate view of politics as the actions and reactions recurring in the undercroft of surface events, one might think of Goffman as a political figure of this kind.4

STIGMA AND THE SPOILING OF THE UNBLUSHING MALE If there is one deeply dark and disturbing text among the many he unleashed on his readers, Goffman’s Stigma: Notes on the Management of Spoiled Identity (1963) would be that text. From his earliest essays—among them


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“On Cooling the Mark Out” (1952) and “On Face-Work” (1955)—Goffman was heading toward something like Stigma. But even these most famously creepy of his early essays were closer to the earlier The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life (1956 [UK edition] and 1959 [US revised edition]) than to Stigma’s dark probes beyond the visible and doable. The latter’s titular allusion to spoiled identity as a half-world away from the earlier book’s optimism of well-presented selves. To the extent that Gouldner had a point about Goffman having been—or having appeared to have been—a willing accomplice to the conforming superficialities of American life in the 1950s, it was a point to be taken from The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life’s dramaturgy of the self as managed impression. You can find, of course, a great deal in this book that recurs in Stigma, but what lingers on is to be found in the knotty desiderata of back-stage manoeuvres seeking the attentions of a willing audience—in that lies the lighter touch of cynicism in The Presentation of Self. There is a drama to be sure in Stigma’s theory of the management of spoiled identities. But in the later book, in 1963, the chord struck is on the sour note of spoilage, while in 1956 the self presented is assumed to be presentable. Hence, in The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life: Underlying all social interaction there seems to be a fundamental dialectic. When one individual enters the presence of others, he will want to discover the facts of the situation. Were he to possess this information, he could know, and make allowance for, what will come to happen and he could give the others present as much of their due as is consistent with his enlightened self-interest . . . The individual tends to treat the others present on the basis of the impression they give now about the past and the future. It is here that communicative acts are translated into moral ones. (Goffman 1959:249) Though the book is busy with nuance, passages like this one prevail in The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life, where the quieting theme is the likelihood that the presenting self can and will succeed, notwithstanding the tricks and deceptions essential to that success. This most famous of his books is, thus, well within what might be called Goffman’s Durkheimian period—which begins in “Face-Work” (1955), with its subtitle “An Analysis of Ritual Elements in Social Interaction”. The Durkheim period continues at least to Interaction Ritual (1967), the collection of essays that embrace the earliest and most frequent references to Durkheim as the source of interaction rituals as the cohesive social factors binding the straining urge to present a self as one would want to be. Later books—Strategic Interaction (1969) and Relations in Public (1971)—are still within this dispensation, though they press its outer limits to the point where Frame Analysis (1974) breaks free toward a more formal analysis of conversation of which the high-point is the benedictory, posthumous essay “Felicity’s Condition” (1983b) in the American Journal of Sociology.

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Goffman’s writing life spanned a good thirty years from the early years of the 1950s to the early 1980s in the months before his death in 1982. Stigma occurred in 1963 just before the mid-point of that span, still in the Durkheimian period and well before the more structural studies of talk and mind. Yet, it is hard to reconcile Stigma’s main line of argument (not to mention its more ironic literary method) with either the Durkheimian or structuralist phases. For example, from Stigma: The attitudes we normals have toward a person with a stigma, and the actions we take in regard to him, are well known, since these responses are what benevolent social action is designed to soften and ameliorate. By definition, of course, we believe the person with a stigma is not quite human. On this assumption we exercise varieties of discrimination, through which we effectively, if often unthinkingly, reduce his life chances . . . We use specific stigma terms such as cripple, bastard, moron in our daily discourse as a source of metaphor and imagery, typically without giving thought to the original meaning. (Goffman 1963:5) Or: The stigmatized individual is asked to act so as to imply neither that his burden is heavy nor that bearing it has made him different from us; at the same time he must keep himself at that remove from us which ensures our painlessly being able to confi rm this belief about him. Put differently, he is advised to reciprocate naturally with an acceptance of himself and us, an acceptance of him that we have not quite extended him in the fi rst place. A phantom acceptance is thus allowed to provide the base for a phantom normalcy. So deeply, then, must he be caught up in the attitude of the self that is defined as normal in our society, so thoroughly must he be a part of this defi nition, that he can perform this self in a faultless manner to an edgy audience that is half-watching him in terms of another show. (Goffman 1963:122) Words like these are very different in tone and sensibility from those in the earlier writings. Gone, from this moment on, is the good faith that a person can act through a sense of self. When this optimism reappears, as it does in the end (in “Felicity’s Condition”), it appears not as the effort of a presenting self set upon a stage but as a felicitous condition that inhabits talking individuals reaching for each other’s mind amid believable worlds. After Stigma, what remains of the front-stage/back-stage imagery is anything but the managed impression, even of a loss of face, much less (now) a spoiled identity. A stigma is definitive. It corrupts the one to whom it is attached and, in the process, corrupts the normals who, in the face of it, lose their own sense of moral generosity. The normals are, thus, ghosts who fi nd themselves unable and unwilling to give the benefit of their doubts to


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one who knows very well that he deserves not their kindness. In Stigma, the one with a spoiled identity faces “an edgy audience that is half-watching him in terms of another show”. The show is now an out-in-the-open phantasmagoria in which audience and performer collude not to negotiate a constructive script but to calm their troubles before a face that can never be repaired. Neither side is confident. By contrast, throughout The Presentation of Self the management of an impression is at the least normal, if not in all instances assured. For example, in “Tact Regarding Tact”: First, the performer must be sensitive to hints and ready to take them, for it is through hints that the audience can warn the performer that his show is unacceptable and that he had better modify it quickly if the situation is to be saved. Secondly, if the performer is to misrepresent the facts in any way, he must do so in accordance with the etiquette for misrepresentation; he must not leave himself in a position from which even the lamest excuse and the most co-operative audience cannot extricate him. (Goffman 1959:234) As in everything Goffman wrote, the literary tone is a key to a difference in the angle of vision, thus to the theory (if such a word applies to his writing). In Stigma, just four years after the revised American version of The Presentation of Self (1959), the reader is led down an alley much less readily illuminated. Here, in Stigma, there are few traces of the themes in the earlier book where the dramatic presentation was a fi ne-tuned performance in which the desired impression could almost always be managed. It is not that tone is everything. Goffman’s ironic method, apparent from beginning to end, holds the reader at arm’s length. She, in fact, is the everedgy auditor who may well have come to the fore in Stigma. She, the reader, is now asked to manage the outlandish possibility that “human nature is not a very human thing”. But, even in “Face-Work,” where this jarring line occurs, the distinctive note is that the lost face can be repaired, however inhumanly. Certainly this remains true of The Presentation of Self. But when one gets to Stigma the major notes are ever more flat. Instead of tact in the repair or management of a face, the theme is the irreparability of face. Normals are those who can lose face but repair it. Even, in The Presentation of Self, Goffman allows that those in the irreparable circumstance are not beyond the pale in the sense that their very existence disturbs or disqualifies the normals. Still, as close as he gets to the extreme are the long descriptive chapters in The Presentation of Self (Chapters 4 and 5) on discrepant roles and communication out of character. Hence, in the later instance, communications out of character remain within the dramatic order by treating the absent with a degree of respect, staging talk, colluding and realigning. “Whether the performers feel their official offering is the ‘realest’

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reality or not, they give surreptitious expression to multiple versions of reality, each version tending to be incompatible with the others” (Goffman 1959:207). Communicating out of character, thus, is the way of this world in which the management of selves draws up and demands a widely shared competence in tolerating the indefi niteness of characters having their way with the common lot. One might say that part of the incongruity between The Presentation of Self and Stigma owes to the avowedly institutional focus of the former, an aspect that culminates in the concept of the total institution in Asylums: Essays on the Social Situation of Mental Patients and Other Inmates (1961). The Presentation of Self thus begins: “I mean this report to serve as a sort of handbook detailing one sociological perspective from which social life can be studied, especially the kind of social life that is organised within the physical confi nes of a building or plant” (Goffman 1959:x). And Asylums: “Social establishments—institutions in every sense of that term—are places such as rooms, suites of rooms, buildings, or plants in which activity of a particular kind goes on” (Goffman 1961:4). The institutional factor remains at the fore through at least Frame Analysis (1974), and notably in the essays of Goffman’s theory of the spatial aspects of public settings such as Relations in Public (1971). But after the early 1960s the institutional frame begins to wane. To be sure the language of establishments and settings remains, but by the time of Frame Analysis ‘organisation’ refers to the ‘organisation of experience’ and ‘frame’ refers to extraordinary social interactions: In looking at strips of everyday, actual doings involving flesh-and-blood individuals in face-to-face dealings with one another, it is tempting and easy to draw a clear contrast to copies presented in fictive realms of being. The copies can be seen as mere transformations of an original, and everything uncovered about the organizations of fictive scenes can be seen to apply only to copies, not to the actual world. Frame analysis would then become the study of everything but ordinary behavior . . . However, though this approach might be the most congenial, it is not the most profitable. For actual activity is not merely to be contrasted with something obviously unreal, such as dreams, but also to sports, games, ritual, experimentation, practicing, and other arrangements, including deception, and these activities are not all that fanciful. Furthermore, each of these alternatives to the everyday is different from the others in a different way. (Goffman 1974:563) Goffman, thus, draws back from a theory of framed realities as simulacra—as copies without originals. But, at the same time, he lets on to a wink consistent with his multiple realities idea (which in Frame Analysis is taken explicitly from William James) that appears in The Presentation of Self but comes to an uncertain fore in Stigma.

154 Charles Lemert Stigmata are not fictive, but they do involve an angular and incomplete joint between the virtual and the real.5 A stigma arises in the discrediting of a virtual identity offered as the real thing by the appearance of actual facts of a person’s character (Goffman 1963:2–3). Stigma may not be the most elegant of Goffman’s writings (“Felicity’s Condition” is), but it is surely the most theoretically coherent of the books (if not certain of the essays, of which, again, “Felicity’s Condition” is the exemplar). There is not a part of this very short book not tightly bound to the parcel as a whole. The very idea of stigma as a state of being discredited leads necessarily to the urgency (now, in contrast to The Presentation of Self) of information control which, in turn, entails the knowing mastery of strategic and dark secrets between which passings of all kinds take place; then, continuing, there ensues the justly disturbing theory of identities as articulated between social identities (which against the threat of discrediting must be controlled) and personal ones (wherein lie the marks of the individual’s actual nature, the darker facts able to do the dirty work of discrediting). But the crucial entailment, and the one that changes everything that remained implicit in earlier writings, is the concept of ego identity or, as he markedly puts it, ‘felt’ identity. Goffman’s ‘ego’ sheds all the specific gravity attributed to the inner self by writers as much at odds with one another as William James and Sigmund Freud. Goffman’s ego is, like theirs, ‘subjective’ and ‘reflexive’, but more even than Freud’s his ego is caught between two exterior powers. Goffman’s ego identity is a feeling state and the state it feels is the ambivalence of being between the panopticon of social scrutiny and the urgency of a private integrity that relies not on interaction rituals or on the sympathy of strangers so much as on the bare reality of feelings that flow between the inner and the outer (Goffman 1963:106). Therefrom derives Goffman’s prescient statement of what much later would be called the politics of identity. This is light years from impression management. The conforming self is lost behind the ambivalence of identities in a welter of politics. The dramatic stool is now set not in a high-ticket theatre but in the bowels of the body politic where all tickets are dear because the price of admission is at once free to all and mortally dangerous. This would be, one might say, a segregated discrimination of faces in which repair work never ends. Stigma goes to an extreme that one would not have predicted from the gentler tones and stage settings of The Presentation of Self and other writings of the 1950s. Stigma is darker and more ironic than any of Goffman’s writings. And no place more so than in the hilarious remark that is the comic centerpiece of his identity politics: In an important sense there is only one complete unblushing male in America: a young, married, white, urban, northern, heterosexual Protestant father of college education, fully employed, of good complexion, weight and height, and a recent record in sports. Every American male tends to look out upon the world from this perspective, this

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constituting one sense in which one can speak of a common value system in America. Any male who fails to qualify in any of these ways is likely to view himself—during moments at least—as unworthy, incomplete, and inferior; at times he is likely to pass and at times he is likely to fi nd himself being apologetic or aggressive concerning the knownabout aspects of himself he knows are probably seen as undesirable. (Goffman 1963:129) If he—that one!—is in the end no one at all, then who are we? One of the reasons Goffman, more than any writer of the genre in his day, used ‘we’ inclusively is that his ‘we’, as here, is not a presumptive marker of an exclusive class of characters but the we of some ubiquitous social space in which the reader fi nds herself without knowing exactly how she got there. Hence, at the very end of Stigma, just when he begins to ease the reader’s way back to what may remain of her hold on ordinary reality, Goffman offers a concept that may at fi rst appear to be merely clever, when in fact it is devastating to the aspirations of America’s cultural desires early then in the 1960s: the normal deviant. This one is not, it turns out, the anxietyprovoking individual whose stigma keeps everyone on guard. The normal deviant, it happens, is everyone: One can assume that the stigmatized and the normal have the same mental make-up, and that this necessarily is the standard one in our society; he who can play one of these roles, then, has exactly the required equipment for playing out the other, and in fact in regard to one stigma or another is likely to have developed some experience in doing so. Most important of all, the very notion of shameful differences assumes a similarity in regard to crucial beliefs, those regarding identity. Even where an individual has quite abnormal feelings and beliefs, he is likely to have quite normal concerns and employ quite normal strategies in attempting to conceal these abnormalities from others. (Goffman 1963:131) Just after this startling paragraph, Goffman introduces an example from an earlier time, but with a difference not previously evident. Here the abnormal one is an ex-mental patient. The structural world of inmates, whether of the Shetland Hotel (that had been the observational setting for The Presentation of Self) or of mental hospitals (in Asylums), is now a weird ubiquity in which in effect everyone is an inmate. In Stigma, institutions—whether total or public—no longer serve as the settings in which social experience is established. At the same time, the fabled individual of moral agency and that kind of thing does not rise to assume the vacated territory. It is a bit too harsh to suggest that in Stigma Goffman leaves the reader with identities without hearts, sensualists without spirit (to recall Max Weber’s famous line).

156 Charles Lemert In truth, he leaves the reader to the side—no longer the primary audience of his comic wit. Here Goffman enters the space of social establishments wherein neither the abstract ‘actor’ nor the reader herself has a sound footing. This is the space that, since at least Hegel and Marx, social theory has defi ned as that between self and its other, where among sociologists the other has for too, too long been conceived as some sort of macro-object to the micro-settings’ subjectivities. Yes, in Stigma the shreds of the moral self are strained through the colander of subjective feelings about the discrediting slop into which they have dunked. The feelings are not, it would seem, those of a psychology of emotions but of the generic affections that inhabit the nether spaces between the human and nature—a space in which there may be an interaction order, as Goffman clearly believed, but, if there is, it is an order that is always under assault from the varieties of being that constitute the beyond of mere ‘multiple selves’. This is a space of true human feeling, where the originals are fictive and the copies are true to what they can work through against the odds of their inevitable abnormalities. Stigma comes on the scene in 1963 well into the time in the loosely united states of America when the code of silence protecting the unblushing male was already cracked if not in the open for inspection. A Catholic was president. A Black was stirring the racial pot in ways beyond significant reproach. Feminists, early, were beginning to name the problem that until then had no name. Algeria had won its freedom from France. Franz Fanon, dying of cancer, had defi nitively pronounced the then known world as a world cut in two. The prevailing new attitude was not yet ironic, but it was beginning to sense the contradictions deep within the modern ideals of a common value system. In 1963, Goffman’s theory of spoiled identities, if not exactly far removed from the more pacific theme of the Durkheimian 1950s, was at least framed with some other social and political dispensation in mind. As ever, his wit was quick to the cuticle. But now Stigma bled the nail bed. The Presentation of Self, to be sure, was hardly a well-trimmed piece of writing. But it was not bloody. It was shocking to some, but not enough to blush the unthinking normal. Stigma, however, was dark, most certainly when set against the false light of the ebullient early 1960s. Today, it has the power to trick the reader into an underworld of human abjection. Its ideas were not quite fecal but they were, in Goffman’s words, about the spoilage of human identities.

THE IRONIC FELICITY OF THE SPOILED CONDITION If Stigma in 1963 is so decisive, what thereafter becomes of the 1963 book’s stark figure of spoilage? After 1963, Goffman did not wander aimlessly in several directions at once. The Durkheimian theme remained for a good

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while; as did the institutional frame—both well into the 1970s. It is true that another more language-based attitude emerges after the move to the University of Pennsylvania in 1969. But even Frame Analysis (1974), whatever complaints some have against it, could not be said to be a formal grammar of social forms. Nor in the end is “Felicity’s Condition” (1983b), the most intensely socio-linguistic of all his writings, mere grammar. This last best essay should, I think, serve as the measure of Stigma’s singularity. Without discounting any of the writings before and between, the contrasts between the 1963 book and the 1983 posthumously published essay span the full range of Goffman’s genius. One is as coherent as the other. Each is a literary marvel. Yet, the two, in their differences, refract the brightness of the other. The brilliance of “Felicity’s Condition” sparkles at several levels at once, not quite the same as Stigma’s. The essay is, fi rst, a reworking of the already then well-developed Austin-Searle theory of performative utterances. Then, second, a move to dislodge the alreadytoo-by-then narrowing of sociological conversational analysis in order to relocate talk in a more fluid and, importantly, more serious theory of the rhetoric of talk in conversational settings where the felicity condition of sane communication must be observed. And, among many other sterling features, the essay amounts to a radical theory of mind as a social thing— a theory that may have been indebted to the earlier Durkheimian period, certainly informed by the socio-linguistics for which, then, the University of Pennsylvania was noted, but also one that refuses to limit the social to the setting. None of these aspects is a remarkable, even evident, aspect of Stigma. The departure, while anything but absolute, is conveyed by the acute concluding words: In sum, then, whenever we come into contact with another through the mails, over the telephone, in face-to-face talk, or even merely through immediate co-presence we fi nd ourselves with one central obligation: to render our behavior understandably relevant to what the other can come to perceive is going on. Whatever else, our activity must be addressed to the other’s mind, that is, to the other’s capacity to read our words and actions for evidence of our feelings, thoughts, and intent. This confi nes what we say and do, but it also allows us to bring to bear all of the world to which the other can catch allusions. (Goffman 1983b; here quoted from Lemert and Branaman 1997:191–192) In one sense, this fi nal major essay is also the most tranquil of any Goffman wrote. Here the wit is suppressed, the concepts well-tuned and the logic is, in a word, logical in a Goffmanian sort of way. The final essays of the early 1980s—including even the hilarious opening paragraphs of “The Interaction Order” (his undelivered 1982 presidential address to the American Sociological Association published in 1983)—are more sober on average than those that litter the earliest writings. Still, the

158 Charles Lemert break away from institutional analysis that was initiated by Stigma was, in the end, not just apparent but dominant. “Felicity’s Condition” binds the obligation to address the ‘mind’ of the other not to anything like an interaction ritual but to “all of the world to which the other can catch allusions”. Talk is the medium but the message must massage a vast territory of uncertainty. Above all, the one who addresses the other must show himself to be, in effect, not insane. Felicity’s condition is, thereby the limiting condition that limits talk to performatives that, even when spoiled, are at least not insane in the sense of bearing no allusion to a world one might live in. Again, the world is the total setting in which sanity takes the number of the inmates. Still, Stigma, being a study of spoilage, is both inside and outside Goffman’s writings taken as a whole. There is nothing in it that would cause the reader to view him as insane in his later sense of the word. At the same time, there is a great deal in it that is not to be anticipated by what had come before or what would come to pass after. What might it matter, either way, if a thinker of such originality offers texts here and there at odds with the others? In one sense, it makes no important difference. Goffman no doubt would have remained, as he is today, a demanding resource for social thought. For him, especially, deviations were the spice that allowed the pudding to prove itself. One puts the batch at some risk of being burnt if the case for an exceptional case is baked too long. Yet, the risk may be instructive. Stigma came on the scene in the mid-1960s just when, in America especially, the 1960s Romance had begun to dim. From 1963, when John F. Kennedy was murdered, to the world-revolution in 1968, American culture had no choice but to grow up—a duty against which, like all adolescents, it rebelled. Throughout the 1940s and 1950s, America had exposed herself to the quick of global power, yet her lost innocence was hard to give up and embarrassing to reflect upon. Had the American Revolution of 1776 or the Civil War of the 1860s resolved into a more honest idea of America’s role in modern history, its 1960s might have been more true to the real limitations of her power. In the 1950s, the United States could not quite believe that the Soviets were authentic rivals for world dominance or that Negroes were ‘really’ treated that way. The Kennedys held tight to cold war doctrine and became believers in the cause of civil rights only when the evidence called upon them to act, thus to see with their own inner eyes. Otherwise, the American 1960s up to the assassination in 1963 were closer to the defiant tone of frivolous youth and the confusion of their parents in the white middle classes who looked on in bewilderment at the impurity of the gyrating hips. The era was comedic. Only when JFK’s death transposed him into the ghost of Abraham Lincoln did any number of Americans of these comfortable classes begin even to consider the possibility that the American Revolution had been, over the long haul, a tragic failure. Europeans in general, but the French in particular, were, to be sure, just as stupid in the ways that nation-states can be stupid. But they were

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acquainted with tragedy. Their 19th centuries were, straightforwardly preoccupied with empire and colonisation—with the failure of republics and the terrors of land wars on the continent. If there is anything about colonisation, as opposed to domestic slavery, that may be redemptive it is that the evil is there for all to see. The Americans regionalised their colonial problem by compromises with the South that clung to the ruthless inequalities so typical of feudal colonies that in the long run could not but try to break the Union. But, just as terrible, after the Civil War, the industrial North’s Compromise of 1877 negated the fi nal terms of its victory by caving in to the political demands of the South to withdraw federal support for Reconstruction thus to restore the slave system de facto (Du Bois 1935). Jim Crow was the comedic farce of national pride just as a century later Dr. Strangelove was interlocutor of the bitter minstrel show of American global power. The thing about political comedy is that the joke is on the jokester. It always ends as tragedy, as in Marx’s famous play on Hegel that all worldhistorical revolutions occur twice: one as tragedy, then again as farce. He was referring of course to the failure of 1848 in France. If the world revolution of 1968 was, as I think it was, the third time around, then it was the event in which all traces of comedy, even farce, had disappeared. In the United States, from 1963 to 1968, everything brash and bold was drained away by Vietnam, by assassinations, by the pharmaceutical degradations of the counterculture, by the election of Richard Nixon. If, then too, by 1989–1991 what had become of 1968 reached its natural point of exhaustion only to lie in waiting for 9/11, then what remains of the tragedy of America’s failure of nerve at war and refusal to come to terms with global realities could no longer be measured by a tragedian’s plot. The deaths, thereafter, were real, the losses grave. But, in contrast to the terrible carnage of the Civil War, sometime between the futile defeats in Vietnam in 1975 and 9/11 the republic of suffering (Faust 2008) gave way to more ironic agony. This, I suppose, is why Erving Goffman remains still as fresh as he was in his time—and why, in particular, Stigma is not the exception but the glaring rule of his ironic method. It was not just that he deployed irony as a rhetoric device, but that his jokes on the normals were all the more wry. It was not my impression that he was a bitter man—even if, as many confi rm, he was odd in a purposeful sort of way. But his ideas did leave a bitter taste—not one of his own making, but the taste of the times that after 1963 turned sour, then from sour to acidic, then in our time, after the end of the Bush era, downright deadly. Whether an Obama era can slow the deadliness of the global flow will be seen. But it is unlikely ever to return the American dream back to sweetness and light—and that would be good; and likely the reason so many have such a taste for Goffman still. The miracle of his writings is that in reading them we do not notice the bitter pill he makes us swallow until the stomach churns and the bowels explode. Irony is not a joke.


Charles Lemert

NOTES 1. On the star (or vedette) culture in Paris in those days, see Lemert (2006; originally in Charles Lemert: French Sociology: Rupture and Renewal Since 1968, Columbia University Press, 1982). 2. See Wallerstein (2004) Chapters 4 and 5, among other places. 3. On the truth of the remark and its history see, inter alia, Lemert (2003, Chapter 4). 4. At the risk of referencing without explaining, a variant of this way of thinking is found today in the astonishing revival of the social as rhizomatic—a system without roots so much as tendrils growing in every which direction below the surface of things; as in Deleuze and Guattari (1980/1987) which has becom`e in some quarters the locus classicus of the unruly nature of hidden social forces. 5. As in other respects, the vaguely Durkheimian element remains in this idea as it does, though at a remove, in rhizomatic aspects of Goffman’s method. For one, of several examples, the virtual–real distinction was salient in Jean Baudrillard’s notoriously postmodern radicalism, especially in Simulacra and Simulations (Baudrillard 1981/1983).

REFERENCES Baudrillard, Jean (1981/1983): Simulacra and Simulations. New York: Sémiotexte. Bourdieu, Pierre (1974): Outline of a Theory of Practice. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Du Bois, W. E. B. (1935): Black Reconstruction. New York: Harcourt Brace. Deleuze, Gilles and Felix Guattari (1980/1987): Thousand Plateaus. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Faust, Drew Gilpin (2008): The Republic of Suffering. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Goffman, Erving (1952): “On Cooling the Mark Out: Some Aspects of Adaptation to Failure”. Psychiatry, 15:451–463. . (1955): “On Face-Work: An Analysis of Ritual Elements in Social Interaction”. Psychiatry, 18 (3):213–231. . (1959): The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life. New York: Anchor Books. . (1961): Asylums: Essays on the Social Situation of Mental Patients and Other Inmates. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books. . (1963): Stigma: Notes on the Management of Spoiled Identity. Chicago: Aldine. . (1967): Interaction Ritual: Essays on Face-to-Face Behavior. New York: Pantheon Books. . (1969): Strategic Interaction. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. . (1971): Relations in Public: Microstudies of the Public Order. New York: Basic Books. . (1974): Frame Analysis: An Essay on the Organization of Experience. New York: Harper & Row. . (1983a): “The Interaction Order”. American Review of Sociology, 48:1– 17. . (1983b): “Felicity’s Condition”. American Journal of Sociology, 89:1–53.

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Gouldner, Alvin W. (1970): The Coming Crisis of Western Sociology. New York: Basic Books. Lemert, Charles (2003): Muhammad Ali. Cambridge: Polity Press. . (2006): “Literary Politics and the Champ of French Sociology”, in Durkheim’s Ghosts. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Lemert, Charles and Ann Branaman (eds.) (1997): The Goffman Reader. Oxford: Blackwell. Wallerstein, Immanuel (2004): World-Systems Analysis. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

Part II

Reframing Goffman


Reconsidering Gender Advertisements Performativity, Framing and Display* Greg Smith

SITUATING GENDER ADVERTISEMENTS The notion of the sociological gaze is especially apt when applied to Erving Goffman. His was a strongly visually oriented way of apprehending the social world that bordered on the scopophilic. There are plenty of clues to this orientation in what is known about Goffman’s life and work. A brief spell spent working at the National Film Board of Canada in 1943 could well have awakened his visual imagination (Winkin 1988). For his master’s thesis, Goffman (1949) administered the Thematic Apperception Test (TAT)—a projective test that invites the subject to construct a story based around an ambiguous image—to a sample of (frequently sceptical) middle-class housewives (Smith 2003). His fi rst book (Goffman 1959) is famous for the emphasis it places on appearances. It and subsequent works did much to undermine any easy contrast between appearances and the so-called ‘realities’ of the social world. Goffman is said to have completed an unpublished study of New Yorker cartoons with his fi rst wife, Angelica (Yves Winkin, personal communication, 2008). Goffman’s key concepts on behaviour in public places (Goffman 1963a, 1971)—civil inattention, tie-signs and normal appearances—did much to flesh out Georg Simmel’s (1908/1921) notion of visual interaction. A visualist emphasis is also evident in the method and manner through which Goffman carried out his analyses. There is a significant sense in which some of Goffman’s written illustrations serve as proxy visual exhibits, for they demand that the reader envisage and envision the situation he describes, be it the teenage girl with no nose at the beginning of Stigma (Goffman 1963b), or the stuffed-to-overflowing jacket pocket of the mental patient in Asylums (Goffman 1961), or the pedestrian civilly disattending a passer-by on the street in Behavior in Public Places (Goffman 1963a). Working with images was an important part of Goffman’s mode of intellectual production. Goffman collected stories and photographs from newspapers on a regular basis for use in his classes and writings. One student reports that when Goffman was teaching, he was only really comfortable when he had images to present (Carol Gardner, personal communication,

166 Greg Smith 1996). Goffman’s abiding recognition of the consequentiality of the observable allows us to understand his sympathy and support for early efforts in the field of visual sociology. When he became President of the American Sociological Association, Goffman actively encouraged visual sociology presentations at the 1982 ASA annual meeting, ensuring that sessions were included in the programme that helped to link American visual sociologists with their European counterparts (Curry 1984:17). But the work that most clearly foregrounds Goffman’s visual orientation must surely be Gender Advertisements (Goffman 1979; henceforth GA), a remarkable volume that is unique in the sociological canon. Visual themes, then, suffuse Goffman’s writings and sociological practice. Harold Garfi nkel (2006) may have appropriated the phrase ‘seeing sociologically’ but it was Goffman’s writings that, as Dorothy Smith (cited in West 1996/2000) reminded us, taught many sociologists how to really ‘look sociologically’. The singularity of Goffman’s sociological gaze makes it both easy and apposite to speak of ‘Goffman’s sociology’. Yet it would be a mistake to assume that all his books and papers are alike, as if they were the product of a formula or recipe to which only he was privy. Each one of Goffman’s books, when seen up close, has its own distinctive characteristics. First and most obviously, GA stands out from the others (and stands out from major works in sociology more generally) for its use of more than 500 images drawn mainly from advertising to illustrate its sociological themes. At fi rst sight this album-sized volume with its images looks like a venture into coffee-table sociology. However, inspection of the often densely-argued text preceding the analysis of the pictures is likely to disabuse any reader who might be expecting an easy ride through a sociological picture book. In fact, the book’s images are rather more heterogeneous than Goffman’s title implies, or casual perusal might suggest. At least 37 of GA’s 508 images are news photographs, some featuring recognisable public figures. Former U.S. President Richard Nixon appears in around half a dozen of these images.2 Among other personages from the 1970s who provide illustrative fodder for Goffman are Prince Charles, President Gerald Ford, The Queen, Bing Crosby, Pope Paul, Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and the former Israeli premier Golda Meir. A young Germaine Greer appears in picture 301 (confi rmed by Carter 1979). Thus readers of GA are exposed not only to the anonymous and often perfect or stereotypical bodies of the advertising world but also to publicly recognisable figures.3 Other non-advertising images can be identified in the book. Without further clues to their provenance it is less easy to precisely or reliably frame their genre. There are perhaps a handful of images4 that might qualify as ‘private pictures’ (Goffman 1979:10), produced and designed to be seen only by an intimate social circle such as family members or work colleagues—were it not for the ‘keying’ (Goffman 1974) that their publication in GA at least partially achieves.5 Included among the apparently non-advertising images in GA are five late nineteenth century photographs taken

Reconsidering Gender Advertisements


from Michael Lesy’s 1973 book Wisconsin Death Trip, an engraving from Darwin’s monograph on the expression of the emotions, a Brassai image of Parisian nightlife in the 1930s, a TAT card, Dorothea Lange’s ‘Migrant Mother’, and a photograph of two skeletons known as the ‘Hasanlu lovers’.6 Notwithstanding the problems of unambiguously framing particular images, perhaps as much as 13% of the total 508 pictures derive from nonadvertising sources. Thus GA is not simply a book about advertising imagery. The presence of non-advertising images works to suggest the wider relevance of Goffman’s analyses beyond the advertising world. GA is unique in other respects too. It was originally published as the entirety of the fall 1976 issue of Studies in the Anthropology of Visual Communication, a journal established by Sol Worth (1976) and other faculty at the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg School for Communication (Goffman 1976). In the spring of 1979 it was reprinted as a monograph simultaneously in the United States and the United Kingdom. In the United States, Harvard University Press published the hardback edition, while Harper & Row took the paperback imprint. In the United Kingdom, the established social sciences publisher Macmillan obtained rights over both hard cover and paper editions. Macmillan’s role was not without controversy. Apparently Goffman was not fully consulted about the cover of fi rst printing of the UK edition. When he saw it, he did not approve. The cover consisted of a single striking photograph of two female models posed in a manner contrived to be alluring to the male gaze.7 In a sharp letter to his editor at Macmillan, Goffman complained that the picture exploited the very matter the text was meant to criticise. He insisted that GA was concerned with analysing the merchandising of culture, not aiding and abetting the process. It is worth noting that Goffman’s displeasure was registered well in advance of the publication of notices predictably critical of the book’s cover. One British reviewer wrote of the “offensively misleading cover of Gender Advertisements” (Kuhn 1980:316). Another—Pauline Hunt (1980)—observed that the photograph was a glaring example of “the use of women as sex-objects to promote the sale” of the book. She continued: “What are we to make of it? Has Goffman or his publisher picked up some useful hints in this study of the advertiser’s trade?” (Hunt 1980:443). While a book cannot be judged by its cover, a raw nerve in the politics of representation had been touched, just as Goffman had anticipated in his letter to the Macmillan editor. Subsequent printings of the UK edition were published under the more innocuous U.S. jacket. The differences between the 1976 journal and 1979 book versions are not significant. Compared to the journal version, the book makes some minor modifications of the written text, changes a few of the images used, and identifies the book’s images with a different, simpler numbering system. GA was the fi rst of Goffman’s books to be prefaced by a commentary by another writer. Within the rituals of academic publishing, the provision of such prefatory material is an esteem marker. Yet, the three pieces that were


Greg Smith

written to introduce the reader to the book each take strikingly different lines. Sol Worth’s “Editor’s Introduction” to the 1976 journal version concentrates on its contribution to visual sociology. Vivian Gornick’s “Introduction” to the U.S. edition focuses on its contribution to feminism (“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” (Gornick 1979:ix); see also West 1996/2000). Meanwhile, Richard Hoggart’s (1979) “Foreword” to the early British imprints plays up the kinship he detects between Goffman’s approach and the outlook and sensibilities of literary and cultural studies. Since its publication, GA has stimulated a number of commentaries and attempts at replication and development. Indeed, each of its three chapters, “Gender Displays”, “Picture Frames” and “Gender Commercials”, has provoked critical interpretations and has stimulated application to new empirical areas. Thus, one way of understanding GA’s various significances is to follow the themes taken up in each chapter. When approached this way, the main claims Goffman makes on those popular and academic audiences he has influenced are (1) a novel argument about the character of gender identity and gender relations in late modernity, (2) an original contribution to a sociological understanding of the status of the photograph and (3) an innovative way of doing visual sociology that has stimulated further inquiries into mediatised depictions of gendered persons and their conduct. The following three sections of this chapter will explore each of these themes in turn.

GENDER DISPLAY AND PERFORMATIVITY The central analytic unit in GA is the ethologically-intoned ‘gender display’. These are the non-verbal “conventionalised portrayals” (Goffman 1979:1) that any culture correlates with sex. Gender displays are the gestures and postures signifying sex–class membership that people produce and recognise while co-present with others. Goffman is open about how the notion of display allows him to exploit two different conceptions of ‘ritualisation’, one deriving from Émile Durkheim and the other from ethology. It is the ethological version that attracts Goffman. Instead of reading back from the ritual act to the social structure and its values, as the Durkheimian conception allows, the ethological notion of display encourages attention to matters of ‘alignment’, the position that the actor “seems prepared to take up in what is about to happen in the social situation” (Goffman 1979:1). Displays are simplified and stereotyped acts that provide an efficient way for a species-member to convey its intent in a situation. Goffman goes on to articulate a number of features of the structure of displays. Of particular interest is Goffman’s suggestion that human displays can be lifted from

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their original context and reframed as mockery, teasing and the like. In advertising, ritual acts that are already transformed to function as displays are further transformed by their placing in the advertising frame as a makebelieve scene. This double transformation is a ‘hyper-ritualization’. Consequently, the world portrayed in ritual is “not a picture of the way things are but a passing exhortative guide to perception” (Goffman 1979:3). Although the origin of the term gender display is ethological, the concept in Goffman’s hands is unequivocally cultural. The link between animal conduct and our own is mimetic rather than phylogenetic (Goffman 1979:4): for example, we grow up in households where the fawning of pet dogs provides a model of subordinate behaviour. The concept of gender display also indicates the distance travelled by his sociological project since the mid-1950s when The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life was fi rst written. Gender display is a flatter concept that allows Goffman to escape the awkwardness and internal contradictions of speaking of advertising a gendered presentation of self, lending his ideas on gender a theoretical coherence that invites comparison with Judith Butler’s (1990) more famed conceptions. In advance of his detailed analysis of advertising imagery, Goffman (1979:5) states that the most overarching pattern in gender displays is that “females are equivalent to subordinate males and both are equivalent to children”. In the book’s substantial pictorial chapter Goffman identifies six main forms of gender display: relative size; the feminine touch; function ranking; gender depictions of the family; the ritualization of subordination; and licensed withdrawal. Advertisers, seeking in their ads to make the actions they depict readable, stylise and exaggerate the same ritual idiom employed in everyday social situations. For this reason “their hype is hyper-ritualization” (Goffman 1979:84). The book’s analysis builds on Goffman’s theory of gender relations outlined in the 1977 article, “The Arrangement Between the Sexes”. In this companion piece to GA Goffman begins by raising a querulous eyebrow at the way societies make so much of the ‘very slight’ biological differences between the sexes. The vast sets of beliefs and practices erected around these differences provide the basis of the ‘institutional reflexivity’ theory of gender that Goffman proceeds to develop. Resurrecting ‘unfashionable functional paradigms’, Goffman argues that societies everywhere seem to seize upon sex–class membership and make it a marker of key social difference and essential human nature (according to Goffman (1977:315), “gender, not religion, is the opiate of the masses”). Goffman uses the institutional reflexivity notion to subvert common sense explanations of gender difference. Goffman rejects the widespread idea that gender-differentiated beliefs and practices reflect a somehow more fundamental biological division in the natures of men and women. Rather, institutional reflexivity posits that the different natures of men and women are constructed in and through the very beliefs and practices that supposedly honour and reflect this biological distinction. Goffman’s position is a strongly anti-essentialist

170 Greg Smith one: he states (running against his own usage, as he acknowledges) that “one should think of sex as a property of organisms, not a class of them” (Goffman 1977:305). Gender distinctions are socially constructed through everyday beliefs and practices including those found in household divisions of labour, the gendered division of toilet arrangements in public places, and a system of personal identification by fi rst name and title that biases categorisation of persons in gendered terms (Smith 2006:90–91). The “Arrangement” paper also introduces the notions of ‘gender identity’ and ‘genderism’. The former concerns the person’s “sense of who and what he is” (Goffman 1977:304) with reference to cultural ideals of masculinity (or femininity). The latter term, ‘genderism’ (a typically tongue-in-cheek Goffman invention) is an individually-enacted gender practice. The gender displays of GA are genderisms in this sense, as are the differences in men’s and women’s talk documented by scholars such as Deborah Tannen. Echoing his earlier (Goffman 1963a:21–22) distinction between the situational and merely situated aspects of conduct, Goffman is at pains to distinguish genderisms, which are manifested by socially-situated individuals, from practices that are more firmly institutionalised in collective terms, such as the practice of lining up children by gender before allowing their entry into the school building. It is becoming commonplace to observe that Goffman’s social constructionism seems to anticipate the celebrated performative conception of gender associated with Butler (1990). His view of gender displays as both the shadow and the substance of gender hierarchies broadly corresponds to Butler’s claim that gender is a thoroughly cultural and performed phenomenon, a ‘doing’. There are some striking similarities in the ideas and even the language of the two: Gender is a ‘doing’, . . . though not a doing by a subject who might be said to pre-exist the deed . . . there is no being behind the doing . . . the deed is everything . . . there is no gender identity behind the expressions of identity . . . identity is performatively constituted by the very ‘expressions’ that are said to be its results. (Butler 1990:25) What the human nature of males and females really consists of . . . is a capacity to learn to provide and to read depictions of masculinity and femininity and a willingness to adhere to a schedule for presenting these pictures, and this capacity they have by virtue of being persons, not females or males. One might just as well say there is no gender identity. There is only a schedule for the portrayal of gender . . . There is only evidence of the practice between the sexes of choreographing behaviorally a portrait of relationship. (Goffman 1979:8) The fact that Goffman’s ideas were developed nearly a decade and a half before Butler’s should prompt us to consider how Butler treats Goffman in

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her writings. It also raises questions about the character and relationship of their respective projects. Goffman is mentioned by name in Butler’s (1988) early delineation of performativity. Here Butler is concerned to contrast expressive and performative conceptions of gender. Expressive conceptions postulate certain kinds of acts as emanating from a core gender identity that is grounded in biology. As Butler writes: This implicit and popular theory of acts and gestures as expressive of gender suggests that gender itself is something prior to the various acts, gestures and postures by which it is dramatized and known; indeed, gender appears to the popular imagination as a substantial core that might well be understood as the spiritual or psychological correlate of biological sex. (Butler 1988:528) This expressive conception of gender is precisely the position that Goffman’s institutional reflexivity theory criticises. Moreover, Goffman (1979:7) has a neater term for the expressive conception of gender—“the doctrine of natural expression”. Butler goes on to identify as problematic role-theoretic conceptions that suggest that acts disguise or express an interior self, and cites Goffman (1959) as an example of this trend. Butler states: As opposed to a view such as Erving Goffman’s which posits a self which assumes and exchanges various ‘roles’ within the complex social expectations of the ‘game’ of modern life, I am suggesting that this self is not only irretrievably ‘outside’, constituted in social discourse, but that the ascription of interiority is itself a publicly regulated and sanctioned form of essence fabrication. (Butler 1988:528) It is interesting that Butler here cites only Goffman’s fi rst book and not his later work specifically devoted to gender. Goffman’s gender writings present a position largely indistinguishable from Butler’s favoured view of gender as constituted in performance. The fault Butler fi nds with Goffman, that is with the Goffman of Presentation, is a variation of the criticism that has come to be known as the ‘two selves’ view (Manning 1992). For Butler (as for those who subscribe to the two selves thesis) there is in Goffman (1959) an interior, prediscursive self that directs the public presentations of self. Yet, in his later writings Goffman moved away from this conception towards a more sociologically consistent view of self as encoded in conduct (Smith 2006:101–107). Butler fails to acknowledge Goffman’s later work or recognise that it might remedy the very faults she describes. The point needs to be reinforced because Butler commentators often use this conceptual delinquency—the presence of a prediscursive, prelinguistic, presocial ‘I’—as grounds for dismissing Goffman’s theorising as a whole as inferior

172 Greg Smith to Butler’s own. While Goffman may be guilty as charged in respect of The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life (and even here there are ambiguities, as in his discussion of “Reality and Contrivance” towards the end of the chapter on performances, where he argues that the largest part of our performances come from a “command of an idiom” (Goffman 1959:74) rather than deliberate calculation), such complaints will not stick in respect of the later work. It is therefore disappointing to fi nd critics like John HoodWilliams and Wendy Cealey Harrison (1998:79, 83; see also Jagger 2008)8 taking Goffman’s casual remark about the human capacity to enact and read depictions of gender (Goffman 1979:8, quoted above) as indicating subscription to a “universalistic human subjectivity” that amounts to a continuing agentism even in the late Goffman. How could gender displays and other performative materials be produced and recognised without such a competence? Surely a presumably species-wide capacity cannot be a prediscursive agent? Moreover, the notions of a core or trans-situational self are foreign to the general temper of Goffman’s work, as many commentators (e.g. Turner 2003:404–405) have remarked. Part of the difficulty here seems connected to a notorious issue in Butler’s thought, namely the relation of performance to performativity. The former can be regarded as volitional enactment by an agent while the latter is the cultural process that constitutes the subject as a gendered subject (Longhurst 2007:38–39). In the view of some critics, the distinctions between performance and performativity tend to become intertwined in Butler’s writing. Yet, Goffman is far from the common caricature of the interactionist or phenomenologist who conceives the social world as built up out of individual acts. The structuralist (Gonos 1977) reading of Goffman’s sociology is so persuasive precisely because it picks up on the many ways that Goffman slights individual agency and acknowledges the determinative effects of situations, occasions, frames and their semiotic codes. In Butler’s terms, we might say that Goffman’s conception of performances locates them fi rmly within a performative analytical framework. It can be concluded that when properly contextualised and set against Butler’s ideas, it is remarkable how readily ‘old school Goffman’ (Green 2007; see also Brickell 2005) keeps pace with current post-structuralist feminism. All in all, it seems that the gender analyses offered by Goffman and by Butler are not so different from one another (Auslander 2003). Of course there are differences in style between the streetwise ethnographer steeped in pragmatist philosophy and interactionist sociology and the phenomenologically-trained critical philosopher intent upon extracting feminist relevances from John Austin and Jacques Derrida. Butler emphasises the punishments and costs of not abiding by socially regulated gender norms and gives greater attention to the iterative cultural processes that hold gender identity in place. Goffman seems nimbler in covering much the same theoretical terrain now widely associated with Butler’s name. Goffman gives readers the tools to analyse the specifics of empirical performances

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while Butler provides the theoretical and philosophical contexts that Goffman’s work so conspicuously lacks. It does seem extraordinary that Butler could have missed Goffman’s gender writings. Perhaps their convergent thinking originated from a common source? A shared anti-essentialism is conspicuous in the approach to gender of both Butler and Goffman. One source known to have influenced both writers is Simone de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex (1949/1953). Goffman read de Beauvoir’s book soon after the publication of the English translation in 1953. It seems to have given him much pause for thought when writing The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life.9 Butler studied de Beauvoir’s work closely as part of her doctoral studies. Another plausible candidate in the search for a common source of inspiration for Goffman and Butler might be G. W. F. Hegel. Butler’s doctoral dissertation addressed the reception of Hegel in contemporary French thought. While Hegel is not quoted anywhere in Goffman’s writings, it does not mean he was not acquainted with Hegel’s ideas (those acquainted with Goffman’s omnivorous reading habits remarked on his unflagging capacity to read everything relevant to his interests). Hegel was one of the fi rst thinkers to advance a non-essentialist view of inner being. As Robin Williams (2000:21) puts it, for Hegel “human beings and their identities are not substances sedimented prior to persons’ participation in collective life or persons’ relationships with one another, but are constituted as properties only in and through the forms of human subjectivity that arise from and inform that participation and those relationships”. Perhaps Hegel’s conception of identity provided a source for the development of Goffman and Butler’s strikingly similar views?

FRAMING PICTURES The fourteen pages making up Chapter Two, “Picture Frames”, are often overlooked by readers who, having grasped the key elements of “Gender Display”, then (as it were) rush headlong into the book’s visual analysis, which is set out in the following chapter. “Picture Frames” is not easy reading. It offers a lengthy disquisition on the varying senses in which pictures (by which Goffman mostly means still photographs) can be said to ‘really’ depict their referent. In other words, the chapter is an exercise in frame analysis, focused on the status of the photographic imagery that makes up the book’s ‘data’. Goffman opens this chapter by distinguishing ‘private’ pictures—designed to be seen in family or friendship circles and featuring persons from those circles—from a range of ‘public’ pictures consumed by a broader audience (news photos, instructional pic-tures, human interest pictures and personal publicity shots). The key to the private/public picture distinction lies in the differing audiences to which the pictures are aimed and the uses to which they are put. Goffman (1979:12) then proceeds to unpick some


Greg Smith

issues around how photographs can provide “an ‘actual picture of’ socially important aspects of what is in fact out there”. The ‘subject’ of a picture is what it is about; in a painting it can very easily be a fictional person or event. Photographs are different in that they must have a ‘model’, something material that the camera can capture. ‘Caught’ photographs can be contrasted with other kinds that have been keyed or fabricated in varying ways. The differences between photographs functioning as ‘illustrations’, ‘instance records’ and ‘symbolisations’ are described. The question of ‘carryover’ from real world into photograph is explored. The ‘glimpsed world’ of unacquainted others is sketched. The way advertising’s ‘commercial realism’ uses unambiguous, unobstructed, opened out scenes to produce “something that is fuller and richer than real glimpses” (Goffman 1979:23) is examined. The chapter’s title disguises the fact that it is a contribution to a sociological theory of photographic meaning. Some reviewers of GA (e.g. Cavan 1981; Hood 1982; Kuhn 1980) appreciated that the polysemous characteristic of photographic images necessarily suggested philosophical questions about meaning and that these questions needed to be understood also in terms of relations of reading and consumption. But beyond those initial queries Goffman’s proposals in the chapter have been little explored. The exception seems to be an unpublished paper by William Husson (undated). Husson argues that Goffman’s position is more ‘open’ and ‘neutral’ than those of leading photographic theorists such as Allan Sekula and Joel Snyder. He suggests that to fully appreciate Goffman’s position it is necessary to consult not just GA but also other writings by Goffman, notably Frame Analysis (1974). Husson proposes that the analytical hiatus that emerges around the subject/model distinction can be remedied by importing Harvey Sacks’s ideas about membership categories. The second chapter of GA awaits further critical commentary and devel-opment. It highlights Goffman’s understated approach to theorising— building up and out from concepts and distinctions without ever clearly formulating the precise questions animating the analysis, so that there is an ordering of material but not an argument driven home. While this is a less than satisfactory way of developing a theoretical argument, the positive features of his approach become more clearly evident when Goffman turns in the following chapter to analyse the patterning of gender display.

THE VISUAL SOCIOLOGY OF GENDER DISPLAY Although Goffman never framed the book as a piece of visual sociology, GA has come to occupy a hallowed place in the pantheon of this specialism. At the time GA was produced, visual sociology was more conjecture than established fact. Now, more than three decades later, visual sociology is a thriving area of inquiry in process of transforming itself into ‘visual

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studies’ in recognition of the increasingly multi-disciplinary interests of its constituent practitioners. The new information technologies have powerfully assisted the growth of the specialism by making image-production easier and enhancing the range of representational and presentational possibilities available to the researcher. GA is widely considered a landmark study which, while produced without any of these benefits, helped to show what visual sociology might achieve once images were treated not simply as illustrations but as data for sociological analysis. GA was presented to a number of seminar audiences in the early to mid-1970s. Goffman toured with several carousels of slides of advertising images. Some of the images were originally collected by undergraduate and graduate students in classes Goffman gave at the University of Pennsylvania. Richard Chalfen (personal communication, 2009), then a graduate student mainly based at the Annenberg School, recalls being asked to collect advertisements connected to one of GA’s themes as a class assignment set by Goffman. Later, Chalfen was invited to comment on the manuscript.10 Goffman was probably aware that GA would be compared to Gregory Bateson and Margaret Mead’s 1942 monograph Balinese Character. It was a book that Goffman was familiar with from his student days in the 1940s. In a footnote (Goffman 1979:34 n10) he acknowledges the pioneering role of Bateson and Mead’s book and how it encouraged anthropologists to take pictures. The problem that Goffman (perhaps rather harshly) saw in Bateson and Mead’s study was that their use of pictures confused the concerns of analysis and human interest. If Bateson and Mead did not show sufficient regard for “the analytical use that can be made of pictures” (see Emmison and Smith 2000:33), then presumably Goffman hoped that his own study would show a proper regard for pictures as objects of analysis. Goffman sums up his general orientation towards images: Withal, the art of analysis is to begin with a batch of pictures and end up with suggestions of unanticipated features of uncontrived scenes, or with representations of themes that are hard to write about but easy to picture, or with novel differences between pictures and life. (Goffman 1979:22) What Goffman proceeds to do with his “batch of pictures” is entirely his own, although it is probably best to regard it as a visual and more extended version of his general method of letting the illustrations do part of the work of conceptual articulation. A unique feature of GA is the layout of Chapter 3, “Gender Commercials”. The pages of this chapter have a highly distinctive look. Arrays of numbered pictures are prefaced by a generally understated interpretive commentary that varies in length from a few words to a substantial paragraph. Goffman’s procedure is to offer some verbal observations about features of the gender display in question (e.g. body cant or self-touching). He then follows these observations with a series of images

176 Greg Smith that ‘illustrate’ the themes earlier articulated in words. The pictures are “arranged to be ‘read’ from top to bottom, column to column, across the page” (Goffman 1979:26). The size of each array of images is not fi xed. Some columns contain only a single picture while others consist of arrays of over fifteen images. It is easy to make inferences about the typicality of particular gender displays on the basis of the frequency of images displayed under each category and Goffman (1979:24) does try to forestall that conclusion, noting that “specifiable representativeness” is not a feature of his own collection. But neither have the images been simply thrown together. There is evidence of care having been exercised in their concatenation, although this is variable across the pictorial section as a whole.11 Sometimes the series is concluded with exceptions (‘sex role reversals’) that presumably prove the rule, or at least its typicality. These exceptions are identified by black edging surrounding the picture. The reader is thus placed in a particularly active role. Readers must read the written text then scan the arrays of pictures to substantiate and elaborate the point Goffman has made verbally. Yet, in undertaking this search procedure, looking for features of the arrays that the reader has been told about in writing, the reader is coaxed into seeing family resemblances between otherwise disparate pictures. In this way a fuller understanding of the gender display is achieved than would be possible by reading text alone. The text functions as a kind of (sometimes extended) caption for the set of pictures that follow—the concatenation of images work in conjunction with the verbal text. Goffman (1979:14 n13) follows the conventional view of captions advanced by Ernst Gombrich, but then adds some complications of his own about the framing power of captions: captions can only work if they contain the presupposition that the caption is a true statement. At the same time, Goffman’s method is reconciled to the possibility that there is no single meaning to any images—the method accepts and works with the polysemic character of photographic images (Chaplin 2005). Goffman offers powerful interpretations of his selected images, but he does not exclude alternative readings of them. It becomes difficult for the reader to resist Goffman’s interpretations of the arrays of ads because the reading and looking process needed to make sense of it all co-opts the reader’s interpretive skills (further discussed in Smith 1996). In many respects this process also occurs in reading the illustrations in Goffman’s other works. However, three features make the process in GA different from other books and papers by Goffman. First, looking is involved in apprehending the illustrative material, and it could be suggested that looking is a more direct way of apprehending Goffman’s topic-matter than reading a verbal account. Second, the written text preceding the presentation of images allows the reader to make smoother links between the illustrations and the lower-order and higher-order concepts of gender display. For example, the images collected together under ‘body clowning’ (Goffman 1979:50; pictures 207–216) are then connected

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through the written text to the higher-order concept of the ritualization of subordination—not an obvious analytic connection to make directly from inspection of the image.12 Third, the use of photographic images in social scien-tific work such as GA invokes a process similar to Howard S. Becker’s (2002) claims about how photographs can work as ‘specified generalisations’. Developing an argument out of a close reading of John Berger and Jean Mohr’s (1975) A Seventh Man, Becker seeks to show how documentary photography can enhance the credibility of a social scientific argument. Along with many other commentators, Becker acknowledges that photographs are specific images that depict particular events not broad abstractions. However, used in social science they can offer “specific instances of the general argument . . . showing that the thing we are talking about is possible” (Becker 2002:5). Of course careful scrutiny of their evidentiary status is required but overall, concludes Becker (2002:11), “the images are specified generalizations, which invite us to generalize in the ways the text argues”. It might be objected that only part of Becker’s argument applies to GA, the part concerning photographs permitting us to see the general in the specific, because Goffman’s pictures are not documentary photographs but advertisements constructed along somewhat different lines, named as ‘commercial realism’. Advertising presents to us a “dolled-up, affluent version of reality” (Goffman 1979:22) where everyone is better dressed and has straighter teeth than we fi nd in our ordinary experience. We look at ads in much the same way as we look at “our glimpsed world”, a domain made up of “the totality of viewings of the courses of action of strangers which we obtain throughout our days” (Goffman 1979:22). Both the glimpsed world and commercial realism are meaningful to us and made sense of through “truncated and abstract” categories. Our general categories are as sufficient for the purposes of looking at ads as they are for making our way through a crowded public place. What we see in the ads is thus parasitic on that broader social competence we employ to deal with behaviour in public places. Indeed commercial realism ensures that ads are designed to allow their viewers to fully mobilise their knowledge of the glimpsed world by reducing ambiguity and opening up scenes to allow a clear view of what is transpiring. The construction of advertised scenes thus involves a condensation and simplification that Goffman (1979:3, 84) terms a ‘hyper-ritualization’13 of ordinary interpersonal action. It is precisely this feature that makes ads so useful for Goffman’s analysis of gender display. Goffman acknowledges that something as readily available as advertising images cannot provide a window on actual gender behaviour. However, the ads do offer a valuable source of exaggerated and stylised gender displays that must call on versions of the displays we encounter in our glimpsed worlds. Gender displays in ads in a sense edit out all the noise and dull stuff of everyday life, leaving the crystalline forms of gendered conduct. There are parallels with

178 Greg Smith Durkheim’s argument that to fi nd the most fundamental features of religions it is necessary to study its functions in the simplest form of society. For Goffman, ads become a strategic research site for the study of gender display, throwing into sharp relief what is ordinarily overlooked. Goffman recognises the exploratory status of his general method of picto-rial pattern analysis. How has the analysis been developed in subsequent research? Predictably, there is a large14 amount of ‘ceremonial citation’ (Wickes and Emmison 2007) in the literature. Many researchers have attempted to replicate or extend Goffman’s fi ndings by using his work as a basis for content analysis of a specific documentary source, such as birthday cards (Mooney, Brabant and Moran 1993) or tourist brochures (Sirakaya and Sonmez 2000). Some adaptation of categorisation procedures is normally required since Goffman’s categories do not meet the conventional criterion of content analysis requiring categories to be mutually exclusive to permit systematic coding (Smith 1996). The tendency is for studies to confi ne themselves to Goffman’s concepts with the primary aim of describing the pattern of gender display in the documents sampled. Sometimes counterintuitive discoveries have been made, as in Penny Belknap and Wilbert M. Leonard II’s (1991) fi nding that gender displays feature more frequently in the pages of modern than traditional women’s magazines, or Michelle Massé and Karen Rosenblum’s (1988) fi nding that men smile more than women in the ads in women’s magazines. These studies help to provide systematic evidence to remedy some of the distributional claims in GA but the general conclusion that emerges is that the patterns of gender stereotyping Goffman identified continue through to present times. One interesting development is Philip Bell and Marko Milic’s (2002) re-casting of Goffman’s (1979) categories into the terms of Gunther Kress and Theo van Leeuwen’s (1996) social semiotic visual analysis. Their method permits a more detailed, reliable and systematic analysis of the components of advertising images. In a sample of Australian magazines from the late 1990s, Bell and Milic fi nd broad support for the patterning Goffman identified two decades earlier. However, they do note that the male body is coming to be shown in a ‘seductive’ and ‘narcissistic’ manner, compromising some traditional gender portrayals. This extends to the male body the trend towards ‘body displays’ earlier noted by Mee-Eun Kang’s (1997) analysis of female advertising imagery.

A PLEA FOR VISUAL SOCIOLOGICAL THINKING In this chapter I have suggested that the pioneering status of GA can be understood by close examination of the themes treated in each of its three chapters. In this conclusion I shall reverse the order of presentation in order to underline the book’s leading contributions. We begin then with the pictorial pattern analysis offered in the third chapter of GA. It is here that we can

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observe Erving Goffman the visual sociologist avant la lettre, a practitioner of a specialism that had scarcely been invented in 1979 when he published his major contribution. Some years ago, Rudolf Arnheim (1980) made ‘a plea for visual thinking’. He proposed a view of human intelligence that did not valorise rational thought at the expense of sensory experiences such as vision. This sentiment runs through the fi nal pictorial chapter, which offers a stunning demonstration of how words can be put into a new relationship to images to generate fresh sociological understandings. In these terms, GA remains one of the best pleas for visual sociological thinking we have got. Yet, Goffman’s achievement has not been followed through in subsequent studies in quite the ways that might be expected. There has not been an efflorescence of studies using the same pictorial pattern analysis Goffman so brilliantly pioneered. Instead there have been a large number of studies that have sought to replicate Goffman’s fi ndings or which have used Goffman’s conceptual terminology as a basis for investigations of media depictions of gendered persons. These studies overwhelmingly use some form of content analysis in order to provide the quantitative sureties that Goffman relied on his intuition to provide.15 It is difficult not to be disappointed by this development. The new dawn for a fully visual sociology that Goffman seemed to herald has not materialised. GA has not stimulated the publication of studies that have ransacked the vast depositories of images now available to researchers who would follow Goffman in assembling arrays of images that would make us think anew about patterns of gender display and other self-presentational rhetorics. Instead, researchers have used more prosaic methods to build on Goffman’s start, presenting their discoveries in tables not artfully assembled pictures and words. Many readers readily appreciate the novelty and ingenuity of GA. However, it has not yet attained the status of an exemplar. If GA occupies a hallowed place in visual sociology’s Hall of Fame (Emmison and Smith 2000), it is as an inspirational text rather than a model for subsequent investigation. Of course, Goffman’s talents were unevenly distributed. He possessed an enormous ability to ferret out the sociological significance of the fugitive ‘small behaviours’ of daily life. That may explain why Goffman’s own method of presenting arrays of images prefaced with carefully crafted captioning comments has not found favour. Following Goffman’s pictorial pattern analysis in a credible and convincing manner is plainly a daunting task. Goffman was less adept at articulating theoretical questions. GA’s middle chapter on photographic representation shows his grasp of a number of key issues but fails to package the whole in a way that readers can readily grasp and contextualise. His oblique, bottom–up manner of approaching issues of representation fails to deliver the illumination that would make “Picture Frames” a telling contribution to the debates. On the other hand, when Goffman is given the task of analysing a domain of human conduct, as he does in the fi rst chapter on gender display,


Greg Smith

then his capacity to mobilise existing ideas and forge them into a distinctive interpretation of his own is without parallel. And yet this talent is often underrated. Sometimes GA is simply regarded as a piece of so-ciological documentary detailing the seen but routinely unnoticed ways in which gender roles are perpetuated in women’s and men’s non-verbal conduct. Such readings are common even in feminist scholarship, as Candace West (1996/2000:299–300) shows. It is only too easy for readers to get distracted by the arresting illustrations and lose track of the ways in which his sociology was always more theoretical than jibes about ‘mere ethnography’ indicate. We saw this in the discussion of performativity earlier that sought to counter those readings that un-critically downgraded Goffman’s contribution. No doubt arguments will continue to run about whether Goffman really anticipated Butler. Plainly, their respective theories are inflected in differing ways. Compared to Goffman, Judith Butler emphasises the consequences of departures from gender codes and shows the philosophical underpinnings of a performative conception of gender. However, Goffman’s articulation of genderisms and gender display provides a suggestive conceptual scaffolding for further sociological research. If anything, the debate between the two positions has helped to rehabilitate Goffman’s gender writings by providing a fresh context in which they can be viewed. Against Butler’s own narrow reading of Goffman, and against those Butler commentators who detect the same flaw in Goffman’s later writings that Butler found in Goffman’s earlier work, it is becoming increasingly clear that there is a good deal of common ground between their views. It is not difficult to see how Goffman’s gender analyses empiri-cally round out Butler’s philosophical premises—or how Butler’s writings provide a philosophical foundation consistent with many of Goffman’s sociological premises. Goffman’s clear if understated critique of the doctrine of natural expression is surely congenial to Butler’s concerns. Further evidence of the complementarity of Goffman’s and Butler’s views is indicated by their joint inclusion in current efforts to develop a theory of gender practices (Poggio 2006). If we allow the anticipations and complementarities that this chapter has sketched, there remains the question16 of why Goffman’s gender thinking failed to take root when Butler’s ideas were so quickly taken up and celebrated just a little more than a decade later? It is a good question. Readers will doubtless entertain their own conjectures for the instant success of Judith Butler’s theory. One factor in Goffman’s case is that his gender theory appeared late in his career when he was an internationally renowned sociologist. The novelty of his thinking about gender may well have been lost in the slew of labels and attendant misunderstandings of his previous work. Of course, it is also true that some of these labels have generated fresh understandings. For example, Erving Goffman has been described as accidentally inventing postmodernism (Gauntlett 2004). Perhaps he accidentally invented performativity too?

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NOTES * This chapter was written with the support of a British Academy grant (SG-48472). I wish to thank Michael Hviid Jacobsen and Jane Kilby, who each provided helpful critical comments on an earlier draft. 1. See pictures 226, 251, 285 (two images), 291 and 497. 2. Of course, the knowledge required to make these identifications is largely shaped by the viewer’s generational placement. Adult status in the 1970s would seem a prerequisite, or failing that close knowledge of the relevant cultural repositories of the decade. 3. Tentatively, let me suggest pictures 84, 85, 108, 158, 254, 350, 462 and 501. My hesitation in unequivocally categorising these images as private pictures is because in many, if not all of these cases, it is not difficult to envisage an original context—a primary framework—in which they could be seen as public pictures. Some cropping of the presented images has been done in order to highlight the phenomena of interest to Goffman. In this process crucial clues to their primary framing have been lost. 4. I say partial because as readers we lack knowledge of the personal identities of those pictured. We seem to have a hybrid category of private pictures aired in the public and anonymous context of a sociological publication. These framing difficulties highlight the importance of issues of image production and audience reception. 5. The Hasanlu lovers (picture 445) are a pair of entwined skeletons, believed to have died around 800 BC , who were found at an archaeological site in north-western Iran. In 1974 they were exhibited at the University of Pennsylvania’s University Museum, in the same building where Goffman occupied an office. 6. British novelist Angela Carter vividly describes the cover: “A brace of wellbuilt young women with Mick Jagger lips, clad in exiguous vests, snarl from the cover of Gender Advertisements with such ferocity they look like they’re plotting to do [the bidding of] whatever art director perpetrated this grossly exploitative piece of come-on” (Carter 1979:9). Her Guardian review suggests that the cover is misleading because “its strongly erotic content, reeking as it does of aggressively self-sufficient femininity” stands in contrast with the overall direction of Goffman’s analysis, which argues “with elegiac tenderness” that male domination suffuses every aspect of commercial advertising’s iconography. 7. For example, Bethan Benwell and Elizabeth Stokoe (2006:34) claim that “unlike Butler . . . Goffman’s sense of ‘performance’ is unproblematically agentive, premised on a rational, intending self able to manage carefully an often idealised, consistent persona or ‘front’ in order to further his or her interpersonal objectives”. 8. Gill Jagger amplifies the critique presented by Hood-Williams and Harrison, hinting that theoretical adequacy should take precedence over sociological coherence. Jagger’s (2008:25) conclusion that “Butler’s concern with the constitution of gendered subjectivity involves revealing the ways in which heterosexuality, as a compulsory and unstable regime of power/knowledge, structures the gendered norms that regulate the kind of verbal and nonverbal interactions that Garfi nkel and Goffman merely describe” employs a rhetorical trick commonly directed towards the ethnographic sociologies: they “merely describe”. Yet, there is nothing “mere” in Goffman’s (or Garfi nkel’s) analyses. To be sure, Goffman’s notion of analysis runs in very different directions than Butler’s. But to imply that his sociology overlooks key features of the cultural constitution of gender practices betrays an absence



10. 11. 12.


14. 15.


Greg Smith of understanding of what the arguments of “Arrangement” and GA actually achieve. Too often critics have accepted Butler’s claims at face value rather than attempting to engage in a dialogue between Butler and Goffman’s views that might reveal elements of complementarity as well as common ground. An exception is offered in Chris Brickell’s (2005) analysis of masculinities. The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life includes four substantial quotations from The Second Sex in both editions; see Goffman (1956:37, 70, 102–103 and 151) and Goffman (1959:57–58,112–113, 161 and 235–236). De Beauvoir’s book is thus one of the more heavily quoted sources in The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life. Richard Chalfen’s own research studies are recognised in Goffman (1979:10 n3, 21 n29 and 33 n8). His work on the manuscript is acknowledged by Goffman (1979:14 n14). The two big sections on the ritualization of subordination and licensed withdrawal each start with a series of images (115–117 and 270–275) that are striking. Some of the juxtapositions border on visual jokes (e.g. 445–446). Of course, the same issue of the relation of illustration to lower and higherorder concepts arises in Goffman’s written texts. The use of pictures as illustration gives the process an ease and transparency not present in the use of written illustrations. In a fascinating reconstruction of the mass media theory latent in Goffman’s work, Espen Ytreberg (2002:487) suggests that Goffman’s remarks on hyper-ritualization “hover somewhere between McLuhanesque catchphrase and systematic statement”. Goffman does not return to the term in any subsequent work. A systematic literature review awaits the serious scholar of the impact of GA. This task is not attempted here. These replications have concentrated on ascertaining the prevalence of Goffman’s categories rather than establishing the characteristics of new ones. Since content analysis has been the preferred method, fi ndings have depended on the interpretation of quantitative data. I am grateful to Jane Kilby for raising this question with me.

REFERENCES Arnheim, Rudolf (1980): “A Plea for Visual Thinking”. Critical Inquiry, 6:489– 497. Auslander, Philip (2003): “General Introduction”, in Performance (Critical Concepts in Literary and Cultural Studies, 4 Volumes). London: Routledge. Becker, Howard S. (2002) “Visual Evidence: A Seventh Man, the Specified Generalization, and the Work of the Reader”. Visual Studies, 17 (1):3–11. Bell, Philip and Marko Milic (2002): “Goffman’s Gender Advertisements Revisited: Combining Content Analysis with Semiotic Analysis”. Visual Communication, 1 (2): 203–222. Belknap, Penny and Wilbert M. Leonard II (1991): “A Conceptual Replication and Extension of Erving Goffman’s Study of Gender Advertisements”. Sex Roles, 25:103–118. Benwell, Bethan and Elizabeth Stokoe (2006): Discourse and Identity. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. Brickell, Chris (2005): “Masculinities, Performativity and Subversion”. Men and Masculinities, 8 (1):24–43.

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Butler, Judith (1988): “Performative Acts and Gender Constitution: An Essay in Phenomenology and Feminist Theory”. Theatre Journal, 40 (4):519–531. . (1990): Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity. London: Routledge. Carter, Angela (1979): “Female Persons”. The Guardian, May 31st. Cavan, Sherri (1981): “Review of Gender Advertisements”. American Journal of Sociology, 87 (3):746–747. Chaplin, Elizabeth (2005): “The Photograph in Theory”. Sociological Research Online, 10 (1) Curry, Timothy J. (1984): “A Rationale for Visual Sociology”. International Journal of Visual Sociology, 2 (1):13–24. de Beauvoir, Simone (1949/1953): The Second Sex. London: Jonathan Cape. Emmison, Michael and Philip Smith (2000): Researching the Visual. London: Sage Publica-tions. Garfi nkel, Harold (2006): Seeing Sociologically: The Routine Grounds of Social Action (edited and introduced by Anne Warfield Rawls). Boulder, CO: Paradigm Publishers. Gauntlett, David (2004): Theory Trading Cards. Lanham, MD: Altamira Press. Goffman, Erving (1949): “Some Characteristics of Response to Depicted Experience”. Unpublished master’s thesis, Department of Sociology, University of Chicago. . (1956): The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life. Edinburgh: University of Edinburgh, Social Sciences Research Centre. . (1959): The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life. New York: Doubleday/ Anchor Books. . (1961): Asylums: Essays on the Social Situation of Mental Patients and Other Inmates. New York: Doubleday/Anchor Books. . (1963a): Behavior in Public Places: Notes on the Social Organization of Gatherings. New York: Free Press. . (1963b): Stigma: Notes on the Management of Spoiled Identity. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall. . (1971): Relations in Public: Microstudies of the Public Order. London: Allen Lane. . (1974): Frame Analysis: An Essay on the Organization of Experience. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. . (1976): “Gender Advertisements”. Studies in the Anthropology of Visual Communication, 3:69–154. . (1977): “The Arrangement Between the Sexes”. Theory and Society, 4:301–332. . (1979): Gender Advertisements. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Gonos, George (l977): “‘Situation’ vs. ‘Frame’: The ‘Interactionist’ and the ‘Structuralist’ Analyses of Everyday Life”. American Sociological Review, 42:854– 867. Gornick, Vivian (1979): “Introduction”, in Erving Goffman: Gender Advertisements. New York: Harper & Row. Green, Adam Isaiah (2007): “Queer Theory and Sociology: Locating the Subject and the Self in Sexuality Studies”. Sociological Theory, 25 (1):26–45. Hoggart, Richard (1979): “Introduction”, in Erving Goffman: Gender Advertisements. London: Macmillan. Hood, Thomas C. (1982): “The Attributes of Gender and Other Traits”. Contemporary Sociology, 11 (6):605–607. Hood-Williams, John and Wendy Cealey Harrison (1998): “Trouble with Gender”. The Sociological Review, 46 (1):73–94.


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Hunt, Pauline (1980): “Review of Gender Advertisements”. The Sociological Review, 28:442–444. Husson, William (undated): “Goffman, Sacks and the Explication of Photographic Meaning”. Unpublished paper, Department of Communication, University of New Hampshire. Jagger, Gill (2008): Judith Butler: Sexual Politics, Social Change and the Power of the Performative. London: Routledge. Kang, Mee-Eun (1997): “The Portrayal of Women’s Images in Magazine Advertisements: Goffman’s Gender Analysis Revisited”. Sex Roles, 37 (11/12):979–996. Kress, Gunther and Theo van Leeuwen (1996): Reading Images: The Grammar of Visual Design. London: Routledge. Kuhn, Annette (1980): “Review of Gender Advertisements”. Sociology, 14:315– 316. Longhurst, Brian (2007): Cultural Change and Ordinary Life. Maidenhead: Open University Press. Manning, Philip (1992): Erving Goffman and Modern Sociology. Cambridge: Polity Press. Massé, Michelle and Karen Rosenblum (1988): “Male and Female Created They Them: The Depiction of Gender in the Advertising of Traditional Women’s and Men’s Magazines”. Women’s Studies International Forum, 11 (2):127–144. Mooney, Linda A., Sarah Brabant and Susan Moran (1993): “Gender and Age Displays in Ceremonial Tokens”. Sex Roles, 29 (9/10):617–627. Poggio, Barbara (2006): “Editorial: Outline of a Theory of Gender Practices”. Gender, Work and Organization, 13 (3):225–233. Simmel, Georg (1908/1921): “Sociology of the Senses: Visual Interaction”, in Robert E. Park and Ernest W. Burgess (eds.): Introduction to the Science of Sociology. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Sirakaya, Ercan and Sevil Sonmez (2000): “Gender Images in State Tourism Brochures: An Overlooked Area of Socially Responsible Marketing”. Journal of Travel Research, 38:353–362. Smith, Greg (1996): “Gender Advertisements Revisited: A Visual Sociology Classic?”. Electronic Journal of Sociology, 2 (1). Smith, Greg (2003): “Chrysalid Goffman: A Note on ‘Some Characteristics of Response to Depicted Experience’”. Symbolic Interaction, 26 (4):645–658. Smith, Greg (2006): Erving Goffman. London: Routledge. Turner, Jonathan H. (2003): The Structure of Sociological Theory (Seventh Edition). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth/Thomson. West, Candace (1996/2000): “Goffman in Feminist Perspective”, in Gary Alan Fine and Greg Smith (eds.): Erving Goffman, Volume 4. London: Sage Publications. Wickes, Rebecca and Michael Emmison (2007): “They Are All ‘Doing Gender’ but Are They All Passing? A Case Study of the Appropriation of a Sociological Concept”. The Sociological Review, 55 (2):311–330. Williams, Robin (2000): Making Identity Matter: Identity, Society and Social Interaction. Durham: Sociology Press. Winkin, Yves (1988) : “Erving Goffman: Portrait du socioloque en jeune homme”, in Erving Goffman: Les moments et leur hommes. Paris: Seuil/Minuit. Worth, Sol (1976): “Editor’s Introduction”. Studies in the Anthropology of Visual Communication, 3 (2):65–68. Ytreberg, Espen (2002): “Erving Goffman as a Theorist of the Mass Media”. Critical Studies in Media Communication, 19 (4):481–497.


A New Goffman Robert W. Fuller’s Politics of Dignity Thomas J. Scheff

INTRODUCTION The purpose of this chapter is to compare ‘face work’, a central theme in Erving Goffman’s writings, and Robert W. Fuller’s version of the same idea. Fuller’s approach covers much the same ground as Goffman but is interdisciplinary, much clearer and is equally applicable to social interaction and social structure. Particularly—unlike Goffman,—Fuller proposes applications to the real world. Erving Goffman’s work is extraordinarily vital and important, but also an enigma. His work is complex, yet he seldom states an explicit thesis. When he does, the thesis offered is often misleading. How could that be? Vastly creative people seem to have two different sides, the creative giant and a much more conventional person, especially when it comes to assessing their own work. It has been suggested that Miguel de Cervantes was far from understanding his own masterpiece, Don Quixote. In the course of the argument, Simon Leys in a review goes on to make a more general point: The closer a book comes to being a genuine work of art, a true creation fully alive with a life of its own, the less likely it is that the author had a full control and a clear understanding of what he wrote. D. H. Lawrence . . . summed this up . . . : “Never trust the artist. Trust the tale. The proper function of a critic is to save the tale from the artist who created it”. (Leys 1998:32) Although Simon Leys and D. H. Lawrence were here referring to literature, their point also applies to academic scholarship. The most creative work does not arise entirely from calculated effort, but has a major intuitive component. In contemporary language, it comes from the right brain, light-years more complex and original than the calculating left brain. The creative writer may be a mere channel for work that he or she does not fully understand. Can we save Goffman’s work from Goffman? In what follows, this question will be approached. Moreover, I will present Fuller’s


Thomas J. Scheff

perspective as an extension of and supplement to Goffman’s ideas on facework. The latter part of this chapter will propose how Fuller’s work shares some of Goffman’s strengths while avoiding some of his weaknesses.

THE TWO GOFFMANS Erving Goffman’s scholarship is extraordinarily brilliant, but his pronouncements on its meaning are unreliable. Despite his freewheeling writing style, or perhaps because of it, he insists that his work is highly specialised and technical, like any conventional academic effort. His specialisation, he claims, takes three different forms. First, his approach is sociological rather than psychological. He calls it ‘dramaturgic’, concerning only the socially scripted parts of the human drama rather than the actors. His second specification is closely related: his fi eld of study is social interaction rather than the individual, on the one hand, or social structure, on the other. Both specifications align him with conventional rather than revolutionary scholarship. Like most scholars, he claims loyalty to a discipline and to a special conceptual approach: dramaturgy. Finally, Goffman insisted that his interests are scholarly, not aimed at practical application. This particular claim, unlike the other two, seems quite accurate. He wanted his scholarship to be pure in this respect, without the possible taint of attempting to apply it. As he wrote in several different ways, he saw his job as observing rather than changing the world. With regard to his fi rst claim, it is true that Goffman’s writing is more concerned with social interaction than social structure. Yet, some of his books and articles involve both. Asylums (1961a), for example, and his articles on mental illness imply many features of the social institution of mental illness without claiming to do so. Some of his later work, such as Gender Advertisements (1979), does not involve social interaction at all, but blatantly concerns only the institution of female gender implied by commercial ads. Goffman’s claim that all of his work is purely dramaturgic is also misleading. In this vein, his best known book, The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life (1959), has a split personality. The early chapters outline and illustrate his dramaturgic approach: a sociology of outer behaviour. But the book’s middle section, ending with the lengthy Chapter 6 on ‘impression management’, is mostly concerned with the inner life. Surprisingly, the last chapter returns to dramaturgy with no mention of the inner battles described and profusely illustrated in the middle of the book. The right hand knoweth not what the left hand doeth. In his considerable writings on face and facework, perhaps his central theme, Goffman’s ‘Everyperson’ is virtually always struggling to manage the impressions others have of her or him in order to maintain face. When management fails, as it often does, the ‘Everyperson’ may resort to emotion

A New Goffman


management, trying to avoid the pain of embarrassment. In Goffman’s analysis of facework, the individual’s internal struggles share the stage with the social interaction in which they are embedded. Here is one of many examples: Knowing that his audiences are capable of forming bad impressions of him [1], the individual may come to feel ashamed [2] of a well-intentioned honest act merely because the context of its performance provides false impressions that are bad. Feeling this unwarranted shame, he may feel that his feelings can be seen [3]; feeling that he is thus seen, he may feel that his appearance confi rms [4] these false conclusions concerning him. He may then add to the precariousness of his position by engaging in just those defensive manoeuvres that he would employ were he really guilty. In this way it is possible for all of us to become fleetingly for ourselves the worst person we can imagine that others might imagine us to be. (Goffman 1959:236, numbering added) This excerpt mainly concerns a sequence of internal events, spelling out four moment-by-moment thoughts and feelings. As it happens, this example, and many others in Goffman’s work, are the concrete instances of the ‘looking-glass self’ process that Charles Horton Cooley (1902) failed to supply. Unlike Goffman, Cooley’s emphasis was entirely on the inner life. However, as already indicated, there are many limitations to Goffman’s work, especially in the area of application to the individual and social structure (see Scheff 2005).

GOFFMAN’S WORLD: ITS STRENGTHS AND LIMITATIONS In his work, Goffman used the word ‘face’ in the sense of ‘saving face’ and ‘losing face’, vernacular phrases. Like most ordinary usages that refer to social and emotional process, these phrases involve a simple physical metaphor applied to a complex situation. Goffman went on to invent a new word based on these phrases: ‘facework’. The use of new words like facework, and the use of vernacular words like face in a new way is very characteristic of Goffman’s overall approach to social science. What are the advantages and disadvantages of his approach? After introducing the new concept of facework, Goffman went on to invent various aspects of face and facework. As John Lofland (1980:29) has pointed out, the fi rst three pages of Goffman’s article on facework proposes: 3 types of face 4 consequences of being out of or in the wrong face 2 basic kinds of facework


Thomas J. Scheff

5 kinds of avoidance processes 3 phases of the corrective process 5 ways an offering can be accepted Although Lofland’s comments about the idea of facework are highly appreciative, he is at a loss to understand the meaning of these 22 further items, since no further use is made of them in the article or in Goffman’s subsequent work. Goffman started afresh in each book, not only not explicitly relating his new ideas to his old ones, but not even taking note of them. This practice gives rise to some confusion as to Goffman’s intent. How is his approach useful and what are its limitations?

GOFFMAN’S MAIN STRENGTHS Goffman’s work encompassed and exposed three major strengths: First, it provided a new vocabulary: Goffman was an incredibly perceptive observer of the micro-world of social interaction. He created a vocabulary for uncovering this world, otherwise virtually invisible in modern societies. Second, it was concerned with emotions: most of Goffman’s descriptions of interaction represented or at least implied emotions as well as thought and action. In this respect, they were three-dimensional, arousing the reader’s emotions, sympathy and understanding. This approach remedies a great failing of most current social science, which tends to be two-dimensional because it leaves out emotions. Third, his work contributed to trope-clearing: the trope (dominant metaphor) that he most often attacked was the Western conception of the self as an isolated, self-contained individual. He offered an alternative conception: the self as an aspect of social and cultural arrangements. His attack on individualism is one example of his deconstruction of basic tropes in our society: mental illness, gender, language and many of the conventions of current social science. His trope-clearing is highly dramatic and entertaining, but it also exaggerates his case (see also Scheff 2006:15–32). Goffman’s deconstructions made his work controversial, but also give it revolutionary potential. He followed the tradition of Alfred North Whitehead, Arthur Koestler, Alfred Schutz and Karl Mannheim in order to create a new social science culture. In this respect, I propose that his work might serve as a model not only for the study of his field, the interaction order, but for all of social science. Goffman dealt with primitive conceptual tasks, preliminary to theory, method and evidence that clear the way for social science.

1. A Vocabulary for the Micro-World Goffman’s fi rst gift, widely agreed upon by commentators, is that he was an incredibly perceptive observer of the micro-world of social interaction.

A New Goffman


He saw and called our attention to a world that surrounds us, but one that we usually do not notice. Goffman, however, noticed the riches of activity in the micro-world, and invented a panoply of terms and phrases to describe them. Certainly the idea of facework is one such invention. Also frequently quoted: impression management, situational improprieties, the interaction order, cooling the mark, frames (in the special sense in which Goffman used the term), role distance, alienation from interaction, footing, and many others. These terms have come to be irreplaceable for those who want to understand mundane experience in everyday life.

2. Emotions in the Micro-World There is a second feature of Goffman’s work that is less obvious: unlike most social scientists, he often included emotions as well as thoughts and action in descriptions of his actors. However, this feature is more difficult to establish than the fi rst one. An immediate sticking point is that most of Goffman’s explicit treatment of emotions mainly concerns one emotion, namely embarrassment. This emotion plays a central part in his studies, especially the earlier ones, both explicitly, and in much larger scope, by implication. But why only one emotion? What about other primary emotions, such as love, fear, anger, grief, and so on? To the average reader, the virtually exclusive focus on embarrassment seems arbitrary. Explicitly, Goffman gave only one justification. He argued that embarrassment had universal, pancultural importance in social interaction: Face-to-face interaction in any culture seems to require just those capacities that flustering seems to destroy. Therefore, events which lead to embarrassment and the methods for avoiding and dispelling it may provide a cross-cultural framework of sociological analysis. (Goffman 1956:266) Beyond these considerations, there is another, broader one that is implied in Goffman’s ideas, particularly the ideas of facework and impression management. Most of his work implies that every actor is extraordinarily sensitive to the exact amount of deference he or she is receiving from others. Even a slight difference between what is expected and what is received, whether the difference is too little or too much, can cause embarrassment and other painful emotions. In an earlier article, I followed Goffman’s lead by proposing that embarrassment and shame are primarily social emotions, because they usually arise from a threat to the bond, no matter how slight or imaginary. In my view, the degree of social connectedness, of accurately taking the viewpoint of the other, is the key component of social bonds (Scheff 2000). A discrepancy in the amount of deference conveys or at least can be taken to imply judgement, and so is experienced as a threat to the bond.

190 Thomas J. Scheff The discrepancy may even be completely imaginary, but it still gives rise to embarrassment. Other emotions such as grief, fear, anger, guilt, and so on also figure in interaction, but not continuously. Since the perception of even a slight discrepancy, real or unreal, in deference is automatically sensed, embarrassment or the anticipation of embarrassment would be a virtually continuous presence in interaction. In most of his writing, Goffman’s ‘Everyperson’ was constantly aware of her or his own standing in the eyes of others, implying almost continuous states of self-conscious emotions: embarrassment, shame, humiliation, and in rare instances, pride, or anticipation of these states. Their sensitivity to the eyes of others makes Goffman’s actors seem three-dimensional, since they embody not only thought and behaviour, but also feeling (‘hand, mind, and heart’).

3a. Deconstructing the Self Goffman’s basic method was to deconstruct the assumptive reality of our society. The most prominent example of this method was his attack on the social institution of the self-contained individual. This institution was also repeatedly challenged by Norbert Elias throughout his writings, but especially in his essay on ‘homo clausus’ (the myth of the closed, self-contained individual) is this evident (Elias 1998). Sociological social psychology, in so far as it is derived from the work of George Herbert Mead (1934), also challenges this conception. Herbert Blumer (1969/1986) was particularly forceful in this regard. Goffman’s challenged any perspective that isolates individuals from the social matrix in which they function. This challenge was not limited to psychiatry and medicine—its most obvious targets—it pervades virtually all of his writing. Although Goffman allowed some freedom to the individual through ‘role distance’, his basic theme was that the self was more or less an image cast by social arrangements: The self . . . is not an organic thing that has a specific location, whose fundamental fate is to be born, to mature and die; it is a dramatic effect arising diffusely from a scene that is presented. (Goffman 1959:252–253) The self . . . can be seen as something that resides in the arrangements prevailing in a social system for its members. The self in this sense is not a property of the persons to whom it is attributed, but dwells rather in the pattern of social control that is exerted in connection with the person by himself and those around him. This special kind of institutional arrangement does not so much support the self as constitute it. (Goffman 1961a:168)

A New Goffman


The proper study of interaction is not the individual and his psychology, but rather the syntactical relations among acts of different persons mutually present to one another . . . not, then, men and their moments. Rather, moments and their men. (Goffman 1967:3) This last passage, because of its inclusion of the idea that the social scene involves persons mutually present for one another, invokes the kind of social sharing of consciousness central to Goffman’s focus on embarrassment described earlier. The idea of selves arising out of the social sharing of consciousness had been presaged by literary masters, such as Henry James and Virginia Woolf. In the words of Joyce Carol Oates: “[James’ and Woolf’s] . . . basic assumption [was] that the individual’s identity is gained only through participation in a complex field of other individuals’ consciousnesses” (Oates 1974:33).

3b. Deconstructing Social Reality There is yet another, broader dimension to Goffman’s legacy, one at the most elemental level. I propose that the central thrust of Goffman’s method was toward creating free-floating intelligence in social science. Although Goffman himself made no such claim, his work sought to demonstrate, each time anew, the possibility of overthrowing cultural assumptions about the nature of reality. Goffman’s primary goal may have been the development of a reflexive social science. Most of the appreciative reviews of Goffman’s work invoke the idea of reflexiveness, but only in passing. These commentators do little to explain what they mean by the term, nor do they explain its implications for current social science. Was Goffman attempting a reflexive sociology, one that would create a new culture for social science? Goffman never clearly explained the overall point of his studies. His descriptions of the meaning of his work were almost comically laconic. He, as well as others, have clearly made the point that he was trying to achieve ‘perspective by incongruity’. To fi nd more substantial ground, one needs to look at some of his statements about actors in general. In one of his early statements he said that “any accurately improper move can poke through the thin sleeve of immediate reality” (Goffman 1961b:81). Although this passage is not self-referential, it could also be applied to Goffman’s own basic method, if we can understand what he meant by an ‘accurately improper move’ and ‘the thin sleeve of immediate reality’. The meaning of an improper move is easy; one that violates the assumptions of one’s audience. The idea of improper moves that are accurate is harder to pin down. The philosopher of science Alfred North Whitehead wrote: A clash of doctrines is not a disaster—it is an opportunity . . . In formal logic, a contradiction is the signal of a defeat; but in the evolution

192 Thomas J. Scheff of real knowledge it marks the fi rst step in progress toward a victory. (Whitehead 1962:266–267) Goffman’s method of investigation was to engineer a continuing clash between the taken-for-granted assumptions in our society and his incongruous metaphors and propositions. Most improper moves merely embarrass the actor and/or those near her. But by framing a viewpoint that exactly contradicts commonly held assumptions, Goffman was developing what Arthur Koestler (1967) called bisociation—seeing phenomena simultaneously from two contradictory viewpoints. Like Whitehead, Koestler thought that all creativity arose from the collision of such contradictory viewpoints. Devising a phrase or sentence that is ‘accurately improper’ in this sense would seem to be a formidable task. One must fi rst hit upon an important commonly held assumption, then exactly counter it with an equally plausible assumption. It would depend, like writing poetry, on deep intuition rather than logical analysis. Goffman was awash with this kind of intuition. Goffman’s idea of ‘alienation from interaction’ similarly helps explain what he meant by an improper move. Once again, he did little to apply this idea to his own work. What he meant was that those actors who behave improperly, breaking the rules, not only become alienated from whatever transaction they are involved in, but also might catch an enlightening glimpse of the nature of that transaction, that is, a glimpse of another reality behind the conventional one. Peter K. Manning, in passing, makes a similar point: His [technique] is not simply a matter of convenience or artifice. It would appear to be a deliberate choice of weapons by which to assail the fictional facades that constitute the assumptive reality of conventional society. (Manning 1980:263) Goffman seems to have been trying to free himself and his readers from the culturally-induced reality in which he and they were entrapped, by making ‘accurately improper’ moves. Moreover, the idea of an ‘assumptive reality’ is a necessity for appreciating Goffman’s approach. This phrase stands for the total perspective on what is real that is held in common in each society. As it happens, there is no generally agreed upon term for this perspective. Émile Durkheim’s usage, ‘collective consciousness’, comes close, but it seems to leave out the collective unconscious, and it does not give enough emphasis on the substantive content. Similarly, the term used by mystics, ‘the great cloud of unknowing’ is evocative, but it is also partial. It leaves out the ‘knowing’ part of assumptive realities. Pace postmodernity, one can never be completely free of cultural perspectives. There is no place to stand that does not require linguistic and cultural assumptions. Karl Mannheim’s (1951) point about ‘free-floating

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intellectuals’ was that they were not completely free, but free relative to the attitude of everyday life, which is completely entrapped, like the great majority of the members of any society. Being able to see any phenomena from more than one perspective is a great advantage for innovators of any kind, but it is also fairly rare. Goffman seemed to have achieved sufficient velocity to escape from some parts of the assumptive world of our society. Following in the footsteps of Goffman, Robert W. Fuller offers a further avenue for escaping from, and therefore better understanding, the world of everyday life.

THE STRUGGLE FOR DIGNITY Robert W. Fuller’s approach to what he calls ‘rankism’ and to dignity may be a fi rst step toward a language equally applicable to individuals and to social relationships. It is based on two fundamental dichotomies: dignity– humiliation, and legitimate vs. abusive use of rank, i.e. ‘rankism’ (Fuller 2003, 2006; Fuller and Gerloff 2008). Evelin G. Lindner’s work (2006) is also based on the dignity-humiliation dichotomy but does not include the concept of rankism. As will be discussed, some such concept is needed in order to distinguish between true and false solidarity. Fuller cites Erving Goffman dutifully in his fi rst book (Fuller 2003:161). Even though his analysis of dignity and humiliation is exactly parallel to Goffman’s analysis of facework, my sense is that Fuller arrived at his approach independently of Goffman. Fuller’s analysis of whether or not dignity is maintained or lost parallels Goffman’s impression management and Fuller’s humiliation is equivalent to Goffman’s embarrassment. Fuller’s analysis begins with the subjective feeling of being either a ‘Nobody’ or a ‘Somebody’. Surely, this idea arose because of the extraordinary path that his own life took. During what can be identified as his fi rst career, he rose through the ranks from a ‘Nobody’ to a ‘Somebody’: beginning as a physicist at University of Columbia, then moving to Dean of the Faculty at Trinity College and then becoming president of his alma mater, Oberlin College. During his stint as an educator, which spanned the tumultuous years of the late 1960s and early 1970s, Fuller’s interests shifted from physics to issues of social justice. After leaving Oberlin, he found a role for himself as an unaffi liated, citizen diplomat during the cold war, and ended as chair of the board of the global organisation Internews, which fosters free and independent media in emerging democracies. With the collapse of the Soviet Union, Fuller looked back reflectively on his career and understood that he had been, at different junctures in his life, a ‘Somebody’ and a ‘Nobody’. He thought that in less extreme forms, these kinds of gyrations might be common to many. His periodic sojourns in ‘Nobodyland’ led him to consider social relationships both in the small and the large.


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For example, in intimate relations, falling in and out of favour with our nearest and dearest might be a similar experience (see Fuller’s treatment of parent–child relationships in Fuller 2003:110–113). At times these shifts are obvious, but often they can be based only on subtle changes in mood and gesture. Fuller’s fi rst book Somebodies and Nobodies (2003) begins with the basic idea that we all move back and forth between ‘Somebody’ and ‘Nobody’ feelings, up, down, and around. Fuller’s second step is to name the more general feelings that are associated with those specific to ‘somebodiness’ or ‘nobodiness’: dignity goes with feeling like a ‘Somebody’, humiliation with feeling like a ‘Nobody’. As already indicated, this step is exactly parallel to Goffman: saving face maintains one’s dignity, while losing it can lead to humiliation. Goffman’s and Fuller’s ‘Everyperson’ is in a constant struggle to maintain her or his face/dignity, but impression management often fails, leading to embarrassment or humiliation. Both authors allow that one can also manage impressions not only for one’s own sake, but also for the sake of the dignity of others. This proviso turns out to be important in practical application to the politics of dignity. The next and fi nal step in Fuller’s model is the distinction he makes between ‘rank’ and ‘rankism’. ‘Rankism’ does not concern rank per se, only the abuse of rank. Some systems of rank are inherently arbitrary and therefore abusive, e.g. white over black, male over female, heterosexual over homosexual, Christian over Muslim, one nation over another, and so on. But even legitimate systems, such as those in organisations, are often abusive; if not in principle, then in practice. Rankism is ‘pulling rank’ rather that being fair and appropriately respectful. One of the main advantages of Fuller’s approach—compared to Goffman’s—is that it provides a distinctively sociological solution to the problem of inequality. That is, it does not concern economic rank or political hierarchy directly, but dignity and its opposite, humiliation. The idea of the legitimate and abusive use of rank also turns out to be important for distinguishing two different types of feeling ‘Somebody’, a true and a false solidarity. This distinction, as will be suggested later, may help solve a problem that probably cannot be understood in strictly economic or political terms: gratuitous and/or interminable confl ict. Fuller’s and Pamela A. Gerloff’s (2008) analysis of inequality begins with what they call ‘micro-inequalities’, the withholding of dignity by one person from another. At work, if the boss continually interrupts conversations with you to take phone calls, it is a slight, a small indignity. But such slights add up, even if they are quite subtle. If they happen often enough, one might feel like a ‘Nobody’. The boss may not intend it, but to be frequently slighted is humiliating. Goffman was mainly concerned only with face-to-face interaction, but Fuller extends the dignity/humiliation process up to the traditional problem of macro-inequalities between groups. All contacts between persons

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and between groups have an effect on the bond: it is either maintained, strengthened or disrupted. Helping the other person or group maintain their dignity maintains the existing bond or strengthens it. Rankism disrupts it. There are no exceptions: contact cannot occur without affecting the bond. Secure bonds lead to cooperation, disrupted ones to confl ict. When the bond is entirely broken by rankism, as is often the case, others, even vast groups, can become mere objects. Fuller’s approach is powerful in several different ways. It is applicable to many ostensibly different fields: race, inter-ethnic and inter-nation relations, gender, sexual orientation, social class, and so on. Rankism is the general term for many different kinds of abuse. Fuller’s approach also implies a theory that may explain gratuitous and/or interminable confl ict between individuals and between groups. For example, the Serbian attack on the Moslems in Bosnia in the 1990s can be traced back to a defeat of the Serbs by Moslem Turks hundreds of years earlier. The Serbs took this ancient defeat as a humiliation and harboured vengeance until it became possible. Similarly, France plotted for many years to regain its honour (read dignity) after defeat in the Franco-Prussian War in 1871, and Adolf Hitler won over the German people by promising to regain the honour they lost in the defeat in 1918 (Lindner 2006; Scheff 1994). Humiliation spawns humiliation, and it can strike deep. The dignity/humiliation framework seems to reach into the very core of human conduct.

DEFINING SOCIAL INTEGRATION Apart from providing a perspective on social inequality at the micro-level, Fuller’s approach also implies a unique path into the study of social integration. Feeling like a ‘Somebody’ or a ‘Nobody’ can be used as a subjective indicator. The ‘Somebody’ feeling can be taken as a signal of mutual acceptance, having an identity that is fully accepted by the other(s). A complication in the path toward solidarity will be discussed below. The ‘Nobody’ feeling, however, can be taken as a direct signal of alienation, of feeling rejected by the other(s). This usage might be a preliminary step toward clarifying the concept of social integration. There is a difficulty in seeing solidarity/alienation as a simple dichotomy that Fuller does not address directly, yet his idea of rankism provides for it. Many authors have noted that mutual acceptance occurs in two different forms, one of which is not true solidarity. There is a form of mutual acceptance that is sometimes referred to as solidarity, but has only its outward appearance. This form involves one or both parties giving up vital parts of their own identity in order to be completely loyal to the relationship. The traditional marriage is an example; the wife subordinates her own needs and views to those of her husband. In family systems theory (Bowen and Kerr 1988), this type of relationship


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is referred to as a ‘fused’ or ‘engulfed’ bond. The opposite relationship, in which one party subordinates the needs of the other(s) to their own, is termed ‘isolated’. In a ‘secure bond’, both parties give equal value to their own needs and views and those of the other, over the long haul. Norbert Elias (1987) made the same division: he called solidarity ‘interdependence’, being neither dependent (engulfed) nor independent (isolated). Note that the concept of engulfment further develops the idea of alienation from self that Karl Marx mentioned without explaining what he meant. Fuller’s idea of rankism is relevant to the issue of engulfment as a false solidarity. All forms of mutual acceptance that are based on rankism, the arbitrary disparagement of another person or group, are not forms of true solidarity, but engulfment. Mutual acceptance of whites because they are not black, or gentiles because they are not Jews, of males because they are not women, are all instances or rankism and therefore of false solidarity. The distinction between isolation and engulfment suggests that alienation occurs in two opposite forms: alienation from others (isolation) and from self (engulfment). This idea also requires that a secure bond (solidarity) maintains a long-term balance between self and other: one identifies with the needs and viewpoint of the other(s) as much as with self, no less and no more. Genuine love can be defi ned as a type of solidarity (see Scheff 2006, Chapter 6). The late Robert Solomon wrote: Love [is] shared identity, a redefi nition of self . . . Two people in a society with an extraordinary sense of individual identity [fi nd] their way into a relationship that can no longer be understood as a mere conjunction of the two but only as a complex ONE. (Solomon 1981:xxx; see also Solomon 1994:234–238) This kind of defi nition of love has been offered by many authors, but like Solomon, they usually fail to include the balance between too far (isolation) and too close (engulfment) as explained. An exception was the social psychiatrist Harry S. Sullivan (1945), who suggested that love involves valuing the other as much as self, but neither more or less. It is important to distinguish between true and false solidarity, since both social science and ordinary language often confound them. Most Western scholarship that compares Asian and Western societies have idealised Western isolation and individualism by confounding it with solidarity based on rational outcomes (e.g. Émile Durkheim’s description of organic solidarity), as Hazel Rose Markus and Shinobu Kitayama (1991) have charged. But it seems likely that they have made an equal and opposite error, idealised Asian (unity-based) societies by confounding engulfment with solidarity. Robin Norwood’s (1985) women who loved too much provide an example of engulfment. Many of them reported that they stayed with their abusive husbands because they loved them too much to leave. Their language confuses engulfment, in this case, passive dependency, with genuine love, a

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true solidarity. Fuller’s approach avoids this and many other problems that will, however, not be touched upon here.

CONCLUSION This chapter has reviewed Erving Goffman’s approach to social psychology, pointing out its main strengths and weaknesses, with special emphasis on his analysis of facework. Moreover, the chapter has delineated some of the perspectives proposed by Robert W. Fuller who follows in the footsteps of Goffman but also takes his ideas further. Fuller’s politics of dignity has many advantages over Goffman’s analysis. It implies a new approach to defi ning the poles of social integration: alienation and solidarity. It also suggests an accessible theory of the origin of the causal chains that lead to inequalities and to violence, both at the interpersonal and group levels. Unlike many abstract social theories, Fuller’s is so clearly stated that it might help resolve many theoretical knots, and can also be tested empirically. To the extent that it is supported, it can be applied to solving real world problems. Fuller’s work parallels Goffman’s, but modifies and extends it in a way that might represent a major step forward in social science. As the chapter has shown, Fuller’s writing parallels Goffman’s on facework but it is clearer and broader. Goffman’s theses are often unclear and claim to be narrowly limited to outer behavior in the micro-world of social interaction. Like Goffman, Fuller traces the emotional consequences of losing face in humiliation/embarrassment, but unlike Goffman, he gives equal consideration to dignity, that is, to justified pride. Also unlike Goffman, Fuller’s work implies a step toward conceptualising social integration, the typology of solidarity and alienation. He proposes that rank need not be alienating if rankism (the abuse of rank) is avoided. Fuller applies these ideas to the macro-problems of inequality and intractable confl ict. Further, and contrary to Goffman, he explores their application to changing the real world. In many ways, Fuller can be seen as a new Goffman.

REFERENCES Blumer, Herbert (1969/1986): Symbolic Interactionism: Perspective and Method. Berkeley: University of California Press. Bowen, Murray and Michael E. Kerr (1988): Family Evaluation. New York: W. W. Norton. Cooley, Charles Horton (1902): Human Nature and the Social Order. New York: Scribner’s. Elias, Norbert (1987): Involvement and Detachment. Oxford: Blackwell. . (1998): On Civilization, Knowledge and Power: Selected Writings. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.


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Fuller, Robert W. (2003): Somebodies and Nobodies. Gabriola Island, BC: New Society Publishers. . (2006): All Rise. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler Publishers. Fuller, Robert W. and Pamela A. Gerloff (2008): Dignity for All. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler Publishers. Goffman, Erving (1956): “Embarrassment and Social Organization”. American Journal of Sociology, 62:264–274. . (1959): The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life. Garden City, NY: Doubleday/Anchor Books. . (1961a): Asylums: Essays on the Social Situation of Mental Patients and Other Inmates. New York: Anchor Books. . (1961b): “Fun in Games”, in Encounters: Two Studies in the Sociology of Interaction. Indianapolis, IN: Bobbs-Merrill. . (1967): Interaction Ritual: Essays on Face-to-Face Behavior. New York: Pantheon Books. . (1979): Gender Advertisements. London: Macmillan. Koestler, Arthur (1967): The Action of Creation. London: Hutcheson. Leys, Simon (1998): “The Imitation of Our Lord Don Quixote”. New York Review of Books, 45 (10), June 11th, pp. 32–36. Lindner, Evelin G. (2006): Making Enemies: Humiliation in International Conflict. Portsmouth, NH: Greenwood. Lofland, John (1980): “Early Goffman: Style, Structure, Substance, Soul”, in Jason Ditton (ed.): The View from Goffman. New York: St. Martin’s Press. Mead, George Herbert (1934): Mind, Self and Society. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Mannheim, Karl (1951): Man and Society in an Age of Reconstruction: Studies in Modern Social Structure. New York: Harcourt Brace. Manning, Peter K. (1980): “Goffman’s Framing Order: Style as Structure”, in Jason Ditton (ed.): The View from Goffman. New York: St. Martin’s Press. Markus, Hazel Rose and Shinobu Kitayama (1991): “Culture and the Self: Implications for Cognition, Emotion and Motivation”. Psychological Review, 98 (2):224–253. Norwood, Robin (1985): Women Who Love Too Much. New York: Pocket Books. Oates, Joyce Carol (1974): New Heaven, New Earth. New York: Vanguard Press. Scheff, Thomas J. (1994): Bloody Revenge: Emotions, Nationalism and War. Boulder, CO: Westview Press (re-issued in 1999 by iUniverse). . (2000): “Shame and the Social Bond”. Sociological Theory, 18:84–98. . (2005): “Looking-Glass Self: Goffman as Symbolic Interactionist”. Symbolic Interaction, 28 (2):147–166. . (2006): Goffman Unbound: A New Paradigm for Social Science. Boulder, CO: Paradigm Publishers. Solomon, Robert (1981): Love: Emotion, Myth, and Metaphor. Garden City, NY: Doubleday/Anchor Books. . (1994): About Love: Re-Inventing Romance for Our Times. Lanham, MD: Littlefield, Adams. Sullivan, Harry S. (1945): Conceptions of Modern Psychiatry. Washington, DC: W. A. White Foundation. Whitehead, Alfred North (1962): Science and the Modern World. New York: Macmillan.


Recognition as Ritualised Reciprocation The Interaction Order as a Realm of Recognition Michael Hviid Jacobsen

For a complete man to be expressed, individuals must hold hands in a chain of ceremony, each giving deferentially with proper demeanor to the one on the right what will be received deferentially from the one on the left. —Erving Goffman, “The Nature of Deference and Demeanor”

CONTAGIOUS CONSIDERATION Recently, when on a lecturing tour to Copenhagen, I came across a sign on the sliding doors of the underground trains stating to passengers: “Show consideration—it’s contagious”. Apart from providing a general guideline as to how passengers leaving and entering public transport are expected to behave in order to secure the smooth and effective flow of thousands of people in and out of train carriages, the message also contained a more metaphysical and perhaps even moral dimension—that what takes place in one concrete encounter or social situation may, like the idea of ever-widening circles or a butterfly effect, spill over into the next and the next and so on. Perhaps this speculative insight gained from a snapshot story may not in general claim to shake or shatter our ingrained and common sense understandings of the normal functioning of society as such; however, when read through the lens of Erving Goffman’s original sociology, and especially through his ritual metaphor of everyday life encounters, it provides a substantial and powerful example of the principles of civility, consideration and courtesy underpinning the construction and maintenance of micro-level social order and of the foundations for recognising others in everyday life. According to Pierre Bourdieu’s (1983) poignant characterisation, Erving Goffman most accurately could be described as ‘the discoverer of the infi nitely small’. This unmistakable mark of distinction bestowed by one great sociologist upon another derives from the fact that Goffman throughout his career nurtured and continuously sophisticated an analysis of that which largely remained unseen to the untrained eye and of the multitude

200 Michael Hviid Jacobsen of apparently trivial and tedious aspects of mundane human togetherness. And true, Goffman’s sociology almost exclusively concerned itself with the micro-realm of social analysis and, as he testified in his presidential address—that due to advanced illness remained undelivered—his own preferred method was indeed ‘micro-analysis’ (Goffman 1983a), thereby leaving the macro-structural components or cultural domains to others. For this reason, Goffman’s perspective often figures among or is classified alongside either micro-sociological theories (e.g. Helle and Eisenstadt 1985; Roberts 2006), social psychologists (e.g. Sarbin 2003; Zeitlin 1973) or the sociologies of everyday life (e.g. Douglas 1980; Jacobsen 2008a), even though he once insisted—perhaps provocatively and sarcastically—that “the majority of the concepts I have developed provides no concepts for the study of everyday life” (Goffman 1983b:200). Despite this self-professed lack of conceptual contribution to the study of the everyday elementals of society, Goffman was in fact, and much more than most other sociologists of his time, keenly interested in what went on in everyday life settings and throughout the years he developed a creative and comprehensive cornucopia of catchy and incisive concepts to capture and map the micro-social world of human encounters and social situations. Thus, Goffman’s concepts and observations all relate, almost exclusively, to the micro-social realm. According to Thomas J. Scheff in Goffman Unbound!—A New Paradigm for Social Science, Goffman’s work therefore served as “a tonic, correcting for excessive emphasis on the macroworld and most of the quite abstract ideas that are used to describe it” (Scheff 2006:15). Scheff went on to identify three important dimensions of Goffman’s work that are central to the topic of this chapter—recognition. First, Goffman was an incredibly potent observer of the mundane micro-world of everyday events and developed a conceptual apparatus to capture it. Second, his descriptions of human interaction represented action and thought but also emotions, thereby arousing the reader’s own emotions, sympathy and understanding. Finally, his work was, in the best sense of the term, trope-clearing—it challenged much that passed for conventional wisdom in social science, e.g. regarding gender, language, interaction, mental illness and self (Scheff 2006:15–16). Regarding this latter point, his work can also be seen as trope-clearing when it comes to the phenomenon of recognition, especially because his work focused on the multitude of recognition rituals in the micro-world and because he developed an encompassing terminology to describe them. Throughout the years, many sociological theories have, contrary to Goffman, excelled in describing social phenomena—also recognition—on an abstract and macro-structural level of analysis. Moreover, there has been a widespread tendency to privilege analyses of large-scale social formations, “the heart, liver, lungs and stomach”, as Georg Simmel’s invocation of an organic metaphor once proclaimed, instead of looking at the infi nitesimal and, still in Simmel’s wonderful words, “innumerable, popularly unnamed or unknown tissues” (Simmel 1950:9). Torben Berg Sørensen (1995)

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described this tendency in sociology as the ‘macro-illusion’—the somewhat bizarre notion nurtured by some sociologists that the most important or even the most prevalent phenomena—and those most worthy of academic attention—necessarily are located on a macro-level of social order and that these may explain, almost automatically, everything else that goes on in society. This, at least in Goffman’s lifetime, almost routine neglect of or ignorance towards the invisible yet ubiquituous aspects of the minutiae of social life was also captured by the great Robert Musil’s insightful observation on our negligence of that which cannot immediately be witnessed but which nevertheless and in important ways regulates our lives: The fact is, living permanently in a well-ordered State has an out-andout spectral aspect: one cannot step into the street or drink a glass of water or get into a tram without touching the perfectly balanced levers of a gigantic apparatus of laws and relations, setting them in motion or letting them maintain one in the peace and quiet of one’s existence. One hardly knows any of these levers, which extend deep into the inner workings and on the other side are lost in a network the entire constitution of which has never been disentangled by any living being. Hence one denies their existence, just as the common man denies the existence of the air, insisting that it is mere emptiness; but it seems that precisely this is what lends life a certain spectral quality—the fact that everything that is denied reality, everything that is colourless, odourless, tasteless, imponderable and non-moral, like water, air, space, money and the passing of time, is in reality what is most important. (Musil 1953/1995:182) Recognition is part and parcel of this spectral or immaterial but most important quality of daily existence mentioned by Musil, one lever of social life that is indeed regulatory, yet relatively invisible to the naked eye. Recognition indeed serves as an important means of social order and social control but then it is often social control shaped more as a velvet glove than as an iron fi st. Naturally, one can attempt at and succeed with legislating or enforcing recognition among people by way of visible signifiers—e.g. by no-go signs, traffic lights or written rules and regulations. However, it can also be achieved through such milder measures as unwritten conventions for civility, interactional etiquettes, ceremonial rules and rituals for accommodating and accepting others in everyday life encounters. Recognition can pertain to the formal organisation of macrosocial order, yet it can also—and perhaps most importantly—be seen as the modus operandi of micro-settings and as the largely unnoticed regulation of everyday life encounters. At least, this is what Goffman excelled in showing.1 In this chapter I will attempt to substantiate the claim that Goffman can be regarded as a major contributor to contemporary recognition theory


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despite his routine absence in most writings on the topic (for notable and recent yet briefly stated exceptions, see Blatterer 2007:53–54; Heidegren 2009:16–21). 2 The ambition is to rectify the lack of appreciation of Goffman’s contribution to recognition theory by illustrating—especially via his Durkheimian inspired ritual metaphor—how recognition can be understood as a micro-social matter pertaining to mundane and interactive settings. There has been widespread disagreement among Goffman aficionados and interpreters regarding how to approach and appreciate Goffman’s amazing metaphorical imagery. Whereas some have argued that Goffman was truly a dramaturgical sociologist whose actors were primarily concerned with the shallow and cynical surface-maintenance of their own selves, others have located in his work a strategic and calculative actor concerned with maximising the outcome of interaction, while others have argued that Goffman was in fact a Durkheimian at heart who was concerned with the normative and regulative aspects of social interaction. 3 Moreover, whereas Goffman’s work by some has been regarded as a representation of the growing amorality in modern society (e.g. MacIntyre 1969; Martindale 1960:61–72), others have seen his work as embodying and espousing a distinct morality of civility, ritualism and the sacredness of individuals (Creelan 1984, 1987; McGregor 1984; Miller 1982). Obviously, there are multiple ways of appreciating, analysing and applying Goffman’s writings each of which can be substantiated and documented, which testify to the fact that Goffman’s work was indeed intentionally multi-layered and somewhat slippery (see e.g. Jacobsen and Kristiansen in this volume). Such interpretative disagreements, however, will not be debated further in this chapter, nor will they be settled, but the chapter will attempt to show how Goffman—at least throughout central parts of his work—was concerned with how recognition as interaction ritual provided an important foundation for the maintenance of microsocial order in modern society and perhaps, as will be speculated towards the end, also for more macro-social tendencies.

THE RECOGNITION-THEORETICAL TURN IN CONTEMPORARY SOCIAL THEORY One of the main supporting pillars of society, social order and human being-in-the-world is beyond any reasonable doubt recognition—the fact that we, ordinarily, recognise other people as legitimate, responsible, autonomous and, unless invited, unapproachable participants in whatever takes place in everyday life or public life, instead of harming, threatening or even slaying them. In modern society, most urbanites will—consciously or unconsciously—practise this principle umpteen times every day with the thousands of strangers they encounter in the streets, public transport vehicles or elsewhere in public space.

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Today, the term ‘recognition’ has almost achieved the status of buzzword, magical incantation and mantra in society and academia alike. The term captures a zeitgeist or collective conscience preoccupied with claims to respect, toleration and the recognition as unique human beings with inviolable rights to identity and self. These days we are thus living through times of recognition—times in which new regimes of recognition are setting the agenda on the macro- as well as the micro-levels of society. As a consequence, everybody craves and expects recognition. As Jean-Claude Kaufmann correctly stated in his L’invention de soi: Une theorie de l’identitet on the current state of recognition: “Everyone watches intently for approbation, admiration or love in the eyes of others” (Kaufmann 2004; quoted from Bauman 2008:42). Kaufmann continued by claiming that the contemporary obsession with recognition now ‘overflow society’, and Zygmunt Bauman, recapitulating Kaufmann’s perspective, stated that “recognition is like the cardboard rabbit in a sweepstake chase: forever chased by dogs, never locked in their jaws” (Bauman 2008:43). Perhaps unsurprisingly, the widespread and historically unprecedented success of the term ‘recognition’ means that there is a multitude of recognition theories and perspectives around: In the biosciences there is a talk of ‘molecular recognition theory’ preoccupied with how anti-sense peptides bind to each other and how this binding can be experimentally tested on rats; in optical engineering we fi nd a ‘pattern recognition theory’ dealing with the classification of rough surfaces; and in mathematical psychology one fi nds a ‘general recognition theory’ concerned with signal detection and perception in a multi-variate diffusion process. However, recognition, as it will be touched upon in this chapter, is much less technical, yet to social scientists also much more important, as it concerns the so-called ‘recognition-theoretical turn’ in social theory focusing on recognition as an inherent if not ubiquitous feature of social relations and social organisation on the micro-level of analysis. Despite the recent revival of academic interest in recognition, the socalled recognition-theoretical turn perhaps took place at least a decade ago, ignited especially by Charles Taylor’s (1994) extended essay on recognition as part of a general debate on ethnic identity and multi-culturalism. But as a matter of fact, recognition has been part and parcel of social thought for centuries and can be traced at least as far back as to the writings of notable thinkers such as G. W. F. Hegel, Johann Gottlieb Fichte, Immanuel Kant, Adam Smith, Karl Marx and Émile Durkheim. Although differing in their emphasis and perspective on recognition, and also in the use of the exact term, the theme nevertheless remained central to their work (see e.g. Heidegren 2004). Although originally coined within a philosophical context, later sociologists such as Charles Horton Cooley and George Herbert Mead developed the focus on recognition further, taking it into realms of socialisation and interaction. More recently, Jürgen Habermas (1984) on recognising the better argument in rational communicative action, Pierre


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Bourdieu (1984, 1990) on the social recognition of different forms and compositions of capital, Richard Sennett (2004) on respect in a world of inequality, Michael Walzer (1997) on toleration of minority groups in different types of political regimes and various other authors on themes related to recognition have emphasised that the concept of recognition is indeed alive and kicking in contemporary social theory and they have shown how it may be used as a viable concept to capture a variety of experiences, challenges and problems confronting contemporary society (Jacobsen and Willig 2008). As is evident from the preceding listing, there is no shortage of theories or perspectives dealing with recognition, and new books seem to appear on a regular basis (for relatively recent contributions, see e.g. Markell 2003; McNay 2008; Ricoeur 2007; Brink and Owen 2007; Thompson 2006). Despite continued interest in recognition and indeed a continued development and refi nement of theories of recognition, there are, however, still certain blind spots, neglected areas or overlooked potentials in much of contemporary recognition literature—something this chapter devoted to the work of Goffman will seek to rectify. Let us briefly touch upon a few of these blind spots or overlooked areas of recognition theory. Four often interrelated problems—or perhaps rather priorities and/or limitations—can, from a micro-sociological point of view such as Goffman’s, be detected in a substantial part of contemporary recognition theory. First, quite a few of the most prominent theories—from Hegel to neo-Hegelian Axel Honneth—appear excessively subject-oriented; that is, they deal with the experience of being either recognised or misrecognised as a primarily psychological phenomenon relating to the self. Thus, although Honneth (1996) in his much acclaimed and applied theory of the three ‘spheres of recognition’ recognises that recognition—as well as its opposite experience, contempt—is social or intersubjective in nature, he nevertheless locates recognition claims and experiences in the individual’s subject-consciousness. This could be termed the ‘psychological bias’. Second, a certain macrostructural tendency can be found, for example in the influential work of feminist Nancy Fraser with her focus on recognition as ‘redistribution’ in relation to a variety of political and economic issues (Fraser 1995, 2000; Fraser and Honneth 2003). Similarly, many of the other theories developed over the last two decades on recognition—and particularly those inspired by Taylor (1994)—have been preoccupied with what we would normally regard as macro-phenomena such as identity-politics, gender-politics, minority-politics, difference, multi-culturalism, ethnicity, sexuality, economic redistribution, political justice, democratic participation, social inequality, rights, etc. This may be termed the ‘macro-structural bias’.4 Third, an unmistakable normative tendency—perhaps stemming from its routine association with critical social theory—runs through most parts of the terminology of contemporary recognition theory, e.g. when dealing with ‘injustices’, ‘redistribution’, ‘solidarity’, ‘struggles’ for recognition

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or equally ‘normatively rounded’ terminology (e.g. Fraser 2000; Honneth 1996; Bauman 2001). This could be termed the ‘normative bias’. Finally, the general level of philosophical abstraction and theoretical or conceptual verbiage—and often an accompanying lack of empirical substantiation—in much recognition theory remain relatively high, which means that the direct relation to and bearing on everyday life and mundane matters is sometimes obscured. This could be called the ‘theoretical bias’. These biases or fallacies are not only found in the original ‘core’ literature on recognition. The terminology of recognition has also inspired more specialised usage, e.g. within the fields of social work and political philosophy (e.g. Brink and Owen 2007; Forst 2002; Høilund and Juul 2005; Markell 2003). Although these attempts—ceteris paribus—perhaps ought to prove more concrete and applicable to everyday circumstances, and despite their praiseworthy, interesting and incisive analyses, they often end up as either abstract philosophical, macro-structural or normative political testimonies. What is needed is a view of recognition that links individual/ self to society, which is concerned with the realm of interaction and which refrains from lapsing into excessive normativity. Enter Erving Goffman. From Baltasound (the village on the Shetland Island of Unst in which Goffman conducted fieldwork for his PhD dissertation) to Baltimore, Brasilia or Berlin, recognition remains part and parcel of human cohabitation, interaction and togetherness. Naturally, this does not mean that the cultural idioms or social norms of recognition are universally similar or equivalent but that rules or rituals for showing each other recognition are everywhere to be found in our micro-encounters with each other. In this respect especially Goffman’s idea of the ‘interaction order’ supports such an understanding of recognition.

THE INTERACTION ORDER AS MICROCOSM Throughout the years Goffman’s exclusive analytical preoccupation—from his PhD thesis in 1953 to his undelivered presidential address almost thirty years later—was the so-called ‘interaction order’. Elsewhere he used a different terminology to defi ne his primary object of analysis, such as ‘public life’ (Goffman 1971) or ‘situated activity systems’ (Goffman 1972), but eventually these terms cover the same domain—human interaction face-to-face in mundane situational settings. Thus, Goffman’s sociological testimony— which also proved to be his fi nal contribution to the discipline—was ‘the interaction order’, an order about which he stated that it was a “substantive domain in its own right” (Goffman 1983a:2). Moreover, he claimed that “as an order of activity, the interaction one, more than any other perhaps, is in fact orderly, and that this orderliness is predicated on a large base of shared cognitive presuppositions, if not normative ones, and self-sustained restraints” (Goffman 1983a:5). Goffman went on to suggest that “the


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interaction order prevailing even in the most public places is not a creation of the apparatus of the state. Certainly most of this order comes into being and is sustained from below” (Goffman 1983a:6). As such, the interaction order is a ‘micro-order’ constituted, as it were, from below by normative ideas and self-sustained restraints. Consequently, the interaction order is also an order distinct from any individual agents involved in it as well as from the macro-structures surrounding it (Mouzelis 1995:15). As opposed to individualistic sociology privileging the experience of the individual or human subject, to structural sociology giving priority to structures, institutions and systems or, for that sake, to relational sociology (normally associated with the work of Norbert Elias and Pierre Bourdieu) looking at relationships, interdependencies and networks, Goffman’s interaction order supports and emphasises an episodic or situational perspective on social life. Thus, what he regarded as a neglected insight into social situations and whatever went on in them attracted his distinctive analytical interest (Goffman 1964). As he stated in Gender Advertisements on the primacy of the social situation as a viable object of study: It is possible for the student to take social situations very seriously as one vantage point from which to view all of social life. It is in social situations that individuals can communicate in the fullest sense of the term, and it is only in them that individuals can coerce one another, assault one another, importune one another gesturally, give physical comfort, and so on. Moreover, it is in social situations that most of the world’s work gets done. (Goffman 1979:5–6) Therefore, the interaction order is, as it were, a microcosm, a little social system in its own right and with its own specific situational rules and regulations that require a specialised situational analysis. In Behavior in Public Places, Goffman even more explicitly qualified that his focus on the interaction order as a situational order in its own right meant that he was talking about a “social reality in its own right”, “a little society” or “a little social system” (Goffman 1963a:196). Apart from that, what was this interaction order, what does it contain, and why does it warrant an analysis in its own right? According to Anne W. Rawls (1987:136–137), Goffman’s interaction order is constituted by four interrelated dimensions which—taken together—seek to answer these questions: 1. The social self needs to be continually achieved in and through interaction and the interaction order places situational constraints on the individual and his/her presentation of self and provides intrinsic motivation for compliance. 2. These situational constraints not only defi ne the interaction order but may also resist and defy macro-social structure.

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3. Interaction is conceived as a production order in which a commitment to maintaining that order generates meaning. 4. The fact that individuals must commit themselves to the ground rules of interaction in order for selves to be maintained is treated as a moral, not a structural imperative. The interaction order thus orders and organises activities and creates meaning for its participants in the same way as other orders in which people take part, such as the economic, technological or political ones. This order and meaning is, to a large extent, premised on the presentational or performative rationalities of the selves involved in situational settings. Thus, participants are committed to and constrained by the presentational ‘ground rules’ of interaction and they are also requested to abide by those rules and rituals that ensure safe and sincere self-presentations, which uphold the social situation, and to which I return more specifically later. Who ‘inhabits’ this interaction order? As mentioned earlier, Goffman’s actors have often been accused of embodying an immoral, manipulative, shallow or calculative image of man (e.g. Gouldner 1970; Habermas 1984; Hollis 1977; Lyman and Scott 1970). As, for example, Martin Hollis asserted: Goffman’s actor is not in the altruistic business of investing effort and ingenuity for the benefit of later ‘selves’ just like him. He is working for himself, to preserve and foster what is strictly himself from one time and one role to another. (Hollis 1977:103) Hollis defi ned this view as an instance of ‘pure individualism’—individuals as merely concerned with pursuing their own selfish interests. Also others, for example Arthur Brittan, have asserted: “On closer inspection, man as a ‘hypocrite’ is really an updated version of ‘Homo Economicus’. Goffman has unwittingly become its most eloquent spokesman in sociology” (Brittan 1973:151). The prevalence of this somewhat oversimplified view of Goffman as merely concerned with superficialities, appearances, deceit, calculation, hypocrisy, strategic interaction and dramaturgical manipulation probably derives from a selective reading of Goffman’s work at best and, at worst, from a misinterpretation of his image of the actor. Although such understandings are perhaps not entirely incorrect, they at least neglect the much more complex and substantial human nature hidden beneath the self-presentational practices—a human nature perhaps not explicated by Goffman but then at least implicated by his aforementioned view of the interaction order. Others—for example Anthony Giddens (1984), Spencer E. Cahill (1994) and Randall Collins (1988)—have continuously stressed therefore that Goffman’s oeuvre rests more on a Durkheimian understanding of the perceived morality and sacredness of individuals. 5 As Durkheim pronounced


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in his essay “The Determination of Moral Facts”: “The human personality is a sacred thing; one dare not violate it or infringe its bounds, while at the same time the greatest good is in communion with others” (Durkheim 1906/1974:37). This sacredness of individuals—to which I return below— coupled with the desirability of communion with others thus made Rawls conclude on the nature of the ‘inhabitants’ of Goffman’s interaction order that the claim that interaction has an orderly and moral character rests for Goffman on the assumption that selves have a ritual nature, and that face-to-face interaction is organized around the protection of selves during interaction, and the protection of the interaction from self interest. (Rawls 1987:139) Although merely one of his four favourite metaphorical frameworks— commonly defi ned as ‘theatre’, ‘game’, ‘frame’ and ‘ritual’—directly supported and detailed such a ritual and sacred view of man, Goffman was as mentioned in many respects more a Durkheimian at heart than a Machiavellian. As he stated on his Durkheimian legacy: “It is strange, and more Durkheimian than it should be, that today, at a time when the individual can get almost everything else off his back, there remains the cross of personal character—the one he bears, albeit lightly, when he is in the presence of others” (Goffman 1971:187). This ‘cross of personal character’ mentioned by Goffman is in fact the burden carried by interactants in recognising and respecting others in interaction, in ritually and routinely presenting a sincere self to others and in securing that others are not embarrassed or incriminated which might threaten to undermine the situation. As Durkheim famously suggested in The Elementary Forms of Religious Life: If we are to see in the efficacy attributed to the rites anything more than the product of a chronic delirium with which humanity has abused itself, we must show that the effect of the cult really is to recreate periodically a moral being upon which we depend as it depends upon us. Now this being does exist: it is society. (Durkheim 1915/1995:389) This—Durkheim’s sanctification of society as such and the religious or quasi-religious rituals performed in its honour to make sure that it maintained its desirable state of order—was transferred to modern secular living and made into its collective conscience or organic solidarity by Goffman when claiming: Many gods have been done away with, but the individual himself stubbornly remains a deity of considerable importance. He walks with some dignity and is the recipient of many little offerings. He is jealous of the worship due him, yet, approached in the right spirit, he is ready

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to forgive those who may have offended him. Because of their status relative to his, some persons will fi nd him contaminating, while others will fi nd they contaminate him, in either case fi nding they must treat him with ritual care. Perhaps the individual is such a viable god because he can actually understand the ceremonial significance of the way he is treated, and quite on his own can respond dramatically to what is proffered him. In contacts between such deities there is no need for middlemen; each of these gods is able to serve as his own priest. (Goffman 1967:95) Goffman’s colourful and meaning-carrying terms such as contamination, ritual care, ceremonial significance, worship, priests, deities, offerings and the like all ooze religious connotations. It is this sacred and ritualistic character of secularised public life that Goffman celebrated throughout his work. But whereas Durkheim in his writings ended up sanctifying society, Goffman instead sanctified the individual as the totem of society (Miller 1982), thereby making the individual the recipient of the many little offerings, courtesies and worships and the representative of the social situation as a small-scale self-contained social system. However, just as Durkheim’s sanctified society as a macro-social order was potentially in danger of being undermined by anomie and disintegration, Goffman’s sanctified micro-social situation was the potential victim of many improprieties and threats. But although Goffman developed an expanded and elaborated terminology to describe the miniature maintenance and consensual workings of this micro-social order—such as facework, deference, demeanour, supportive interchanges, remedial interchanges, civil inattention, accessibility, mutual openness, commitment to interaction, engagements, tie-signs, corrective process, etc. (Goffman 1963a, 1967, 1971, 1972)—his list of concepts to capture the breakdown of or threats to this order, perhaps apart from vivid descriptions in Asylums (1961), Stigma (1963b) and a few other places, remained similarly short. Therefore, Harold Garfi nkel’s (1956) ‘degradation ceremonies’ only seldom occur in Goffman’s interaction order and when they occur, the individual being offended will either apply a wide range of available rituals in order to counter such treats or the offender will seek to rectify or reorder the momentarily precarious order with ritual care, compensation and repair-work. Thus, Goffman’s vision of the interaction order was generally rather cosy. This warrants questions of whether Goffman was, in fact, a functionalist or a conservative thinker obsessed with micro-social order and the human interest in upholding it—especially as the stability of the macro-structural order seemed of virtually no importance to him. As Robert Erwin recalled: [Goffman’s] sociology did not make much provision for destructive conflict, disorder and muddle among humans . . . Nuclear weapons and

210 Michael Hviid Jacobsen the Cold War were for the most part absent from his books. Likewise terrorism, assassinations and street crime. Likewise thought control and deportation. Likewise inflation and overpopulation . . . Always in his scheme . . . hostility and stupidity remained subordinate. Always he returned to the main assumption that everybody knows what is required socially and cooperates in preserving a common defi nition of the situation. (Erwin 1992:339–340) Thus, in general, Goffman was not overly concerned with social strife and confl ict. His depicted micro-social universe was mostly of a well-mannered and peaceful nature, although Asylums and Stigma, as mentioned, revealed some of the darker sides of human co-presence—e.g. when recognition turns into misrecognition and when mortification of selves and stigmatisation replace civility and courtesy. Mostly, however, Goffman’s writings on and outlining of the interaction order and the actions of its ‘inhabitants’ were concerned with those rituals that maintain micro-social order such as supportive interchanges or remedial interchanges, whereas had his interest primarily been in the disruption of order or disorder, terms like ‘destructive interchanges’ or ‘antagonistic interchanges’ would have to have been invented. According to Rawls (1987), the notion of ‘order’ in Goffman’s delineation of the ‘interaction order’ was therefore far from coincidental—in fact, by stressing the orderly nature of interaction, Goffman also indirectly made the claim that order was not only normal, it might also even be desirable, as it provided a ‘working consensus’ for the interactants involved.

COGNITIVE, SOCIAL AND MORAL RECOGNITION It needs to be stressed that just as Goffman never claimed that the ‘interaction order’ was any more important than or analytically superior to any other type of social order, such as the political, the economic or the technological, neither is it my claim here that the interactive recognition implicit in the interaction order is any more important than other types of recognition, such as political, economic or otherwise. My claim, however, is that this interactive recognition—through rituals, courtesies and consideration— supplements, buttresses and indeed is a prerequisite for Goffman’s whole idea of a micro-social interaction order. But how does all this relate to the topic of recognition? One may wonder if Goffman mentions recognition at all in his writings and, if so, where and how? More than anything else, recognition to Goffman is perhaps the most fundamental form of interaction and communication and a functional prerequisite for even the most hurried encounters of strangers in everyday life. Despite its cardinal position at least in Goffman’s ritual metaphor as unfolded in books such as Behavior in Public Places (1963a), Interaction

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Ritual (1967), Relations in Public (1971) and Encounters (1972), recognition remains an implicit rather than explicit reference in most of his work. Moreover, since most of Goffman’s work is characterised by a somewhat distanced and dispassionate attitude when describing the minutiae of the micro-world of encounters, occasions and situations, it is unsurprising that also his use of the term ‘recognition’ at fi rst glance remains rather clinical and analytical. Semantically, recognition stems from the combination of ‘re’ and ‘cognition’, which describes the process in thinking and perception concerned with how one cognitively memorises events that have been encountered before. As such, there is an unmistakable element of recurrence, recognising the familiar, something safe and expected embedded in the term. In Goffman’s universe, such recurrences and repetitions constitute the very core of the multitude of daily encounters in everyday life. For example, in Behavior in Public Places, Goffman specifically used and developed the term ‘recognition’ in a delineation and discussion of ‘acquaintanceships’— people who know each other without knowing each other intimately. Here he drew a distinction between ‘cognitive recognition’ and ‘social recognition’. Whereas the former pertains to “a process by which one individual ‘places’ or identifies another, linking the sight of him with a framework of information concerning him”, the latter refers to “the process of openly welcoming or at least accepting the initiation of an engagement, as when a greeting or a smile is returned” (Goffman 1963a:113). Goffman went on to specify the difference between these two types of recognition: Typically, cognitive recognition links the person recognized to information that refers exclusively to him . . . Sometimes, however, cognitive recognition merely implies the placing of an individual in some general social category . . . Cognitive recognition, then, is the process through which we socially or personally identify the other . . . Cognitive recognition is a private act that a concealed spy can engage in, but it is difficult to engage in it without expressing the idea that one is doing so. Social recognition is a glance specifically functioning as a ceremonial gesture of contact with someone. (Goffman 1963a:113) So whereas cognitive recognition refers to a relatively passive posture in which the other is noticed and then placed in a certain category or within a specific realm of recollection—not unlike the Schutzian idea of ‘typification’—social recognition entails a more engaged attitude towards the other as a potential co-interactant whom one is expected to recognise not only cognitively but also socially. One can thus understand recognition as a process potentially leading from a clinical and cognitive stage into a more engaged and social state. Moreover, the implication that cognitive recognition may lead to social recognition which in turn can—although Goffman never explicitly hypothesised about this—lead to more lasting connections

212 Michael Hviid Jacobsen also entails an understanding of recognition as a moral matter, because interactants will eventually have to begin to pay homage to the aforementioned rules of engagement existing within the interaction order when engaging with each other. A paradoxical aspect of this proposed moral recognition, which is latently present in parts of Goffman’s writings, is that it may also support quite the opposite effect—that one decides to stay away from or desist engagement. Thus, moral recognition as ‘non-recognition’ is evident in Goffman’s notion of ‘civil inattention’, which he defi ned as follows: In performing this courtesy the eyes of the looker may pass over the eyes of the other, but no ‘recognition’ is typically allowed. Where the courtesy is performed by two persons passing on the streets, civil inattention may take the special form of eyeing the other up to approximately eight feet, during which time sides of the street are apportioned by gesture, and then casting the eyes down as the other passes—a kind of dimming the lights. In any case, we have here what is perhaps the slightest of interpersonal rituals, yet one that constantly regulates the social intercourse of persons in our society. (Goffman 1963a:84) The prevalence of interpersonal rituals such as ´civil inattention’ and its concomitant ‘dimming of the lights’ upon meeting strangers on the street show how moral recognition of others not only relates to maintaining a working consensus within the situation, but also how certain rules and rituals of ‘non-recognition’ when meeting others is part and parcel of moral recognition. Moreover, the ‘circles of the self’ and ‘territories of the self’ mentioned by Goffman (1963a:242, 1971:28–61) capture how threats of contamination and violation are a potentiality in most everyday encounters but also how certain physical boundaries—e.g. due to the practice of socalled ‘avoidance rituals’—between individuals are routinely maintained as guidelines for conduct and contact, which normatively uphold the social situation as a small-scale society. As Goffman observed: By virtue of being in a social situation that is itself lodged within a social occasion, individuals modify their conduct in many normatively guided ways. The persons present to one another are thus transformed from a mere aggregate into a little society, a little group, a little deposit of social organization. (Goffman 1963a:243) In short, a moral commitment or perhaps even a normative pressure to maintain a mutually respectful working consensus in interaction is required of participants and recognition is thus as much about morality as it is about presentational claims. For Goffman, such claims to recognition are some of the most important components in social encounters as well as social organisation. In Relations in Public he stated that “at the center of social

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organisation is the concept of claims, and around this center, properly, the student must consider the vicissitudes of maintaining them” (Goffman 1971:28). As shown, when participating in interaction, individuals’ claims not only pertain to self-presentations but simultaneously to maintaining a moral involvement in the situation and a cognitive, social and moral commitment to other participants’ claims to selves—although Goffman in his dramaturgical metaphor maintained that, as performers, individuals are primarily ‘merchants of morality’ rather than inspired by lofty moral ideals or normative standards: Qua performer, individuals are concerned not with the moral issue of realizing these standards, but with the amoral issue of engineering a convincing impression that these standards are being realized. Our activity, then, is largely concerned with moral matters, but as performers we do not have a moral concern with them. As performers we are merchants of morality. (Goffman 1959:251) However, in Goffman’s ritual metaphor the merchants of morality have been replaced by recognition rituals and encounter etiquettes and Laura Bovone summarised this by stating that Goffman “continually stresses the fact that the moral involvement which is put into encounters is of extreme importance” (Bovone 1993:32). Far from depicting an amoral universe inhabited by calculative and cynical merchants of morality, Goffman’s is rather a micro-world maintained by miniature recognition rituals.

THE RITUAL REGULATION OF MICRO-SOCIAL LIFE As shown, many of Goffman’s books describe a comprehensive and widely ramified network of rules, rituals, codes of conduct and etiquettes governing and regulating everyday life encounters (Cheal 1988), all ensuring that everybody is accorded due recognition in interaction. Just as Durkheim’s rituals placed a certain normative pressure on participating individuals to conform, also Goffman’s ritualisation of human physical co-presence meant that his perspective provided a ritualised and somewhat quasi-religious description of society and whatever went on inside it. This made Johan Asplund (1975:39) aptly denote Goffman’s vision of mundane world as the ‘mass of everyday life’. However, as mentioned earlier, Goffman in many respects not merely emulated but also moved beyond Durkheim by secularising his idea of the sanctity of society and by transferring his understanding of spectacularly staged rituals to the micro-realm of everyday encounters. So despite his unmistakable Durkheimian ancestry, Goffman—contrary to Durkheim (1915/1995), who fi rst and foremost concerned himself with the choreographed macro-rituals taking place periodically or annually, such as the festivities of the Corroboree of the Australian aborigines—was much

214 Michael Hviid Jacobsen more concerned with the continuous flow of ritualised micro-recognition and symbolic respect running throughout everyday life settings. As Diane L. Miller concluded in her comparison of Durkheim and Goffman: For Durkheim, all religious worship is performed by the group toward the society itself; Goffman’s rites are performed to the social order in miniature . . . On whatever scale, the little religious ritual ceremonies, wherever performed, or by whom, all attest to the superiority of one being—that of society. (Miller 1982:133) And Goffman could indeed—as Durkheim—be seen as a protagonist or defender of society and social order as such. In Behavior in Public Places he deliberately quoted Elizabeth Bowen’s almost functionalist statement: “For each of the occasions of society, one of the thousand-and-one rules you have learnt fitted. You knew what to do, and did it. Society went like a clockwork” (Bowen in Goffman 1963a:209). However, the cogs of this clockwork for Goffman were constituted by the myriad ‘traffic rules of social interaction’ (Goffman 1967:12) rather than by annual ceremonials, formalised rules or legislated morality. His clockwork was made up more by ‘ceremonial rules’—pertaining to matters felt only to be of secondary or no importance in their own right—than by ‘substantive rules’—those rules that are formalised, officially sanctioned and concern matters of the utmost importance to the maintenance of macro-social order. Moreover, Goffman—in continuation but also in subtle extension of Durkheim’s distinction between ‘positive rites’ and ‘negative rites’—delineated a ritual apparatus not only of prohibitions, taboo and consecration (what he called ‘avoidance rituals’) but also of prescriptions of how to initiate, uphold and secure interaction as well as how to appropriately present oneself to others and making attestations to recipients regarding their treatment of each other in the upcoming or ongoing interaction (the so-called ‘presentational rituals’). Thus, when not using the term ‘rule’, Goffman often deployed, and with ample and appropriate appreciation of Durkheim, the notion of ‘ritual’— by the time of his utility primarily a concept invoked by functionalist anthropologists—to describe a fundamental feature of social life, namely how people routinely and ritually engage in certain corrective or supportive efforts in order to save the situation in which they as interactants fi nd themselves and to secure that a state of equilibrium is maintained. For example, they take part in what Goffman termed ‘facework’ as a ritualised expressive order of face-to-face engagements: I use the term ritual because I am dealing with acts through whose symbolic component the actor shows how worthy he is of respect or how worthy he feels others are of it. The imagery of equilibrium is apt here because the length and intensity of the corrective effort is nicely

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adapted to persistence and intensity of the threat. One’s face, then, is a sacred thing, and the expressive order required to sustain it is, therefore, a ritual one. (Goffman 1967:19) Others have pointed out how this notion of facework, apart from substantiating a view of interactive equilibrium and expressive orderliness, also supports an idea of reciprocity binding the social together, and Adam Kendon stressed how Goffman regarded interaction as governed by such rules of reciprocity in the shape of ‘ritual requirements’: “Ritual requirements refer to the rules that govern interaction, given that participants are moral beings who are governed by reciprocally held norms of good or proper conduct” (Kendon 1988:31). The whole notion of reciprocity captures—as we shall see below—how one ritualised act of recognition of others fosters reciprocation, potentially setting in motion a chain-reaction of recognition spreading throughout society. Despite Goffman’s frequent referral to the metaphorical imagery of rules, rituals, requirements and etiquettes, neither deities nor society as such were the immediate recipients of these ritual offerings and considerations, as in Durkheim’s writings, but other individuals—and not abstract or amorphous individuals but those of flesh and blood within arms length and reachable by use of the multitude of human senses. This presumed sacredness or sanctity of other individuals was an integral part of Goffman’s writings as already evident in his PhD thesis when proclaiming: A case may be made for the view that the best model for an object to which we give consideration is not a person at all, but a sacred idol, image or god. It is to such sacred objects that we show in extreme what we show to persons . . . When in an idol’s immediate presence we act with ritual care . . . An idol is to a person as a rite is to etiquette. (Goffman 1953:104) Although wary not to idolise or sanctify ordinary people, Goffman nevertheless made the case that the ‘cult of the individual’ prevalent in modern society emphasised the recognition of other interactants as idol-like creatures whereas Durkheim in his writings was far more concerned with religious totems, mana and collective effervescence (see e.g. Chriss 1993; Collins 1994). Goffman substantiated this claim by suggesting that “the person in our urban secular world is allotted a kind of sacredness that is displayed and confi rmed by symbolic acts” (Goffman 1967:47), and went on—in perhaps one of his most often quoted paragraphs—to declare on the prevalence of interpersonal rituals in society: In contemporary society rituals performed to stand-ins for supernatural entities are everywhere in decay, as are extensive ceremonial agendas involving long strings of obligatory rites. What remains are brief

216 Michael Hviid Jacobsen rituals one individual performs for and to another, attesting to civility and good will on the performer’s part and to the recipient’s possession of a small patrimony of sacredness. What remains, in brief, are interpersonal rituals . . . Only our secular view of society prevents us from appreciating the ubiquitousness and strategy of their location, and, in turn, their role in social organization. (Goffman 1971:63) However, although describing the rise of a new ‘cult of the individual’, Goffman never believed that it was the individual qua individual who was the ultimate recipient of recognition and respect in interaction. At the end of the day, the concrete individual merely performed and fulfilled the role as stand in for us all and as such—in the last instance—for society. And although it may be the case that concrete individuals are those who demand or crave recognition in concrete interaction, the recognition received is nevertheless something stemming from the fundamental ritual organisation of social situations. As Goffman insisted: “The general capacity to be bound by moral rules may well belong to the individual, but the particular set of rules which transforms him into a human being derives from requirements established in the ritual organisation of social encounters” (Goffman 1967:45). Thus, the existence and persistence of normative pressures, ritual requirements and moral rules stemming from and running through social encounters and the face-to-face engagements testifies to the superiority— although mediated through individual members—of society, and in this way Goffman ultimately subscribed to a Durkheimian understanding of the intimate relationship between individual and society. Here recognition for Goffman serves the function as key mediator and as the glue making sure society sticks together.

SOCIETY AS A CEREMONIAL CHAIN OF RECOGNITION In Interaction Ritual Goffman in great detail specified the ubiquity of the aforementioned micro-ritual gestures and the indispensability of ceremonial rules to everyday interaction: The rules of conduct which bind the actor and the recipient together are the bindings of society . . . Opportunities to affi rm the moral order and society could therefore be rare. It is here that the ceremonial rules play their social function, for many of the acts which are guided by these rules last but a brief moment, involve no substantial outlay, and can be performed in every social interaction. Whatever the activity and however profanely instrumental, it can afford many opportunities for minor ceremonies as long as other persons are present. Through these observances, guided by ceremonial obligations and expectations, a constant flow of indulgences is spread through society, with others

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who are present constantly reminding the individual that he must keep himself together as a well demeaned person and affi rm the sacred quality of these others. The gestures which we sometimes call empty are perhaps in fact the fullest thing of all. (Goffman 1967:90–91) Seen in this light, society and social life is in large part constituted and balanced by quite invisible, apparently trivial yet incredibly effective ritual indulgences and gestures of recognition, and here Goffman’s indebtedness not only to Durkheim but also to the sociology of Georg Simmel and its insights on the nature and forms of ‘sociation’ is unmistakable. As mentioned earlier, the notion of reciprocity is central if not even cardinal to any appreciation of this micro-world of Goffman’s as it also was for Simmel in his understanding of sociable interaction (Gerhardt 2003). For example, Simmel once stated that “there is a party . . . only when there is reciprocal pleasing, stimulating, cheering” (Simmel in Levine 1989:115). Quite similarly, although using another ceremonial metaphor, Goffman once insisted how “the world, in truth, is a wedding” (Goffman 1959:45). Thus, Goffman’s basic idea of the perpetual interplay between the ritual practices of ‘deference’ and ‘demeanour’ illustrates how an intimate and reciprocal link exists between what an individual does and what he/she receives in return as a fundamental principle guiding social transaction. Whereas ‘demeanour’ is reserved for those acts that are generally regarded as being performed based on desirable human qualities (such as—at least in our society—sincerity, modesty, poise, self-control, sportsmanship and politeness), deference refers to the recognition and the appreciation that the well-behaved individual receives from recipients of his/her well-demeaned actions. Thus, there is a certain something-for-something understanding in this line of reasoning—good or socially sanctioned behaviour is traded with recognition—although recognition does not rely on any individual actors’ rationality or cunning but instead rests on the ritual organisation of social encounters. This intimate link between action and reciprocation amounts to what Goffman (1967:84) called a ‘chain of ceremony’ and is captured in his beautiful passage from “The Nature of Deference and Demeanor” stating that “for a complete man to be expressed, individuals must hold hands in a chain of ceremony, each giving deferentially with proper demeanor to the one on the right what will be received deferentially from the one on the left” (Goffman 1967:84–85). The fundamental prerequisites for and locus of recognition are therefore, as mentioned earlier, social not individual, tying people together instead of—at least in the normal running of society—setting them against each other. Consequently, recognition is something that only others may bestow upon the individual—not something one can provide for oneself: The individual may desire, earn and deserve deference, but by and large he is not allowed to give it to himself, being forced to seek it from

218 Michael Hviid Jacobsen others. In seeking it from others, he fi nds he has added reason from seeking them out, and in turn society is given added assurance that its members will enter into interaction and relationships with one another. If the individual could give himself the deference he desired there might be a tendency for society to disintegrate into islands inhabited by solitary cultish men, each in continuous worship at his own shrine. (Goffman 1967:58) As is evident from this quotation, forms of sociality and social relations in Goffman’s work—at least in any lasting extent—are achievable and maintainable only due to reciprocal recognition between individuals, and the validation of self so much on the mind of Goffman’s individual can only—at least ordinarily (and notwithstanding the unforeseeable yet relatively infrequent violating actions of the insane or otherwise unpredictable individuals)—be achieved through courteous contact with others. Reciprocity is therefore not only important but built into the very structure of everyday exchanges and engagements—if one wants to receive recognition, which in Goffman’s universe is almost a priori due to his image of man as a perpetual recognition-seeker—one must present oneself and engage in interaction with demeanour while simultaneously allowing for others to present themselves and participating in a manner that paves the way for deferential recognition. Based on the preceding, one might perhaps think that Goffman’s reciprocal view of recognition, rules and interaction rituals was exclusively situational—i.e. referring to a variety of largely unconnected and isolated situational units with very little or no bearing on each other. Since a large part of human interaction in society is played out in such apparently different and episodic encounters, gatherings, meetings and situations, one might therefore suspect that each is governed by its own unique and situation-specific rules and rituals. However, a convincing case can be made for viewing Goffman’s perspective more as trans-situational than as merely situational and he himself also rejected accusations of what he saw as ‘rampant situationalism’ (Goffman 1983a:4). His trans-situational approach was, for example, captured by statements such as: “In any given society, different situations will be the scene of many of the same normative assumptions regarding conduct and of the same situational rulings” (Goffman 1963a:216). Even across a variety of widely different types of situations—e.g. casual or chance encounters in public places, face-to-face engagements at private events or at more formal meetings—the normative pressures, ritual requirements or rules of conduct according to Goffman remain relatively identical. He described these as ‘situational proprieties’ dictating our demeanor in social situations, the most important being “the rule obliging the participants to ‘fit in’” (Goffman 1963a:11), which in turn secures that individuals receive due deference and recognition from co-interactants insofar as they act with demeanour. So there is a kind of

Recognition as Ritualised Reciprocation


trans-situational pressure on participants in gatherings or encounters to accommodate themselves to the situation at hand which most often—at least in Goffman’s universe—means paying respect to those others present thereby avoiding the situation or occasion to collapse. This trans-situational view raises important questions regarding the universal applicability of Goffman’s fi ndings across time and space and the possibility of making generalisations to social and cultural formations beyond the middle-class, American and modern context which primarily provided Goffman with examples and insights. According to Anthony Giddens, Goffman’s analyses of face-to-face behaviour and the concomitant concern with recognition and the morality of saving other people’s faces in fact had implications on a broader—transcultural, global or perhaps even universal—scope: The primacy of the face as a medium of expression and of communication has moral implications, many of which are accurately teased out by Goffman. To turn one’s back on another while the other is speaking is in most (perhaps all?) societies a gesture of indifference or contempt. Moreover, most (all?) societies tend to recognize a linguistic similarity between the face as a term referring to physiognomy and face as concerning the maintenance of self-esteem . . . Aspects of the preservation and ‘saving’ of face are almost certainly generic to a whole diversity of transcultural contexts of social encounters. (Giddens 1984:67) Others, however, have insisted that the cross-cultural relevance and transferability of Goffman’s ideas on human nature and interaction ought to be questioned and qualified (e.g. Berger and Luckmann 1966; Schudson 1985; Srinivasan 1990). Although Goffman proclaimed that his own framework was not ‘culture-free’ (Goffman 1959:244), he hinted at a certain modicum of universalism of the interaction order in his presidential address, stating that “since the same basic contingencies are being managed, one can expect that across quite different societies the interaction order is likely to exhibit some markedly similar features” (Goffman 1983a:4). Some of these “markedly similar features” could, for example, be the aforementioned necessity for people to recognise—cognitively, socially and morally—each other in interaction. Elsewhere, in “On Face-Work”, Goffman went on to suggest that if persons have a universal human nature, they themselves are not to be looked to for an explanation of it. One must look rather to the fact that societies everywhere, if they are to be societies, must mobilize their members as self-regulating participants in social encounters. One way of mobilizing the individual for this purpose is through ritual; he is taught to be perceptive, to have feelings attached to self and to self expressed through face, to have pride, honor and dignity, to have considerateness, to have tact and a certain amount of poise. These are


Michael Hviid Jacobsen some of the elements of behavior which must be built into the person if practical use is to be made of him as an interactant, and it is these elements that are referred to in part when one speaks of universal human nature. (Goffman 1967:44–45)

In order to qualify this argument, Goffman must be understood as proposing that while the formal structure of the interaction order and the ritual requirements on its interactants may be said to exist everywhere, the actual ‘stuffi ng’ of the interaction order may differ from society to society and is as such context-dependent because “its standard set of human-nature elements is pitched and combined in a particular way” (Goffman 1967:45).6 Even with this reservation and nuancing, Goffman’s view of trans-situational proprieties and claims to universal human nature as well as to chains of ceremonial rules and reciprocal recognition may very well have earned him the image of a vanguard of functionalist sociology. Contrary to cultural relativists, a central tenet of most strands of functionalism is exactly its insistence on the near universal necessity of functions to structures and on the idea of social order and equilibrium. In his view on trans-situational proprieties, human nature and the reciprocity of recognition,7 Goffman— perhaps unwittingly, perhaps wilfully—thus came close to embracing the label as a micro-level functionalist (see e.g. Jacobsen and Kristiansen in this volume). For example, Randall Collins and Michael Makowsky portrayed Goffman in the following way: “Goffman is neither a revolutionary nor a hippie. Rather, he stands squarely in the Durkheimian functionalist tradition, a more empirically oriented Talcott Parsons” (Collins and Makowsky 2005:238). According to them, Goffman’s theory of interaction rituals contains a central notion of ‘functional necessity’. They thus go on to describe the core of Goffman’s presumed functionalism as follows: Life is full of non-practical ceremonies, but Goffman sees ceremonies as functionally necessary to maintain social order . . . Goffman’s analysis of the rules of politeness and social ceremony is carried out without irony. In his view individuals who do not live up to the rules of polite interaction are justly punished by embarrassment, self-consciousness, or ostracism, for such rules are functionally necessary for social reality to be kept alive . . . All of this is necessary to uphold society, to preserve symbolic reality for those who can participate in it. Like most functionalists, Goffman is ready to see things as necessary simply because they exist. (Collins and Makowsky 2005:238) Also other interpreters have noticed a certain functionalist ‘edge’ to Goffman’s work. For example, Anthony Giddens observed on Goffman’s perspective how “trust and tact are more fundamental and binding features of social interaction than is the cyclical manipulation of appearances” (Giddens 1987:113). James J. Chriss characterised Goffman as a ‘neofunctionalist

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before the neofunctionalists and stated that “in essence, Goffman is concerned with explicating the things persons do in the presence of others to maintain normal appearances so that the routines of everyday life can be carried on” (Chriss 2003:184). Likewise, P. M. Strong described Goffman as a ‘micro-functionalist of appearances’ and observed that “what obsessed Goffman was the collective psychology, not of the wider group or the whole of society but of the miniature world of focused, face-to-face interaction” (Strong 2006:58). Strong went on to suggest how the functionalism of Goffman was evident in the fact that each encounter is, thus, a separate little society with its own tacit ceremonial order; its special vocabulary for the public description of actors, actions, circumstances, morals and motives. This order prescribes an idealized version of each of the participants and the events in which they engage. The particular rules of relevance and irrelevance which shape each occasion portray the enclosed interaction as a single, harmonious system in which each contributes to the greater good. (Strong 2006:59) These statements all testify not only to a latent but a manifest micro-functionalism in Goffman’s work. Moreover, apart from the aforementioned universalistic aspirations, some other central tenets of functionalism are, in general, the privileging of normality, the focus on social order, the normative regulation of social life and a concern with keeping society in a state of equilibrium by way of individuals’ internalisation of normative rules. In this way it makes sense to regard Goffman’s recognition perspective as described earlier as an unmistakable instantiation of sociological microfunctionalism (Jacobsen and Kristiansen 2009).

CONCLUSIONS AND PERSPECTIVES This chapter has attempted to show how Erving Goffman—despite routine neglect—provides a valuable understanding, albeit often between the lines, of the topic of recognition. In many ways he thus supplements but also rectifies many of the more macro-oriented, abstract theoretical, psychological and normative theories currently on offer within the field of recognition theory.8 Obviously, there is much more to Goffman than recognition theory—and his other main metaphors such as theatre, game and frame testify to this—but as has been shown earlier he is also an important recognition theorist. Goffman’s unique and original contribution to recognition theory can be seen in his suggestion that micro-recognition embedded in, for example, reciprocal acts of deference and demeanour makes the micro-world go around and in illustrating how a multitude of recognition rituals and rules


Michael Hviid Jacobsen

are part and parcel of most everyday interactions.9 To him, this has nothing to do with substantive rules, formalised regulations or ‘rule of Law’. Nor does it have anything to do with intense emotions of human morality or any substantial or ethical interest in recognising the unique and innate human subjectivity of others as in moral philosophy. Rather, Goffman’s notion of recognition has to do with such impersonal notions as situational propriety, functionality, civility, etiquette, norms, ceremonial rules and reverence. As shown earlier, Goffman—in this sense—provided a micro-functionalist perspective on recognition as something stabilising social relations and keeping social order, at least at the micro-level, in a state of equilibrium. As such, the recognition given and received are functionally necessary for maintaining the micro-world, and, as such, Goffman’s view also supplements and corrects those contemporary recognition theories seeing recognition only through the confl ict-ridden prism of personal, structural or movement-based struggles. Moreover, Goffman not only theorised the theme of recognition in an original manner. As mentioned, also the topic of ‘misrecognition’ was treated substantially throughout many of his books such as Stigma and Asylums. However, like many of the positions associated with the so-called ‘recognition-theoretical turn’ discussed earlier in this chapter, Goffman’s writings on recognition are far from without limitations, flaws, analytical problems, priorities or inconsistencies of their own. As a concluding perspective on this chapter, three discussion themes will briefly be touched upon—though not solved—below; themes which further research into Goffman’s recognition theory may aspire to develop further. These themes are: social change, micro versus macro and fi nally a discussion of the validity of a few of the criticisms raised against Goffman’s depiction of the rituals and rules regulating the micro-order of society. The fi rst theme to be briefly discussed is social change and how Goffman’s idea of recognition, as outlined here, may still apply to a world that has undergone quite drastic changes since his lifetime. Even though Goffman obviously could not foresee the earth-shattering rapidness and scope of the extensive processes of levelling of status differentials between the sexes and between adults and children, political democratisation, new moral values, a generational shift from baby boomers via Generations X and Y, individualisation of lifestyles, globalisation and uprooting of worldviews, transformation of intimacy, ‘cultural release’, informalisation and an expressive revolution in attitudes and ideas, his notion of an interaction order necessitating reciprocal recognition between its participants is still as valid today as when he fi rst proposed its existence in the early 1950’s. Today, as then, ideas about the so-called ‘polite society’ consisting of respectful relationships, tactful and courteous social intercourse permeate every nook and cranny of political as well as moral discourse and Goffman here provided an important micro-perspective (see e.g. Bargiela-Chiappini 2003). Perhaps this basic understanding of politeness, courtesy and recognition

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guiding micro-level social life has since most elaborately and convincingly been expressed in the idea of ‘interactional citizenship’ (Colomy and Brown 1996) as a suggestion of how to crystallise the relationship between macro and micro, between formal political rights and informal civil obligations. Regarding this ‘interactional citizenship’, its inventors Paul Colomy and J. David Brown declared on what they saw as a ‘macro bias’: We suggest that the macro bias of citizenship theory can be partially remedied by considering a highly speculative, micro corollary to the societal inclusion hypothesis, viz., that over the last two centuries there has been a movement toward extending interactional citizenship to categories of actors previously subjected to consistently invidious treatment . . . Interactional citizenship refers to a set of vague and diffuse but vitally felt expectations and obligations that pertain to interactional displays of respect, regard and dignity for the person … Interactional citizenship refers to a symmetrical, ceremonial code of etiquette that informs ego’s and alter’s face-to-face displays of roughly equivalent regard and value for one another as persons. Reciprocal acts of deference comprise the conventional idiom by which ego’s and alter’s interactional citizenship is recognized and reaffi rmed. (Colomy and Brown 1996:375) Colomy and Brown suggested that such interactional citizenship could be seen as analogous to Alexis de Tocqueville’s principle of equality, Durkheim’s notion of cult of the individual and Talcott Parsons’s idea of institutionalised individualism and as guiding principles of contemporary social order. Based on the preceding presentation it is my suggestion that the current privileging and popularity of the idea of recognition could easily be included as an instance of the ambition to establish such interactional citizenship in modern society. Second, but closely related to this theme, is the question whether Goffman’s understanding of recognition can be transferred or expanded from its original micro-level focus to a more macro-oriented level of social analysis. Goffman himself never believed, or claimed, that his interaction order mirrored society in its entirety or that what goes on in this largely situational order could directly be extrapolated to all other areas of social life. As he stated: I do not believe that one can learn about the shape of the commodities market, or the distribution of a city’s land values, or the ethnic succession in municipal administrations, or the structure of kinship systems, or the systematic phonological shifts within the dialects of a speech community by extrapolating or aggregating from particular social encounters among the persons involved in any one of these patterns. (Goffman 1983a:9)


Michael Hviid Jacobsen

However, as a means to speculate creatively and innovatively about the basis of macro-social phenomena and about the relationship—correlation or difference—between the micro and the macro realm, Goffman’s ideas on the interaction order recognition may prove highly relevant and fertile (Jacobsen and Kristiansen 2009). So although his view can be seen as an instantiation of so-called ‘sociological miniaturism’ primarily concerned with micro-level phenomena (Stolte, Fine and Cook 2001), Goffman’s ideas may nevertheless inspire thinking about macro-phenomena as in the notion of ‘interactional citizenship’ mentioned earlier. With his well-substantiated and continually maturing ideas of ‘micro-translation’ and ‘interaction ritual chains’—and with Goffman as a main source of inspiration—Randall Collins has thus claimed how “sociological concepts can be made fully empirical only by grounding them in a sample of the typical micro-events that make them up” (Collins 1981:988).10 According to Collins, macro-phenomena and macro-processes—such as for example community, solidarity, mobilisation and stratification—are merely abstractions and aggregations of what transpire in micro-settings (see Collins 1988, 2004). Thus, it is meaningful—ontologically, epistemologically as well as methodologically—to explore the events and instances of micro-recognition as evidence or illustration of more comprehensive social processes but also to investigate and show how structural properties on the macro-level may infringe upon or support the content of micro-processes. Naturally, we need to be wary not to replace the ‘macro illusion’ mentioned in the beginning of the chapter—an illusion of social life privileging the macro-structures and most tangible and visible institutional arrangements—with an equally biased and fallacious ‘micro illusion’, an illusion that believes that the micro-level of analysis always contains the last word. Third, throughout the years a variety of critical voices have been raised against the overall vision of society advanced by Goffman, which in this chapter—based primarily on his ritual metaphor—has been described as a view of the interaction order as a so-called ‘realm of recognition’. Although Goffman’s world of interaction rituals and ceremonial chains of recognition seem cosy and calm, this is not necessarily the way others appreciate his work. For example, Laurie Taylor, writing back in 1968, gloomily and critically described Goffman’s world of everyday courtesies, normative obligations and mannerisms in the following way: [Goffman’s] world . . . is a frightening place; one where the individual occasionally makes himself a little room in which to escape from the press of his normative obligations. What started out as an extended commentary upon the mannerisms of individuals in social interaction has become, over the years, a disturbing vision of humanity. (Taylor 2000:244) According to Taylor, Goffman’s world of normative obligations ultimately threatened to limit and erode individuals’ freedom of action. What Taylor

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overlooked, and with him many others throughout the years, was the fact that Goffman described a world in which things in fact run relatively smoothly and peacefully because of the human ability to take others into consideration and because mutual recognition—at least ordinarily—was an integral part of human everyday interaction. Goffman’s vision was therefore perhaps more disturbing because it generally left relatively little room for overt conflict, controversy and disagreement. Contrary to Goffman who regarded the many ceremonial rules of reciprocal recognition as the very lubrication of social life, other recognition-interested scholars—such as for example Zygmunt Bauman—regard these minor acts of ‘mismeeting’, ‘civil inattention’ and ‘avoidance rituals’ with suspicion as social solvents threatening to tear the social apart (for an extended comparison of Bauman and Goffman, see Jacobsen 2008b). However, a germ of social criticism might in fact be detected in Goffman’s own work, as some commentators have proposed. Although he wrote in a time when consumerism—at least as measured by current standards— was merely in its infancy, his work perhaps contained a critical edge which captured and even anticipated some of the social pathologies associated with contemporary consumer capitalism and the accompanying alienation from self and others arising from it. Thus, Lauren Langman restated Goffman in a more contemporary context by claiming: Goffman, writing at the dawn of the postmodern era of consumption, located decentered selfhood in the myriad of region-specific presentations desperately seeking recognition and confi rmation, as well as the strategic goals necessary to fit into the new order of consumer capitalism. The commodity fetish might mask the social relations that produced it. But the alienated self, a commodified simulacrum of identity, is an empty shell with no interior to hide, and without defenses against the anxieties of its own weakness, or against the fluid social ties of the postmodern world. (Langman 1992:122) Although one may thus see in Goffman’s vision of the world such seeds of social criticism of decentred selfhood, commodification and empty consumerism, his world was—as this chapter has shown—fundamentally one founded on and sustained and maintained by a multitude of minor rituals of facework, demeanour, deference, politeness cooperation, courtesy and reverence. Thus, Goffman’s work—and especially his elaborated ritual metaphor—does not warrant pessimistic diagnoses or prognoses of the rise of shallow other-directed personalities, superficial self-presentations or fluid or dissolved social ties, as proposed by Langman and others. Rather, Goffman’s work might be understood as a valuable contribution to theorising recognition rituals as a central force in the majority of our social encounters and relationships at ‘eye level’—a force securing that society does not fall apart or disintegrate into islands of egoistical selfworship or alienation.


Michael Hviid Jacobsen

At the end of the day, by extending Erving Goffman’s perspective beyond a mere description and delineation of these many rituals of recognition, one might surmise that somewhere behind his distanced and dispassionate depiction of the micro-courtesies, situational proprieties and ceremonial etiquettes of everyday life perhaps also lay a clarion-call to his readers to remember that there is a human being at the receiving end of one’s actions.

NOTES 1. Just as Goffman has been roundly neglected as a theorist of recognition, he has equally been overlooked as an important contributor—yet on the microsituational level—to other so-called ‘macro-phenomena’ such as stratification, rationalization, organization and power. For a few notable exceptions to and rectifications of this neglect in relation to power, organization and stratification, see Rogers (1977), Collins (2000), Mik-Meyer and Villadsen (2007), Jenkins (2008) and Manning (2008). 2. A more comprehensive application of Goffman’s perspective on recognition is found in Voswinkel (2001), who despite his elaborated reference to Goffman’s conceptual apparatus (primarily the dramaturgical metaphor) in relation to contemporary work life—but perhaps due to publication in German—has not yet influenced international scholarly debates on the theme of recognition. 3. For example, Marshall Ledger in his incisive analysis of the work of Goffman, and in his recapitulation of Goffman’s alleged ‘misreading’ of Durkheim, stated how “Goffman secularized Durkheim, or, put another way, he gave a sacred dimension to secular things: In the modern society, humans are sacred, and we use little rituals—called etiquette and manners—to make contact, little rituals which we can withhold or bestow on a moment’s notice” (Ledger 1982:40). 4. Other commentators, however, have noticed what they regard as an excessive micro-focus of much contemporary recognition theory, which pays insufficient attention to the role of the state. For an exponent of this perspective within a social work context, see Garrett (2009). 5. Apparently, there is an intriguing Janus-faced dimension to much of Goffman’s work—one side defending the self against intruding and normalising society, the other side defending society against the consecrating and violating individual. Contrary to those interpreters defi ning Goffman as a true heir to the Durkheimian throne, Eliot Friedson characterised him as “as much moralist than analyst, and a celebrant and defender of the self against society rather than, as might be expected of a sociologist who cites Durkheim, a celebrant of society and social forces” (Friedson 1983:361). According to Friedson—and others—Goffman was a staunch defender of the individual human being against the merciless forces of society. Thus, despite its clearcut micro-functionalist connotations, to which I return later in the chapter, and its defence of the social, as it were, Goffman’s sociology did not provide a ‘sociodicy’ (Pierre Bourdieu’s term) legitimising society to defi ne the social world or to determine the actions on behalf of the individual human being. 6. It also needs to be stressed that Goffman in fact rejected the notion of ‘universal human nature’ when stating that “universal human nature is not a very human thing. By acquiring it, the person becomes a kind of construct,

Recognition as Ritualised Reciprocation






built up not from inner psychic propensities but from moral rules that are impressed upon him from without. These rules, when followed, determine the evaluation he will make of himself and of his fellow-participants in the encounter, the distribution of his feelings, and the kinds of practices he will employ to maintain a specified and obligatory kind of ritual equilibrium” (Goffman 1967:45). The question then remains, did Goffman end up—as is my contention—constructing the person ‘from without’ based on such moral and normative rules? Also in Parsons’ functionalist theory of the social system, reciprocity was a necessary and functional precondition for the smooth running and stability of any kind of social system—he referred to this as the ‘mutuality of gratification’ (Parsons and Shils 1951:107-108), which has certain resemblances with Goffman’s idea of deference and demeanour. Some interpreters have claimed that the view of society portrayed by Goffman—and perhaps particularly the view contained within his ritual metaphor as outlined in this chapter—is in fact also normatively supporting a conservative, consensual and confl ict-free vision of the social world (e.g. Gouldner 1970; Münch 1986). Spencer E. Cahill quotes Lyn H. Lofland’s telling tale of how she—during her extensive studies of interaction among strangers in the public realm— hardly ever came across acts of incivility but how civility was an integral part of most causal meetings in public: “I have spent many hundreds of hours making observations in public places and have observed thousands of instances of civility toward diversity. Yet almost without exception, these have gone unrecorded. Only the very few instances of observed incivility made it into my notes” (Lofland in Cahill 1994:8). Despite its somewhat unnoticed nature, civility prevails in most human encounters, which testifies to the thesis advanced here—that recognition is indeed a ubiquitous feature of everyday life encounters. Not only Collins’ (2004) ‘interaction ritual chains’ are dependent for their continuation upon Goffman’s notion of micro-recognition and its reciprocation. Also Norbert Elias’ (1978) extended chains of ‘mutual interdependence’ between figurations could not exist for long without Goffman’s micro-recognition between those parties or persons participating in the respective figurations. The same pertains to a lot of the other macro-collective concepts developed within classical and contemporary sociology.

REFERENCES Asplund, Johan (1975): “Indledning til Goffmans forfatterskab”, in Bo Gregersen (ed.): Om Goffman—11 artikler. Copenhagen: Hans Reitzels Forlag. Bargiela-Chiappini, Francesca (2003): “Face and Politeness: New (Insights) for Old (Concepts)”. Journal of Pragmatics, 35:1453–1469. Bauman, Zygmunt (2001): “The Great War of Recognition”. Theory, Culture & Society, 18 (2-3):137–150. . (2008): The Art of Life. Cambridge: Polity Press. Berger, Peter L. and Thomas Luckmann (1966): The Social Construction of Reality: A Treatise in the Sociology of Knowledge. New York: Doubleday. Blatterer, Harry (2007): Coming of Age in Times of Uncertainty. Oxford: Berghan Books. Bourdieu, Pierre (1983): “Erving Goffman, Discoverer of the Infi nitely Small”. Theory, Culture & Society, 2 (1):112–113.


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. (1984): Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgment of Taste. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. . (1990): The Logic of Practice. Cambridge: Polity Press. Bovone, Laura (1993): “Ethics as Etiquette: The Emblematic Contribution of Erving Goffman”. Theory, Culture & Society, 10:25–39. Brink, Bert van den and David Owen (eds.) (2007): Recognition and Power. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Brittan, Arthur (1973): Meanings and Situations. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul. Cahill, Spencer E. (1994): “Following Goffman, Following Durkheim into the Public Realm”. Research in Community Sociology (Supplement 1):3–17. Cheal, David (1988): “The Postmodern Origin of Ritual”. Journal for the Theory of Social Behavior, 18 (3):269–289. Chriss, James J. (1993): “Durkheim’s Cult of the Individual as Civil Religion: Its Appropriation by Erving Goffman”. Sociological Spectrum, 13:251–275 . (2003): “Goffman as Microfunctionalist”, in A. Javier Treviño (ed.): Goffman’s Legacy. New York: Rowman & Littlefield. Collins, Randall (1981): “On the Microfoundations of Macrosociology”. American Journal of Sociology, 86 (5):984–1015. . (1988): “Theoretical Continuities in Goffman’s Work”, in Paul Drew and Anthony Wootton (eds.): Erving Goffman—Exploring the Interaction Order. Boston: Northeastern University Press. . (1994): Four Sociological Traditions. New York: Oxford University Press. . (2000): “Situational Stratification: A Micro-Macro Theory of Inequality”. Sociological Theory, 18 (1):17–43. . (2004): Interaction Ritual Chains. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. Collins, Randall and Michael Makowsky (2005): The Discovery of Society (Seventh Edition). New York: McGraw-Hill. Colomy, Paul and J. David Brown (1996): “Goffman and Interactional Citizenship”. Sociological Perspectives, 39 (3):371–381. Creelan, Paul (1984): “Vicissitudes of the Sacred: Erving Goffman and the Book of Job”. Theory and Society, 13 (5):663–695. . (1987): “The Degradation of the Sacred: Approaches of Cooley and Goffman”. Symbolic Interaction, 10:29-56. Douglas, Jack D. (ed.) (1980): Introduction to the Sociologies of Everyday Life. Boston: Allyn & Bacon. Durkheim, Émile (1906/1974): “The Determination of Moral Facts”, in Sociology and Philosophy. New York: Free Press. Durkheim, Émile (1915/1995): The Elementary Forms of Religious Life. New York: Free Press. Elias, Norbert (1978): What Is Sociology? London: Hutchinson. . (1992): “The Nature of Goffman”. The Centennial Review, 36:327– 342. Forst, Rainer (2002): Contexts of Justice. Berkeley: University of California Press. Fraser, Nancy (1995): “From Redistribution to Recognition: Dilemmas of Justice in a ‘Post-Socialist’ Age”. New Left Review, 212:68–93. . (2000): “Rethinking Recognition”. New Left Review, 3:107–120. Fraser, Nancy and Axel Honneth (2003): Redistribution or Recognition? A Political-Philosophical Exchange. London: Verso. Friedson, Eliot (1983): “Celebrating Erving Goffman”. Contemporary Sociology, 12 (4):360–364.

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Garfi nkel, Harold (1956): “Conditions of Successful Degradation Ceremonies”. American Journal of Sociology, 61:420–424. Garrett, Paul M. (2009): “Recognizing the Limitations of the Political Theory of Recognition: Axel Honneth, Nancy Fraser and Social Work”. British Journal of Social Work, April 22nd:1–17. Gerhardt, Uta (2003): “Of Kindred Spirit: Erving Goffman’s Oeuvre and Its Relationship to Georg Simmel”, in A. Javier Treviño (ed.): Goffman’s Legacy. New York: Rowman & Littlefield. Giddens, Anthony (1984): The Constitution of Society. Cambridge: Polity Press. . (1987): Social Theory and Modern Sociology. Cambridge: Polity Press. Goffman, Erving (1953): Communication Conduct in an Island Community. Unpublished PhD thesis, Department of Sociology, University of Chicago. . (1959): The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books. . (1961): Asylums: Essays on the Social Situation of Mental Patients and Other Inmates. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books. . (1963a): Behavior in Public Places: Notes on the Social Organization of Gatherings. New York: Free Press. . (1963b): Stigma: Notes on the Management of Spoiled Identity. Chicago: Aldine. . (1964): “The Neglected Situation”. American Anthropologist, 66 (2):133– 136. . (1967): Interaction Ritual: Essays on Face-to-Face Behavior. New York: Pantheon. . (1971): Relations in Public: Microstudies of the Public Order. New York: Basic Books. . (1972): Encounters: Two Studies in the Sociology of Interaction. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books. . (1979): Gender Advertisements. New York: Harper & Row. . (1983a): “The Interaction Order”. American Sociological Review, 48:1–17. . (1983b): “Microsociologie et historie”, in Philippe Fritsch (ed.): Le Sens de L’ordinaire. Paris: Editions du Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique. Gouldner, Alvin W. (1970): The Coming Crisis of Western Sociology. New York: Basic Books. Habermas, Jürgen (1984): The Theory of Communication Action, Volume I: Reason and the Rationalization of Society. Boston: Beacon Press. Heidegren, Carl-Göran (2004): “Recognition and Social Theory”. Acta Sociologica, 47 (4):365–373. . (2009): Erkännande. Malmö: Liber. Helle, Horst J. and Shmuel N. Eisenstadt (eds.) (1985): Micro Sociological Theory. London: Sage Publications. Hollis, Martin (1977): Models of Man: Philosophical Thoughts on Social Action. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Honneth, Axel (1996): The Struggle for Recognition: The Moral Grammar of Social Conflicts. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Høilund, Holger and Søren Juul (2005): Anerkendelse og dømmekraft i socialt arbejde. Copenhagen: Hans Reitzels Forlag. Jacobsen, Michael Hviid (ed.) (2008a): Encountering the Everyday—Introduction to the Sociologies of the Unnoticed. London: Palgrave/Macmillan. . (2008b): “Goffman Meets Bauman at the Shopping Mall—en diakron konfrontation om selv, samfund og sociologi”. Sosiologi i dag, 38 (3):37–71. Jacobsen, Michael Hviid and Søren Kristiansen (2009): “Micro-Recognition: Goffman as Recognition Thinker”. Sosiologisk Årbok/Yearbook of Sociology (in press).

230 Michael Hviid Jacobsen Jacobsen, Michael Hviid and Rasmus Willig (eds.) (2008): Anerkendelsespolitik. Odense: Syddansk Universitetsforlag. Jenkins, Richard (2008): “Erving Goffman: A Major Theorist of Power?”. Journal of Power, 1 (2):157–168. Kauffman, Claude (2004): L’invention de soi: Une theorie de l’identitet. Paris: Armand Colin. Kendon, Adam (1988): “Goffman’s Approach to Face-to-Face Interaction”, in Paul Drew and Anthony Wootton (eds.): Erving Goffman—Exploring the Interaction Order. Boston: Northeastern University Press. Langman, Lauren (1992): “Alienation and Everyday Life: Goffman Meets Marx at the Shopping Mall”, in Felix Geyer and Walter Heinz (eds.): Alienation, Society and the Individual. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Books. Ledger, Marshall (1982): “The Observer”. Pennsylvania Gazette, February 28th:36–42. Levine, Donald N. (1989): “Parsons’ Structure (and Simmel) Revisited”. Sociological Theory, 7 (1):110–117.1 Lyman, Stanford M. and Marvin B. Scott (1970): A Sociology of the Absurd. New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts. MacIntyre, Alasdair (1969): “The Self as a Work of Art”, New Statesman, March 28th:447–448. Manning, Peter K. (2008): “Goffman on Organizations”. Organization Studies, 29 (5):677–699. Markell, Patchen (2003): Bound by Recognition. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. Martindale, Don (1960): American Society. New York: Van Nostrand. McGregor, Gaile (1986): “A View from the Fort: Erving Goffman as Canadian”. Canadian Review of Sociology and Anthropology, 23 (4):531–543. McNay, Lois (2008): Against Recognition. Cambridge: Polity Press. Mik-Meyer, Nanna and Kaspar Villadsen (2007): Magtens former—sociologiske perspektiver på statens mode med borgeren. Copenhagen: Hans Reitzels Forlag. Miller, Diane L. (1982): “Ritual in the Work of Durkheim and Goffman: The Link between the Macro and the Micro”. Humanity and Society, 6:122–134. Mouzelis, Nicos P. (1995): Sociological Theory: What Went Wrong?—Diagnosis and Remedies. London: Routledge. Musil, Robert (1953/1996): The Man Without Qualities, Volumes I–III. London: Picador. Münch, Richard (1986): “The American Creed in Sociological Theory: Exchange, Negotiated Order, Accommodated Individualism and Contingency”. Sociological Theory, 4 (1):41–60. Parsons, Talcott and Edward A. Shils (eds.) (1951): Toward a General Theory of Action. Cambridge: MA: Harvard University Press. Rawls, Anne W. (1987): “The Interaction Order Sui Generis: Goffman’s Contribution to Social Theory”. Sociological Theory, 5:136–149. Ricoeur, Paul (2007): The Course of Recognition. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Roberts, Brian (2006): Micro Social Theory. London: Palgrave/Macmillan. Rogers, Mary F. (1977): “Goffman on Power”. American Sociologist, 12:88–95. Sarbin, Theodore R. (2003): “The Dramaturgical Approach to Social Psychology: The Influence of Erving Goffman”, in Robert J. Sternberg (ed.): The Anatomy of Impact: What Makes the Great Works of Psychology Great. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association. Scheff, Thomas J. (2006): Goffman Unbound!—A New Paradigm for Social Science. Boulder, CO: Paradigm Publishers.

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Schudson, Michael (1985): “Embarrassment and Erving Goffman’s Idea of Human Nature”. Theory and Society, 13 (5):633–648. Sennett, Richard (2004): Respect in a World of Inequality. New York: W. W. Norton. Simmel, Georg (1950): The Sociology of Georg Simmel (edited by Kurt H. Wolff). Glencoe: Free Press. Srinivasan, Nirmala (1990): “The Cross-Cultural Relevance of Goffman’s Concept of Individual Agency”, in Stephen H. Riggins (ed.): Beyond Goffman: Studies on Communication, Institution and Social Interaction. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter. Stolte, John F., Gary Alan Fine and Karen S. Cook (2001): “Sociological Miniaturism: Seeing the Big Through the Small in Social Psychology”. Annual Review of Sociology, 27:387–413. Strong, P. M. (2006): “Two Types of Ceremonial Order”, in Sociology and Medicine: Selected Essays by P. M. Strong (edited by Anne Murcott). Aldershot: Ashgate. Sørensen, Torben Berg (1995): Makroillusionen—aktører og samfund. Århus: Forlaget Gestus. Taylor, Charles (1994): “The Politics of Recognition”, in Amy Gutmann (ed.): Multiculturalism: Examining the Politics of Recognition. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. Taylor, Laurie (2000): “Erving Goffman”, in Gary Alan Fine and Greg Smith (eds.): Erving Goffman: A Four Volume Set (Sage Masters in Modern Social Thought Series). London: Sage Publications. Thompson, Simon (2006): The Political Theory of Recognition: A Critical Introduction. Cambridge: Polity Press. Voswinkel, Stephan (2001): Annerkennung und Reputation: Die Dramaturgie industrieller Beziehungen. Konstanz: UVK Verlagsgesellschaft. Walzer, Michael (1997): On Toleration. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press. Zeitlin, Irving (1973): “The Social Psychology of Erving Goffman”, in Rethinking Sociology: A Critique of Contemporary Theory. New York: Appleton-CenturyCrofts.


The Protean Goffman Erving Goffman and the New Individualism Ann Branaman

INTRODUCTION When I fi rst encountered the work of Erving Goffman as a fi rst-year college student in 1986, I was more irritated than intrigued. The world Goffman seemed to portray in his essay “On Face-Work” and in his book The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life, the fi rst two things I read, seemed to me to be one in which people cared far more than they should about what other people thought about them. Reading Goffman reminded me of my parents and their seeming obsession with what the neighbours, people at church, other parents and just about anybody else in our small southern Indiana town thought about them and, by extension, their children. In contrast to their point of view, I believed people should just be real, be themselves, be authentic, or however else I might have put it at the time. Accordingly, I found Goffman’s talk of front-stages and back-stages offputting; such segregation was fi ne in the theatre and maybe even in a few limited impersonal contexts, but, as a way of conceptualising self-presentation in everyday life, it was appropriate only as a description of the strategies of fakes, con artists and narcissists. But it was clear that Goffman’s theory was supposed to be about all people in everyday life. So, reading Goffman for the fi rst time, it seemed to me that his writings depicted a social world in which people were excessively image-conscious and whose lives revolved around strategically and selectively hiding and showcasing. And, what was worse, it seemed that Goffman thought this was all natural, normal and necessary. What I found most disturbing reading Goffman the fi rst time, I think, was his apparent denial of individuals’ autonomy in defi ning themselves. Selves, as I saw it at the time, were private things. Not private in the sense of needing to be kept secret or hidden from others, but private in the sense that the defi nition of the self and evaluation of it should be the prerogative of the individual to whom it ‘belonged’. I believed that there was such a thing as a ‘real’ self, no less real for existing only inside its owner’s head if social circumstances prevented its wider expression and/or recognition. Reading The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life for the fi rst time, I

The Protean Goffman 233 balked at reading past the fi rst chapter; in particular, I found the argument that ‘teams’ and ‘audiences’ had anything to do with the self to be wrongheaded in its contradiction of my own belief that selves were constructed privately. Reflecting back now more than twenty-some years later and after extensive engagement with Goffman’s ideas, I realised that I had read Goffman in a number of different ways through the years. I read Goffman the fi rst time, unappreciatively, as a theorist who denied the possibility of personal authenticity, dismissed the significance of the ‘inner self’ and overly valued social conformity. By the time I encountered Goffman again six years later, after having acquired an education in sociology and social theory, I read him as a social critic, sympathetic with the plight of the stigmatised and dehumanised and concerned on their behalf with micro-political resistance. On this reading, I now read Goffman appreciatively as a theorist who insightfully analysed how ‘true’ or ‘authentic’ selves were produced in everyday social interaction and depended on a great deal of social cooperation. Related to my second reading, the third time I read Goffman I read him as an insightful analyst of the conservative tendencies of social interaction and of the uneven interactional playing field upon which individuals with different levels of power, status and resources compete to establish unequally valued selves. On my fourth and current reading, my focus has shifted to understanding Goffman in historical context and, in particular, thinking about how Goffman’s mid-century analyses resonate with three different sorts of individualisms from three different historical times. This chapter is, in part, autobiographical—I offer personal reflections on my readings and rereadings of Goffman over the past twenty-five years insofar as these reveal a range of different concerns about the self emanating from my personal history and from my academic interests over the years. My narrative is a narrative of an initially misunderstood but protean theorist who can be recognised as a significant contributor to a range of late 20th century literatures on the self. In the fi rst three sections, I briefly discuss each of the three ways that I have read Goffman over the years. In the fourth section, I elaborate much more extensively on a fourth reading of Goffman: analysing Goffman’s work in relationship to the work of late 20th century/early 21st century social theorists who analyse how societal change has changed the nature of self-identity.

READING ONE: ON AUTHENTICITY, INNER SELVES AND AUTONOMY As I have recounted, my initial reaction to Goffman was dismissive and quite similar, I discovered later, to that of Goffman’s early critics. When I later read those early critics, I found that I agreed most resoundingly with those who criticised Goffman’s portrayal of self as perpetually inauthentic


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in social interaction (e.g. Gouldner 1970; MacIntyre 1969; Dawe 1973; Zeitlin 1973). Selves should neither be hidden nor showcased, according to my way of thinking at the time, except when necessary to achieve some legitimate instrumental purpose. When I fi nally reread Goffman some years later, I came to understand that there were many such purposes involving neither deceit nor narcissism. Like Goffman’s critics, though, I had failed to see these arguments in my fi rst reading of Goffman—doubtless, due to a combination of my preconceptions and Goffman’s expositional style. Except for a quick pass through Frame Analysis in a graduate seminar in social theory, I never encountered Goffman again as part of any curriculum. As I was working on my master’s thesis in 1992, however, I received what seemed to me at the time a strange suggestion from my undergraduate mentor Charles Lemert. He said simply: “Take a look at Goffman”. I was not particularly excited about the idea, but he seemed confident that Goffman could contribute something useful to my project, vaguely defi ned as an exploration of the relationship between identity, domination and social critique. I knew from my past reading that Goffman had something to say about self and identity, but I certainly did not think of him as a critically oriented social theorist and doubted the relevance of his work to my project. Sceptical, I took Lemert’s advice and began reading Goffman again. Reading Goffman more carefully this time, I no longer concluded that he denied authenticity or the value of honesty. Paying particular attention to the section “Reality and Contrivance” in the fi rst chapter of the 1959 edition of The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life, I read Goffman’s statement that he had nothing to say about the proportion of ‘honest’ to ‘dishonest’ performers in the world; his point was, rather, that both honest and dishonest performers rely on the same dramatic techniques to establish the ‘reality’ of the images of self they portray and the defi nitions of situations they advance. I came to understand, however, that some people can be perceived as ‘inauthentic’ or as portraying a ‘false’ self even when they are acting honestly, i.e. when they present themselves to others as the very person they believe themselves to be. According to Goffman, performances are authentic if the performer and the audience believe them to be; performances are inauthentic if the performer or the audience believes them to be. Since the audience has (at least half of) the power to determine the authenticity of the performance, then, it is possible that there are some performers who perceive themselves as honest but who are not so perceived by others. This could reflect the ‘delusion’ of the honest performer, or it could reflect the audiences’ prejudices and unwillingness to admit the worthiness of certain categories of human beings. Once I got this point, only after reading Asylums and Stigma and then connecting these to Goffman’s earlier analyses of self-presentation and interaction ritual, I was quick to shift my thinking about Goffman—from viewing him as an advocate of social conformity to viewing him as a social critic. I did not necessarily believe that Goffman would view himself as a

The Protean Goffman 235 social critic or that it was the correct way to read Goffman, even though my review of the secondary literature on Goffman turned up more than a few such readings. Several, for example, argued that the Goffmanian self is engaged in a deep, moral struggle to preserve authenticity in the face of attack (e.g. Creelan 1984; Friedson 1983; Hall 1977; Lofland 1980). Eliot Friedson, in particular, characterised Goffman as a “celebrant and defender of the self against society” (Friedson 1983:362) and pointed to Goffman’s “deep moral sensibility, the compassion he displays for those whose selves are attacked, whose identities are spoiled” (Friedson 1983:361). Others who viewed Goffman as a social critic shared the perspective of Goffman’s early critics in depicting the Goffmanian self as inauthentic, but read Goffman’s work as an implicit critique of the historical conditions which gave rise to the Goffmanian self (e.g. Young 1971; Gonos 1980). Regardless of whether these readings reflected Goffman’s intentions, my own critical orientation and identification with the interactionally disadvantaged predisposed me to agree with them.

READING TWO: IDENTITY POLITICS AND CONTESTED IDENTITIES At this point, I read Goffman as a theorist of identity politics at the microsocial level; instead of seeing only inauthenticity and manipulation, I saw an analysis of the uneven interactional playing field on which people with varying levels of power, status and resources competed to establish unequally valued selves. On an interactional level, Goffman’s analysis demonstrated powerfully how the ‘rich get richer and the poor get poorer’. I noted Goffman’s significant influence on Nancy M. Henley’s feminist classic Body Politics (1977) and on Candace West and Don H. Zimmerman’s (1987) influential work on ‘doing gender’. Even if Goffman were largely apolitical himself, I could see that I had been preceded by scholars who recognised, as I now did, his relevance to identity politics. Reading Asylums was, perhaps, most important in shifting my thinking about Goffman. I already owned a copy of Asylums, but had not yet been sufficiently motivated to read it. Having picked it off my shelf, however, I had not been reading long before I realised I now found it so compelling that I would not put it down until I had fi nished it. Having thought the book was about psychiatric hospitals, prisons, military training camps and concentration camps, I quickly realised that it was about much more than this. It was fi rst and foremost about the self, and not simply the selves of people in these institutions. Goffman had chosen these total institutions because they were contexts in which people had limited control over their own self-images. Accordingly, by looking at the consequences of the lack of resources, power and status in these institutional settings, we can better understand how resources, power and status are essential for maintaining


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control over one’s own image in everyday life. Outside of total institutions, of course, people vary tremendously in resources, power and status, and so those with less will also have less control over their own image than those with more: Goffman thus illuminated the consequences of inequality for the construction and maintenance of the self. Having read Asylums and then Stigma, I was ready to reread The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life and Interaction Ritual, thinking about what I read in terms of the perspective I gained reading Asylums and Stigma. Instead of reading these books as if they normalised my parents’ approach to life as a theatrical performance, I read them as an analysis of how inequalities in social status, power and resources constrain the selves people are able to present and have supported by others in everyday social interaction. By focusing my attention on how stigmatised attributes, low status and/or lack of power and resources constrained people’s ability to sustain respectable images of self in everyday life, I came to appreciate how what earlier had seemed trivial to me was actually deeply serious. I knew this was not all that Goffman was about, but for me it was the most significant part. In reviewing secondary literature on Goffman, I found that I was not alone in reading Goffman this way (e.g. Gamson 1985; Rogers 1980). In an unpublished paper I made the case for viewing Goffman as a critical social psychologist, with full awareness that I might as easily have made the case for viewing Goffman as a conservative apologist for the status quo or an even stronger case yet for viewing him as an apolitical analyst of the ‘interaction order’ (see Goffman 1983; Rawls 1987). Having recently studied the work of Michel Foucault, I even went so far as to suggest that Goffman developed an implicit ‘anti-self’ strategy as a means for the dominated and stigmatised to resist in much the same way Foucault suggested ‘refusal of self’ as a strategy of resistance to domination (Rabinow 1984). Basing my reading of a few passages from “The Moral Career of the Mental Patient” (Goffman 1961), I defi ned the main elements of this strategy as: (1) the adoption of a standpoint outside the moral field defi ned by ‘normals’; (2) apathy towards the self-image management techniques and interaction rituals effectively carried out by the more powerful; and (3) disinvestment in self (Branaman 1997). I was attracted to this strategy not only because of its compatibility with Foucault’s strategy of resistance to domination, but also because it represented my own childhood strategy of resistance to parental domination. I could see the strategy as an effective individual strategy of self-protection against humiliating and degrading treatment for individuals confi ned in total institutions or for other people whose possibilities for challenging social hierarchies and fighting against humiliating and degrading treatment were equally limited (e.g. abused children, homeless people). But even as I made the argument, though, I had some serious doubts about the viability of this strategy as a socially critical one; I most doubted the second and third elements of it. I could see that these elements of the strategy

The Protean Goffman 237 could achieve nothing better than a life of relative isolation on the margins of society, a fate surely better than a life of humiliation and degradation, but limited and lonely. It would be ineffective in challenging the dominant moral standards; as a negative strategy, it offered no alternative standards; as an individualistic strategy, it failed to consider possibilities for collective resistance. Nonetheless, it was quite clear to me that Goffman’s work demonstrated an acute awareness and insightful analyses of the interactional difficulties faced by low-status, stigmatised, or marginalised individuals when they try to present themselves more favourably and/or challenge denigrating treatment. This in itself was a significant contribution to theorising the politics of identity—i.e. his micro-level analysis of interaction norms and their role in maintaining (or disrupting) established social hierarchies.

READING THREE: CONSERVATIVE TENDENCIES OF SOCIAL INTERACTION Related to Goffman’s contribution to thinking about identity politics was his analysis of the conservative tendencies of social interaction. If identity politics is about challenging the prevailing hierarchies of identity in a society, Goffman’s work could best be understood as an analysis of the ways in which interaction norms and dynamics in everyday life make such challenge exceedingly difficult, greatly advantaging those most interested in maintaining existing hierarchies. I developed an interest in studying Goffman’s analyses of interaction hierarchies in a roundabout way. In pursuing my earlier project on identity politics and resistance, I naturally paid close attention to Goffman’s analyses of interaction hierarchies and interactional barriers that limited possibilities for micro-political resistance. But, at the time, my focus was more on resistance than on understanding how the hierarchies worked, even if resistance depended on understanding the workings of interactional hierarchies. Having turned back to my dissertation after completing my work on The Goffman Reader (Lemert and Branaman 1997), I had no plans for further involvement with Goffman. My dissertation topic was ‘interpersonal exploitation’, and my objective was to make the case for integrating psychoanalytic theorising into feminist research on inequalities in families and intimate relationships. On the surface, this study could not have been more disconnected from my earlier work on Goffman. After reviewing my fi rst completed draft, however, my dissertation committee pressed me to explain how I would go about studying these largely unconscious psychological processes that I argued were necessary to adequately understand inequalities in families and intimate relationships. After thinking about this question for quite some time to no avail, I returned to some ideas that had developed during my study of Goffman. I came to believe


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that Goffman—the man who claimed no interest whatsoever in the human motivations underlying interactional patterns—might offer the best possible approach to uncovering the largely unconscious processes highlighted by psychoanalytic-feminist theorists and the many other contemporary social theorists whose analyses routinely referenced individual psychic experiences invisible to the observer’s eye and sufficiently unconscious or preverbal as to be excluded from subjective self-reports. As Goffman put it so well in The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life, to get behind appearances requires closely studying appearances for those aspects of selfpresentation less consciously controlled. Perhaps, I concluded, we needed more analysts like Goffman to do close studies of appearances in order to ‘get underneath’ them. After taking my fi rst academic position in 1997, I wrote a bit more on Goffman’s analysis of interactional hierarchies (Branaman 2001, 2003)— fi rst, in relation to the more systematic empirical study of status structures by some of the leading social psychologists in American sociology (e.g. Berger, Fisek, Norman and Zelditch 1977; Carli 1991; Foschi 1996; Lovaglia and Houser 1996; Molm and Hedley 1992; Ridgeway 1991, 1992; Ridgeway and Walker 1995; Smith-Lovin 1990; Smith-Lovin and Robinson 1992; Stets 1997; Stets and Burke 1996; Tuzlak 1988; Wagner 1988) and, second, in relationship to the subsequent work on interaction hierarchies by scholars in the interactionist and ethnomethodological traditions who built more directly on Goffman’s insights (e.g. Anderson and Snow 2001; Blumstein 1991; Clark 1990; Collins 2000; Gardner 1995; Henley 1977; Hochschild 1983, 1988, 1990; Peirce 1995; Rollins 1985; Scheff 1990; Schwartz 1975; Schwalbe, Godwin, Holden, Schrock, Thompson and Wolkomir 2000; Snow and Anderson 1993; West and Zimmerman 1987; West and Fenstermaker 1993). Having written these papers, however, I was certain—for the second time!—I had said all I had to say about Goffman. A few years later, though, I received an invitation to present a paper at a special session on Goffman at the American Sociological Association meeting. After I accepted the invitation, I worried about having to return to Goffman once more and figure out something new to say; I worried that there might not be anything more for me to say, given the nature of my interest in Goffman. Fortunately, however, I was invited during the same period to write a chapter on Zygmunt Bauman, a theorist with whom I had recently begun to seriously engage. As I struggled to meet the deadline for submission of the Bauman chapter and the next-up deadline for the conference paper, I inevitably began to think about Goffman in relationship to Bauman and his analyses of identities in ‘liquid modernity’ (Bauman 2000). Recalling my earlier interest in the secondary literature on Goffman as it considered the historical conditions producing the types of selves and social behaviours described in his work (e.g. Gouldner 1970; Young 1971; Gonos 1980), I realised I might have another approach to thinking about Goffman’s work and, hence, something else to say. Focusing

The Protean Goffman 239 particularly on Bauman’s analytic distinction between ‘heavy modernity’ and ‘liquid modernity’ and their different implications for individuals’ construction of self-identities, I thought about where to place the world according to Goffman within this framework. This represents my fourth and current reading of Goffman, to which I will devote the remainder of the chapter.

READING FOUR: SOLID IDENTITIES, LIQUID IDENTITIES Over the past couple of decades, social theorists like Anthony Giddens (1991, 1992, 2000), Zygmunt Bauman (2000, 2001, 2003, 2004, 2005), Ulrich Beck and Elisabeth Beck-Gernsheim (2002) and many others have been writing about a monumental shift in the nature of personal life and self-identity in advanced capitalist societies. Detraditionalisation, individualisation, privatisation reflexivity—these are some of the terms that these theorists use to characterise this change. According to the perspectives of these social theorists, the period of ‘late modernity’, ‘liquid modernity’ or the ‘age of globalisation’ has detraditionalised personal life, allowing greater latitude for individuals to make important choices about how to live their lives and how to construct their self-identities. Although most theorists offer no precise date for this shift, the general consensus is that it happened sometime after the late 1960s—after Goffman published The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life (1959), Asylums (1961), Stigma (1963) and Interaction Ritual (1967), the books in which Goffman says the most about the relationship between self and social interaction in everyday life. Reading Giddens, Bauman, Beck and Beck-Gernsheim as well as other social theorists who wrote about what Anthony Elliott and Charles Lemert (2005) have dubbed the ‘new individualism’, I began to think about Goffman’s work through the lenses of these theorists and from the vantage point of the changes in the nature of social and personal life they describe. Through this reading, I began to question the extent to which Goffman’s descriptions and analyses of self-presentation in everyday life apply as well to the present period as they likely did to the 1950s and early 1960s. Focusing particularly on the distinction that Bauman made between the periods of ‘solid modernity’ and ‘liquid modernity’ and his analysis of how this societal transformation has changed how self-identities are constructed in everyday life, I noted that Goffman’s depiction of the construction of self in everyday life suggested a world neither as solid as solid modernity nor as liquid as liquid modernity. This is hardly surprising, given that Goffman wrote in the 1950s and early 1960s, a period of time in which social theorists like C. Wright Mills, William H. Whyte and David Riesman analysed the ways in which the then-current period differed from the earlier period of modernity. Gisdens, Bauman, Beck and others, however, largely bypass the mid-century world, making their comparisons of the late 19th/early 20th century with the late 20th and early 21st centuries.


Ann Branaman

Where many of Goffman’s earliest critics drew on theorists like Mills, Whyte and Riesman to consider how Goffman’s analyses depicted the interactional world of the ‘new middle class’ of the mid-century, my main objective in this essay is to draw on late 20th/early 21st century theorists like Bauman, Giddens and Beck to reflect on what might be different about social interaction and self-construction in the contemporary period in comparison to Goffman’s time. The individualism characteristic of the world Goffman analysed was— it seemed clear enough to me as I reread him for what might be the last time—an older form of individualism than the form described in the works of Bauman, Beck and Beck-Gernsheim and Giddens as particularly characteristic of the decades around the turn of the 21st century. At the same time, the individualism of the middle of the 20th century was newer than the individualism of the late 19th and early 20th century. In this section of the chapter, I will consider a number of dimensions on which the individualism of Goffman’s world shares characteristics with and departs from both the ‘old’ and the ‘new’ individualisms, or, in Bauman’s terms, from the experiences of ‘solid identities’ characteristic of the earlier modern age and the experiences of ‘liquid identities’ characteristic of the late 20th and early 21st centuries.

Identity Crisis The writings of Giddens, Beck and Beck-Gernsheim and Bauman suggest that individuals in advanced capitalist societies face ‘identity crises’ that were neither characteristic of the middle of the 20th century nor the late 19th and early 20th century. Bauman, in particular, describes a number of identity troubles that he sees as increasingly common in the current period of what he calls ‘liquid modernity’—i.e. uncertainty about which of many possible identities to choose and whether the chosen identity will yield the most possible happiness, the instability of identity or the difficulty of ‘holding on’ to identity in a world characterised by rapid change, and the need to remain vigilantly on the lookout for other possible and more satisfying identities and always sufficiently flexible to take advantage of these opportunities when they arise. In ‘solid’ or ‘heavy modernity’, by contrast, people ‘make’ their own identities, but mostly they select, at the onset of adulthood, from a relatively small range of socially acceptable possibilities; having established an identity and a course in life, most fi nd that they can live out their lives without having to reinvent identity or change course. Even if Goffman had, in postmodern fashion, established self-identity to be far less solid—or precariously dependent on impression management and supportive recognition by others—one hardly gets the sense reading Goffman’s work that the individuals he describes struggle with the sorts of identity troubles described by Bauman. In his early essay “On Cooling the Mark Out” (1952), Goffman did talk about the relative ease, after a brief

The Protean Goffman 241 period of ‘cooling out’, with which people could let go of identities to which they had become attached and establish new ones. While we could interpret this essay in a postmodern fashion and suggest that Goffman’s analyses represented the looser attachment to and instability of identities characteristic of Bauman’s liquid modernity, I do not really believe that Goffman had in mind the level of instability, precariousness and flexibility depicted by Bauman. Goffman’s world was a much more settled one than Bauman’s. Although loss of identity is an experience that many people have at points in their lives and is hardly an experience one could accurately confi ne to the present period, the need for ‘cooling out’ suggests a deeper attachment to identity on the part of people in Goffman’s world than in the world according to Bauman. Identity loss, and adaptive construction of an alternative identity, further, seems to occur far less frequently than in the world according to Bauman. In Bauman’s liquid modernity, it is not even clear that we should speak of identity loss at all; to lose an identity with the attendant painful emotions described by Goffman implies a solid attachment to the identity at issue. Insofar as Bauman’s theory is an accurate portrayal of life in the present, we maintain such a loose attachment to identity because few identities will have lasting power. In the world according to Goffman, identity loss is common yet relatively infrequent—such as when a person loses an identity-enhancing job or retires, when the last child of a stay-at-home mom moves on, when a star athlete suffers a career-ending injury, or when a student is a student no longer. In Bauman’s world, identities are so unstable that we rarely develop an emotional attachment to any particular one.

Detraditionalisation, Anomie and the ‘Cult of the Individual’ In a now familiar argument, Giddens (1991) argued that individuals in late modern societies are prone to suffer a sense of personal meaninglessness, as they are required to reflexively construct their self-identities in the absence of authoritative guidelines. On the positive side, Giddens suggests that the detraditionalisation of personal life may allow a greater sense of autonomy, ‘meaningfulness’ and mastery over one’s life. But he also notes the darker possibilities, as Émile Durkheim had a century ago when he argued that the detraditionalisation of political and economic life of the late 19th and early 20th century world had contributed to the rise of ‘anomie’ and ‘egoism’ as individuals suffered the loss of social regulation and social integration, causing suicide rates to rise as social solidarity declined . Durkheim hoped that these ‘pathologies’ of modern societies were temporary, and part of his proposed solution was the promotion of what he called ‘moral individualism’. With the increased complexity of the division of labour, he argued, the only possible value that could be—and must beshared by all members of society was the respect for the freedom, dignity and rights of each individual; the individual must, in other words, become


Ann Branaman

sacred in modern society insofar as ‘the cult of the individual’ was the only possible basis for a new modern collective conscience. In contrast to egoism, which involved a selfish pursuit of self-interest, the cult of the individual was based in moral individualism, an individualism that recognised the needs and rights of all other individuals as equal and that involved an appreciation of interdependence and difference. Goffman (1959, 1967) drew upon Durkheim’s idea when he argued, as Durkheim had, that the self had become the sacred object of modern interpersonal life, that symbols of the social collectivity were in Durkheim’s analysis of primitive societies. He concludes his essay “The Nature of Deference and Demeanor” with direct reference to Durkheim’s ‘cult of the individual’: “Many gods have been done away with, but the individual himself remains a deity of considerable importance” (Goffman 1967:95). Later, in Relations in Public, he states: In contemporary society rituals performed to stand-ins for supernatural entities are everywhere in decay, as are extensive ceremonial agendas involving long strings of obligatory rites. What remains are brief rituals one individual performs for and to another, attesting to civility and good will on the performer’s part and to the recipient’s possession of a small patrimony of sacredness. What remains, in brief, are interpersonal rituals. (Goffman 1971:63) Although Goffman had drawn upon Durkheim to make these points, he arguably was referring to a ‘thinner’ sort of worship of the individual than the ‘thicker’ sort that Durkheim had in mind when he spoke of moral individualism as the only possible basis of a collective conscience in modern societies. Durkheim envisioned a modern world in which people deeply respected one another, understood the necessity of differences between people and appreciated these differences because of their understanding of the heightened interdependence of people in modern societies. When Durkheim argued that the individual must become the sacred object of modern life, he implied a deeply worshipful orientation towards the individuality of all human beings. Goffman, however, suggests that social order can be maintained, and interactions between individuals may flow smoothly, with a far less serious form of individual-worship. In Goffman’s world, it is quite enough to be polite and respectful to others, respecting ‘situational proprieties’ in various forms of social interaction (Goffman 1971). Social life can proceed smoothly enough, and self-identities can emerge from social interaction largely unscathed, so long as respect is enacted; it need not be felt deeply, if at all. What of the ‘cult of the individual’ in the present period? As Giddens, Bauman, Beck and others have argued, the present period of advanced capitalism has extended detraditionalisation into personal life, into the realms of family, gender, sexuality and lifestyle. Accordingly, they view

The Protean Goffman 243 contemporary societies as more extensively individualised than was the case in Durkheim’s or Goffman’s worlds. Although this heightened individualisation might suggest an intensified version of the ‘cult of the individual’ in contemporary societies, I do not think this conclusion necessarily follows. A key difference between the present and the worlds described by Goffman and Durkheim is that the current cultural emphasis on individuality and reflexive self-construction tends towards the emergence of more privatised worlds. For Durkheim and Goffman, the cult of individuality strengthens social bonds, a basis of solidarity for Durkheim and civility for Goffman. In the present period, as Bauman (2007) has recently argued, the need to make of oneself the hottest possible commodity to ensure a continued place in the society of consumers engages each of us in a perpetual struggle to stay ahead of the game so that we may stay in the game. Since it is a competitive game that requires purchasing a great many consumer goods and services to enhance one’s own commodity value, however, many people are driven to the sidelines, others permanently ejected and still others are fearful of the longevity of their game-worthiness. The nature of the game tends to promote the ungluing of social bonds. What place does anomie have in the mid-century world of Goffman? Durkheim posited that it was prevalent in late 19th and early 20th century Europe as societies underwent rapid economic and political change; contemporary social theorists have viewed it as even more intensified in the present following the detraditionalisation of personal life. However, the world portrayed in Goffman’s work shows little evidence of anomie at all, except in those few moments at the beginning of an interaction between unknowns who do not know how to act until they gain knowledge of the respective identities of the persons in the situation. Individuals in Goffman’s world seem not to suffer a sense of personal meaninglessness, as Giddens argues that people increasingly do today as they attempt to reflexively construct their self-identities in the absence of authoritative guidelines. Nor are they generally confused about their identities and anxious in the face of choosing from many options, as Bauman suggests many are today. Most people seem to know who they are, who others are and how both should be treated in social situations. Even if the people that Goffman describes may come off as quite a bit egotistical, concerned as they are with maximising the positive regard they receive from others, they do not seem to suffer from egoism in Durkheim’s sense—they are not isolated, lonely or weakly integrated into society.

Conformity, Codes of Conduct and the Stability of Identity In the earlier heavy phase of modernity, according to Bauman, individuals faced the task of fi nding their niches in society and acting in conformity with clearly defi ned codes of conduct. In contrast to premodern times, modernity made identity a task, a realm of individual self-determination;

244 Ann Branaman as social class became, in theory at least, an achieved status, so it was with identity more generally. But, according to Bauman, modern individuals were confronted with clear and authoritative guidelines as to how these identities should be made. When, in the heavy modern period, hereditary estates with their “no-appeal-allowed allocation-by-ascription” were subjected to modernity’s “melting powers,” individuals, Bauman says, could be excused for failing to notice: “They came to be confronted by patterns and figurations which, albeit ‘new and improved’, were as stiff and indomitable as ever” (Bauman 2000:6–7). Individuals were set free from old cages, but admonished to quickly “fi nd the appropriate niche and to settle there through conformity: by faithfully following the rules and codes of conduct identified as right and proper for the location” (Bauman 2000:7). Insofar as it emphasises rules, codes of conduct and ‘stiff and indomitable’ patterns shaping people’s everyday behaviour, Bauman’s depiction of identity in the period of heavy modernity sounds much like the world of Goffman. An important difference, however, is that identities in Goffman’s world are more fragile and much more dependent on appearance and interactional affi rmation than was the case for individuals of the earlier period of modernity—who could solidly establish their identities simply by doing what they were expected to do, by living up to the clearly defined standards of their gender, class or occupation, without needing to expend thought and effort worrying about how to convince others that they were living up to the ideal standards. If David Riesman’s (1953) typology is correct, people in the solid period of modernity were much more ‘inner-directed’, actively pursuing the goals that had been implanted in them by their elders; yes, they valued conformity, but conformity to widely shared values and standards that they held within them, not the more superficial conformity of the ‘other-directed’ type that Riesman saw emerging in the new middle class in the years after the second world war. Yet, the similarity between Goffman and the individualism of solid modernity (and the difference between Goffman and the newer liquid individualism) is that, for the most part, the rules and codes of conduct portrayed by Goffman are more or less clear. Authoritative guidelines persist; standards are shared. As Goffman stated in Stigma just a few years before it would have been more difficult for him to make the same point: “In America at present, however, separate systems of honour seem to be on the decline. The stigmatised individual tends to hold the same beliefs about identity that we do” (Goffman 1963:7). Identities are also far more stable in Goffman’s world than in Bauman’s liquid modernity. Individuals can ‘hold onto’ their identities, for the most part, and are often even stuck with them whether they like it or not. Individuals of Goffman’s day may have needed to focus on appearance much more than in the past to establish their identities, because of the increasing numbers of people who occupied white collar positions where the quality and quantity of a person’s work was rarely transparent and because of the

The Protean Goffman 245 increasing importance of ‘salesmanship’ and interpersonal skill in the new economy, as David Riesman (1953), C. Wright Mills (1951) and William H. Whyte (1956) had argued in the 1950s. But, as Bauman suggests was true of the period of solid modernity, Goffman portrays people as more or less clear on who or what they should want to appear to be and portrays a world where the codes are largely established and known by socially competent members of society. In the newer, more recent phase of modernity, according to Bauman, clearly defi ned, stable and authoritative codes of conduct are impossible to fi nd. For Goffman, there are plenty of widely shared standards; in everyday social interaction the only problem is to discern what particular standards apply to the particular situation and for the different people in the situation. The importance of impression management, Goffman suggests, is in large part to provide the necessary cues for participants in interaction to know the nature of the situation and the statuses, intentions and expectations of others such that they can orient their own behaviour in such a manner that the interaction may proceed seamlessly.

Goffman and the Privatisation of Selves Whether the individualism characteristic of the world Goffman described is more new than old or more old than new is debatable, interesting but probably not that crucial. We could make a case for both, as earlier critics already have. Perhaps this is hardly surprising if we consider that Goffman wrote at the middle of the 20th century, when the old individualism was still strong in certain respects but was, in crucial ways, coming apart. The post-modern readings (e.g. Dowd 1996; Battershill 1990; Tseëlon 1992) of Goffman are correct, I think, in suggesting that he was decades ahead of his time in his thinking about identity issues: he made the same points quietly that post-modern philosophers and social theorists would reinvent and claim as their own decades later. The earlier readings that analysed Goffman in relationship to the rise of the new American middle class in the 1950s (i.e. Gouldner 1970; Young 1971; Gonos 1980) are also correct in suggesting that Goffman’s perspective on the self reflected the social changes described by Riesman, Mills and Whyte and, accordingly, a different relationship between self and society than had been the case in prior U.S. history.

CONCLUSION I opened with a discussion of my teenaged reaction to Erving Goffman because it highlighted one basic point of contrast between Goffman’s individualism and the new individualism—the increased privatisation of selfidentity in the current period, or the tendency to withdraw investment of

246 Ann Branaman self-identity from the (capital S) Social. In their recent book, Anthony Elliott and Charles Lemert defi ne the new individualism most basically as the privatisation of identity. Individualism today, they argue, is “intrinsically connected with the growth of privatised worlds. Such privatised worlds propel individuals into shutting others and the wider world out of their emotional lives” (Elliott and Lemert 2005:9). Whereas my parents’ individualism, like that of many of the people described in Goffman’s books, propelled them into the public world in search of affi rmation, recognition or enhancement of identity, the new individualism, it seems, leads us in the opposite direction. My initial reaction to Goffman, I believe, reflected my own cohort’s participation in this tendency. Intrinsically related to the privatisation of identity is the detraditionalisation and deregulation of identity. According to the theorists of the new individualism, identity in the current period has been detraditionalised and deregulated. We are increasingly free to choose our own identities, to set our own standards or to follow the models of identity that we prefer. In our everyday life worlds we become more and more unconstrained in how we defi ne ourselves and present ourselves to others. Even if others form opinions of who we are based on a reading of our ‘self-presentations’, as Goffman said they do, others’ judgements of who we are need not bear so heavily today on our private self-identities—certainly, not as much today as Goffman suggested when he wrote in the 1950s and 1960s. Even half a century ago, Goffman realised that there were limits to the normative tendency for people to politely and respectfully support the selfimages of others in everyday social interaction. To get support, the presented selves needed to stay more or less in line with what others were prepared to accept, and this varied greatly depending on the social status of the presenter. Bearers of stigma (or devalued social characteristics or category memberships) needed to be careful not to overstep their bounds, and the boundaries were fairly clear. But the qualifiers of social status are no longer so relevant, according to the theorists of the new individualism. Even as the distribution of wealth, income and power in the world has become increasingly unequal in the current period, they suggest, status hierarchies in everyday life have been undermined and the limits to the identities we may safely project in everyday life largely removed. Gender, race, class, occupation, education and other status-relevant characteristics, according to the theorists of the new individualism, become increasingly irrelevant as determinants of self-identity. Others’ indifference to us may mean that our identity claims may not be as fully supported as they would have been in the era of Goffman’s observations, but they will never be as fully subject to challenge today as they would have been then. As I have recounted, my initial distaste for Goffman turned into appreciation when I reread him as a graduate student because of his analysis of the social ‘constraints’ on identity and the social hierarchies of everyday life, precisely the opposite of what the theorists of the new individualism claim is

The Protean Goffman 247 true of identity and everyday social interaction in the current period. What allowed me to fi nally accept and appreciate Goffman’s view of the self as a product of performance in everyday life was my realisation that people do require at least some social validation to sustain, even in their own very private minds, a desired self-image. I had experienced at times in my life, and seen others experience, an emotionally disturbing clash between who I thought I was and how others seemed to see me. Why should this clash be painful and troubling for self-identity, I wondered, if self-identity was truly private and insulated from what others thought? Goffman’s analyses were helpful in making sense of this phenomenon—even if his focus was more on the disruptive consequences of the clash for social interaction than on emotional consequences for the individual. Self-presentation, I had come to understand, was not only the preoccupation of fakes, con artists and narcissists, but was also something that those who fail to be seen by others as they see themselves—or, at least, want to see themselves or struggle to see themselves—might need to consider. Perhaps attention to self-presentation was necessary to bridge the gap between self-image and what others see. But, as I read Goffman, it wasn’t always—or even often—this easy. Selfpresentation, in a simple sense, could only be the solution if the problem was faulty communication. If the gap was produced by a clash of standards of worth, however, the problem was more difficult. Goffman does not seem to have considered confl icting standards to be a possible basis for interactional difficulties or identity troubles. Goffman portrayed a world in which most people shared the same standards of worth, as he indicated quite clearly in Stigma. In the same work, though, he acknowledged that standards may differ and that some people may solve the interactional difficulties and identity troubles they face in the world of ‘normals’ by choosing to associate mostly with those who share their devalued characteristics and their alternative standards of worth. With the exception of this minority of defectors from standards of the ‘normals’, however, people in Goffman’s world generally knew what the standards and the social hierarchies were and understood that, if they did not abide by these standards and respect established hierarchies, there were clear limits to the social validation they could expect to receive. It is reasonable to think that Goffman’s assumption of shared standards caused him to view the giving and receiving of identity support in social interaction to be mostly seamless, with rapid adjustments being made when we realise—or are made to realise by others—we have overstepped our bounds or failed to pay proper respect. I particularly liked Goffman’s passage in Stigma, where he refers to what he calls the “only complete unblushing male in America: the Northern, white, heterosexual, Protestant father, fully employed, of good complexion, height, and weight, and a recent record in sports” (Goffman 1963:128). Reading this, I came to understand that Goffman’s book Stigma was not only about the extraordinary sorts of stigma that few people suffer, but also about the very ordinary stigmas that shape the lives of most people.


Ann Branaman

He referred explicitly to the ‘tribal stigmas of race, nation and religion’ in addition to ‘abominations of the body’ and ‘character blemishes’ as the three major categories of stigma (Goffman 1963:4); it was a small step to recognise these as relevant in varying degrees in most people’s experience. Perhaps the standards for inclusion in the world of ‘normals’ (or for attaining status as a full-fledged human being) may have loosened some—maybe quite a bit—since Goffman published Stigma in 1963, yet it seems clear enough to me that the hierarchies persisted. Those who were less worthy in the eyes of others, I came to understand, could expect social validation (at least outside of narrower circles) only if they were careful not to demand too much. Goffman’s description of the ‘good adjustment line’ in Stigma (Goffman 1963:121) seemed to me to capture the nature of predicament quite powerfully. When stigmatised individuals tailor their self-presentation in interaction with ‘normals’ such that they neither present themselves as equal nor call attention to their difference or to normals’ limited acceptance, they are more likely to be accepted in wider social circles than are stigmatised individuals who challenge the standards by which they are judged inferior, present themselves as fully equal and pointedly call attention to discriminatory treatment. The acceptance they receive will only be a ‘phantom acceptance’. Even as I came to appreciate Goffman’s insights, however, my stance towards the world Goffman described continued to be more critical—and more reflective of the culture of the new individualism—than his own. Instead of seeing him as an apologist for the world he described, though, I came to read him as an insightful analyst of interaction norms, social hierarchies and their constraining relationship to selves. Even if they were not quite as clear-cut or as unified as they might have been in the 1950s or 1960s when Goffman wrote, the sorts of constraints and hierarchies that Goffman identified were still to be found in our supposedly detraditionalised and deregulated world. Certainly a dominant focus of contemporary sociological social psychology in the United States is the study of status structures, and presumably this could not be the case if the constraints and hierarchies of everyday life were not real or if it were easy for individuals to insulate their self-identities from them. Maybe, as Randall Collins (2000) has suggested, class and status are increasingly irrelevant to interaction in informal contexts, but the large body of empirical research on status structures demonstrates quite powerfully that gender, race, occupation, education, age and other characteristics continue to powerfully shape interactional hierarchies in more formal, task-oriented contexts (see Ridgeway and Walker 1995). In both of my first readings of Goffman, what clearly emerged in my own reactions was a very strong sense of privatised individualism. More than the people that Goffman depicted, I valued: (1) having a private self-identity that was not dependent on recognition in the wider world; (2) having a self-identity that was personally chosen, rather than defined and shaped according to

The Protean Goffman 249 the expectations of others; and (3) having a private self-identity that could withstand, or hold itself apart from, the assault, devaluation or even overvaluation associated with societal hierarchies of worth. There may have been traces of the older, modern belief in a deep self that shaped my reaction as well, and in that respect Goffman may have represented a newer, more postmodern individualism than my own. Reading Riesman in graduate school, I identified with the ‘inner-directed’ self that, according to his analysis, was more characteristic of a time supposedly long gone by the time I was born. As he described the ‘other-directed’ self more characteristic of post-war American society, I could recognise the cultural shift he described but could not personally identify as ‘other-directed’. My students today are far more accepting than I ever was, and even take it to be obvious that appearances shape self-identity and that self-identities can be changed (rapidly) by alteration of appearance (as in shows like Extreme Makeover)—a point of view characteristic of the new individualism, at least for Bauman. I had difficulty accepting that appearances should matter at all, initially viewing concern with appearances as a sign of inauthenticity, a waste of time and a distraction from fulfilment of the commitments and priorities that should defi ne a person. Goffman himself acknowledged this possibility—i.e. the potential for preoccupation with appearances to interfere with actually being or doing whatever it is that we are trying to appear to be or to be doing. Yet, according to how my students apparently see the world, there is something decidedly old-fashioned about this kind of thinking. But, even if Goffman debunked the notion of a deep inner self, arguing that the self is a product of performance more than vice versa, I am fairly certain that he had something different in mind than what postmodernists (or my students, for that matter) have in mind when they speak of selfidentity being shaped and altered by appearances. For the new individualists, in contrast to Goffman, appearances are something that the individual controls and can manipulate at will—by working out, changing clothing styles, applying make-up, getting plastic surgery, buying a new car or any other identity-accessory (so long at they have the money to buy the necessary identity accessories, Bauman points out). But, when Goffman spoke of performances shaping the self, he meant that how we act, or the character we perform and are able to have recognised and supported by others in everyday life, shapes our self-identity. For Goffman, in contrast to the new individualists, there is a Social world with a capital S—there are directors, scripts, casts and audiences—in which our performances are inscribed, and, as individuals, we may control how well we perform our parts, but we do not get to perform any part we want or wilfully change parts mid-production. If the theorists of the new individualism are correct, however, our identities are not much constrained by any production larger than the production of our own identities in our own private lives. We are now the directors, script-writers, actors and audience

250 Ann Branaman in our own private dramas, and, further, we choose our own cast and are free to fi re them when they do not cooperate with our designs. We may be ambivalent about turning inward, living increasingly privatised lives and relying on individualised standards to evaluate ourselves— the yearning for ‘community’ that Bauman and others have attributed to the new individualists may be thought of, in Goffman’s terms, as a yearning for the missing affi rmation of those we now call insignificant others and the rapidly diminishing ranks of those who remain significant, without which our privatised identities may seem thin or vulnerable. We seek, and may temporarily fi nd, communities—but most of us are not prepared to sacrifice control over our own self-identities. And so the communities remain thin; if they get too thick, we often fi nd we no longer want to reside within them. In Goffman’s world, by contrast, withdrawal was a last resort, with most willing to sacrifice a good bit of identity in the interests of protecting the Social. Goffman certainly recognised the importance of the self: its importance to individuals was the primary motivation behind the interactional efforts that they made to protect and affi rm their own and others’ identities, to promote the smooth flow of social interaction and to ensure the maintenance of social bonds. On balance, though, my reading of Goffman always gives me the sense that the interaction and the social bonds matter more than individuals and their identities; identities are sacrificed far more frequently than social bonds, the latter seeming too costly. But, in the world of the new individualism, this seems to have reversed: social bonds now only matter in so far as they enhance identity or help individuals in the fulfi lment of their aims. When they come to constitute obstacles, we are all too ready to abandon them. If Erving Goffman were to be rewritten from the vantage point of the new individualism, I would argue, this reversal would be central. Perhaps the book could keep its theatrical metaphor but be renamed The Endless Interior Monologue: Audience Optional.

REFERENCES Anderson, Leon and David Snow (2001): “Inequality and the Self: Exploring Connections from an Interactionist Perspective”. Symbolic Interaction, 24 (4):395– 406. Battershill, Charles D. (1990): “Goffman as a Precursor to Post-Modern Sociology”, in Stephen H. Riggins (ed.): Beyond Goffman: Studies on Communication, Institution, and Social Interaction. Berlin: Aldine de Gruyter. Bauman, Zygmunt (2000): Liquid Modernity. Cambridge: Polity Press. . (2001): The Individualized Society. Cambridge: Polity Press. . (2003): Liquid Love. Cambridge: Polity Press. . (2004): Identity: Conversations with Benedetto Vechi. Cambridge: Polity Press. . (2005): Liquid Life. Cambridge: Polity Press. . (2007): Consuming Life. Cambridge: Polity Press.

The Protean Goffman 251 Beck, Ulrich and Elisabeth Beck-Gernsheim (2002): Individualization: Institutionalized Individualism and Its Social and Political Consequences. London: Sage Publications. Berger, Joseph, M. Hamit Fisek, Robert Z. Norman and Morris Zelditch Jr. (1977): Status Characteristics and Social Interaction: An Expectation States Approach. New York: Elsevier. Blumstein, Phillip (1991): “The Production of Selves in Personal Relationships”, in Judith Howard and Peter Callero (eds.): The Self-Society Dynamic. New York: Cambridge University Press. Branaman, Ann (1997): “Goffman’s Social Theory”, in Charles Lemert and Ann Branaman (eds.): The Goffman Reader. New York: Blackwell. . (2001): “Rational and Irrational Bases of Commitment to Group Hierarchies”. Advances in Group Processes, 18:31–64. . (2003): “Interaction and Hierarchy in Everyday Life”, in A. Javier Treviño (ed.): Goffman’s Legacy. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. Carli, Linda L. (1991): “Gender, Status and Influence, in Edward Lawler, Barry Markovsky, Cecilia L. Ridgeway and Henry Walker (eds.): Advances in Group Processes, Volume 8. Greenwich, CT: JAI Press. Clark, Candace (1990): “Emotions and Micropolitics in Everyday Life: Some Patterns and Paradoxes of ‘Place’”, in Theodore D. Kemper (ed.): Research Agendas in the Sociology of Emotions. Albany: State University of New York Press. Collins, Randall (2000): “Situational Stratification: A Micro-Macro Theory of Inequality”. Sociological Theory, 18 (1):17–43. Creelan, Paul (1984): “Vicissitudes of the Sacred: Erving Goffman and the Book of Job”. Theory and Society, 13:649–662. Dawe, Alan (1973): “The Underworld View of Erving Goffman”. British Journal of Sociology, 24:246–253. Dowd, James J. (1996): “An Act Made Perfect in Habit: The Self in the Postmodern Age”. Current Perspectives in Social Theory, 16:237–263. Elliott, Anthony and Charles Lemert (2005): The New Individualism: The Emotional Costs of Globalization. New York: Routledge. Foschi, Martha (1996): “Double Standards in the Evaluation of Men and Women”. Social Psychology Quarterly, 59:237–254. Friedson, Eliot (1983): “Celebrating Erving Goffman”. Contemporary Sociology, 12:359–362. Gamson, William A. (1985): “Goffman’s Legacy to Political Sociology”. Theory & Society, 14 (5):605–622. Gardner, Carol Brooks (1995): Passing By: Gender and Public Harassment. Berkeley: University of California Press. Giddens, Anthony (1991): Modernity and Self-Identity: Self and Society in the Late Modern Age. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press. . (1992): The Transformation of Intimacy: Sexuality, Love and Eroticism in Modern Societies. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press. . (2000): Runaway World: How Globalization is Reshaping Our Lives. New York: Routledge. Goffman, Erving (1952): “On Cooling the Mark Out: Some Aspects of Adaptation to Failure”. Psychiatry, 15 (4):451–463. . (1959): The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life. New York: Doubleday. . (1961): Asylums: Essays on the Social Situation of Mental Patients and Other Inmates. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books. . (1963): Stigma: Notes on the Management of Spoiled Identity. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall. . (1967): Interaction Ritual: Essays on Face-to-Face Behavior. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, Anchor Books.

252 Ann Branaman . (1971): Relations in Public: Microstudies of the Public Order. New York: Basic Books. . (1983): “The Interaction Order”. American Sociological Review, 48:1– 17. Gonos, George (1980): “The Class Position of Goffman’s Sociology: Social Origins of an American Structuralism”, in Jason Ditton (ed.): The View from Goffman. London: Macmillan. Gouldner, Alvin W. (1970): The Coming Crisis of Western Sociology. London: Heinemann. Hall, J. A. (1977): “Sincerity and Politics: ‘Existentialists’ vs. Goffman and Proust”. Sociological Review, 25 (3):535–550. Henley, Nancy M. (1977): Body Politics: Power, Sex and Nonverbal Communication. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall. Hochschild, Arlie R. (1983): The Managed Heart: Commercialization of Human Feeling. Berkeley: University of California Press. . (1988): The Second Shift. Berkeley: University of California Press. . (1990): “Ideology and Emotion Management: A Perspective and Path for Future Research”, in Theodore D. Kemper (ed.): Research Agendas in the Sociology of Emotions. Albany: State University of New York Press. Lemert, Charles and Ann Branaman (eds.) (1997): The Goffman Reader. New York: Blackwell. Lofland, John (1980): “Early Goffman: Style, Structure, Substance, Soul”, in Jason Ditton (ed.): The View from Goffman. London: Macmillan. Lovaglia, Michael J. and Jeffrey A. Houser (1996): “Emotional Reactions and Status in Groups”. American Sociological Review, 61:867–883. MacIntyre, Alasdair (1969): “The Self as a Work of Art”. New Statesman, March: 447–448. Mills, C. Wright (1951): White Collar: The American Middle Classes. New York: Oxford University Press. Molm, Linda D. and Mark Hedley (1992): “Gender, Power and Social Exchange”, in Cecilia L. Ridgeway (ed.): Gender, Interaction and Inequality. New York: Springer. Peirce, Jennifer L. (1995): Gender Trials: Emotional Lives in Contemporary Law Firms. Berkeley: University of California Press. Rabinow, Paul (ed.) (1984): The Foucault Reader. New York: Pantheon Books. Rawls, Anne W. (1987): “The Interaction Order Sui Generis: Goffman’s Contribution to Social Theory”. Sociological Theory, 5 (2):136–149. Ridgeway, Cecilia L. (1991): “The Social Construction of Status Value: Gender and Other Nominal Characteristics”. Social Forces, 70:367–386. . (1992): Gender, Interaction and Inequality. New York: Springer. Ridgeway, Cecilia L. and Henry A. Walker (1995): “Status Structures”, in Karen S. Cook, Gary Alan Fine and James S. House (eds.): Sociological Perspectives on Social Psychology. Needham Heights, MA: Allyn & Bacon. Riesman, David (1953): The Lonely Crowd: A Study of the Changing American Character. Garden City, NY: Doubleday. Rogers, Mary F. (1980): “Goffman on Power, Hierarchy and Status”, in Jason Ditton (ed.): The View from Goffman. London: Macmillan. Rollins, Judith (1985): Between Women: Domestics and their Employers. Philadelphia: Temple University Press. Scheff, Thomas J. (1990): Microsociology: Discourse, Emotion and Social Structure. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Schwartz, Barry (1975): Queuing and Waiting: Studies in the Organization of Access and Delay. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

The Protean Goffman 253 Schwalbe, Michael, Sandra Godwin, Daphne Holden, Douglas Schrock, Shealy Thompson, and Michele Wolkomir (2000): “Generic Processes in the Reproduction of Inequality: An Interactionist Analysis”. Social Forces, 79 (2):419–452. Smith-Lovin, Lynn and Dawn T. Robinson (1992): “Gender and Conversation Dynamics”, in Cecilia L. Ridgeway (ed.): Gender, Interaction and Inequality. New York: Springer. Smith-Lovin, Lynn (1990): “Emotion as the Confi rmation and Disconfi rmation of Identity: An Affect-Control Model”, in Theodore D. Kemper (ed.): Research Agendas in the Sociology of Emotions. Albany: State University of New York Press. Snow, David A. and Leon Anderson (1993): Down on Their Luck: A Study of Homeless Street People. Berkeley: University of California Press. Stets, Jan E. and Peter J. Burke (1996): “Gender, Control and Interaction”. Social Psychology Quarterly, 59:193–220. Stets, Jan E. (1997): “Status and Identity in Marital Interaction”. Social Psychology Quarterly, 60:185–217. Tseëlon, Efrat (1992): “Is the Presented Self Sincere? Goffman, Impression Management and the Postmodern Self”. Theory, Culture & Society, 9:115–128. Tuzlak, Aysan (1988): “Boomerang Effects: Status and Demeanor Over Time”, in Murray Webster and Martha Foschi (eds.): Status Generalization: New Theory and Research. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press. Wagner, David G. (1988): “Status Violations: Toward an Expectations States Theory of the Social Control of Deviance”, in Murray Webster and Martha Foschi (eds.): Status Generalization: New Theory and Research. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press. West, Candace and Don H. Zimmerman (1987): “Doing Gender”. Gender & Society, 1:125–151. West, Candace and Sarah Fenstermaker (1993): “Power, Inequality, and the Accomplishment of Gender: An Ethnomethodological View”, in Paula England (ed.): Theory on Gender, Feminism on Theory. New York: Aldine. Whyte, William H. (1956): The Organization Man. New York: Simon & Schuster. Young, T. R. (1971): “The Politics of Sociology: Gouldner, Goffman and Garfi nkel”. American Sociologist, 6:276–281. Zeitlin, Irving (1973): Rethinking Sociology. New York: Appleton-CenturyCrofts.

Part III

Extending Goffman

10 The 21st-Century Interaction Order* Richard Jenkins

INTRODUCTION Erving Goffman meant his sociology to be a generic framework for understanding human interaction that would “hold for face-to-face existence everywhere” (Goffman 1983:6; see also Goffman 1969a:215–219). So, in principle at least, Goffman’s concepts should continue to offer us a useful lens through which to view the realities of everyday life in the early–21st century human world—a world that is in some respects quite different to that with which he was so familiar. One of Goffman’s more important generic concepts is the ‘in-teraction order’; sufficiently important, in fact, to be the subject of his testamentary presiden-tial address to the American Sociological Association. But what does it mean? The interaction order can be defi ned, in the fi rst instance, as the human world as Goffman was interested in it. In this sense, it was, for him, a heuristic theoretical device, a frame within which to capture and analyse the interaction between co-present embodied human beings that he regarded as the fundamental stuff of human existence. In the second instance, however, there is no doubt that Goffman believed the interaction order to be substantively real, visible and concrete: somewhere between the necessarily invisible mental worlds of individuals and the necessarily abstract patterns of ‘social structure’. We live our everyday flesh-and-blood lives in the interaction order, and in doing so we produce and reproduce it. In this respect, Goffman’s use of the word ‘order’ is significant, because this is an ordered and ordering world. The source of that order is the face-to-face work that individuals do vis-à-vis each other during interaction, and the cumulative settling of that work over time into established routines and institutions. These include formal organisations and the regulatory agencies and powers of the state, where one exists. Throughout a complex body of related and rarely repetitive work, Goffman developed and explored several key substantive themes that he believed were in general characteristic of the interaction order. First, he viewed human interaction as a matter of ‘routines and rituals’. These are

258 Richard Jenkins the micro-institutions of the interaction order. Some are explicit, in that actors can, if called upon to do so, explain what they are doing and the rules of the interaction. Others, however, are implicit: actors may be able to perform them without necessarily being able to rationalise what they are up to. Many, perhaps even most, routines and rituals lie somewhere between the explicit and the implicit. Routines and rituals should be seen as the interactional foundation of institutions. Second, Goffman recognised that, since it involves physically embodied human beings, interaction takes up space and takes time. Each of these factors may be enabling or constraining. It is axiomatic that actors are always spatially situated: territorially, with respect to others, and regionally, in terms of the local staging of interaction. Embodied individuals have their own territories, preserves of space that can be respected or violated, physically or psychologically. The two main generic interaction regions are ‘frontstage’ and ‘back-stage’. These more or less map on to ‘public’ and ‘private’, although it is possible, for example, for private space to have both front- and back-stages. Another way of putting this might be to say that distinctions between front-stage and back-stage, and public and private, are always relative, depending on point of view and setting. With respect to time, perhaps the most important thing to note is that time and information are intimately connected. The longer interaction takes—or the more established over time, and repetitive, an interactional relationship becomes—the more information about the actors involved is likely to flow between them, and the more difficult information management is likely to become. Third, Goffman used two key metaphors to characterise some of the generic properties of routine interaction: either ‘drama’ (Goffman 1969a)— hence front-stage and back-stage—or ‘games’ (Goffman 1961, 1969b). Drama and games both demand interpersonal co-operation and organisation. They involve accepted scripts or rules, on the one hand, but are only realisable in practice via negotiation, transaction and improvisation, on the other. Goffman understood that implicit and explicit scripts and rules are resources to be drawn upon (or not), rather than inflexible determinants of behaviour. Finally, and harking back to the earlier mentions of regions and institutions, the concept of ‘framing’ helps us to understand better the staging of interaction (Goffman 1974). Individuals experience the interaction order as a series of different sets or stages, which are organised formally or informally. Every set or stage is a ‘frame’—with its own characteristic local scripts and rules, with reference to which interaction is organised—and this frame imparts meaning and significance to experience. Similar interactions occurring in different frames may mean, may indeed be, very different things: it is, for example, one thing to be questioned by a police officer at the scene of a road traffic accident to which one was a witness, quite another if this occurs under caution in a police station interview room. From a different perspective, individuals may have different understandings of the

The 21st-Century Interaction Order


setting in which they fi nd themselves and of what is going on within it. Even so, a shared frame creates sufficient common enterprise and predictability for interaction to proceed. For the purposes of this discussion, I shall focus on two aspects of the interaction order: fi rst, the interpersonal face-to-face work of ‘impression management’, and second, the more impersonal face-to-face work of ‘traffic management’. The fi rst is a concept drawn directly from Goffman, the second derives from his work. My fi rst question is whether these notions help us to understand the contemporary human world. Following on from that, I want to ask what, if anything, appears to be new with respect to these aspects of the interaction order? In what I hope will be the best Goffmanian fashion I shall draw upon a range of evidence of ‘mixed status’ (Goffman 1969a:ix), drawn from a variety of sources, to illustrate and illuminate the discussion as it proceeds. What I will not do is offer a summary critique or defence of Goffman’s sociology: I have presented my own views about that elsewhere (Jenkins 2008a:90–96, 2008b), and we are already well supplied with reliable critical introductions to his work (Burns 1992; Drew and Wooton 1988; Smith 1999, 2006; Treviño 2003). Before moving on from these preliminary remarks, the ‘21st century’ of this chapter’s title demands at least some discussion. Was there really a transition from one era to another, as we passed over the threshold between the end of the 1990s and the beginning of the ‘noughties’? No, is the obvious answer; or, at least, only according to the calendar. Calendrical time, however, among its other useful properties, allows us to visualise and discuss broad directions and patterns of change. Talking about ‘the 21st century’ certainly suggests that at least some things have changed, and can be expected to change further, in ways that will in some way distinguish this era as different to previous eras. But where to start, with which changes? Global warming, perhaps? Globalisation? The election of the fi rst black president of the United States? Significant as these undoubtedly are, I shall, instead, focus on the interactional consequences of information and communications technologies (ICTs). I suspect that, were Goffman still among us today, developments in ICTs—and I am using the expression in a very broad sense, as will become clear later—would have long since captured his sociological imagination. Certainly, the entire ICT landscape has changed since his death in 1982, with the pace and scale of change accelerating in the last ten or fi fteen years. Cheap and effective personal computing, mass mobile telephony, portable personal music players, the Internet, digital audio and video recording and ever more sophisticated and invasive surveillance tech-nologies have real and important consequences for how people negotiate their everyday lives in the interaction order. They are thus a particularly appropriate direction from which to examine the continuing usefulness of Goffman’s sociology. Bearing in mind the possibility that “cultural digitization is moving

260 Richard Jenkins faster than our ability to analyze it” (Beer and Burrows 2007), I will make no attempt at comprehensive cover of early–21st century information and communications technology; instead I will limit myself to a selective and modest exploration.

IMPRESSION MANAGEMENT In talking earlier about ‘face-to-face work’, I was, of course, adapting Goffman’s own terminology. In an essay that was fi rst published in 1955 he introduced the notion of ‘face work’, to talk about the many ways in which people, during interaction, seek to maintain, save or recover ‘face’, a positive and approved identity in the eyes of others and, no less significant, in their own eyes (Goffman 1967:5–45). By ‘face-to-face work’ I mean something broader, however: the general management of interaction between co-present individuals. It is axiomatic in Goffman’s work that such interaction is ‘evidential’, in that it offers opportunities to learn something about those with whom one is interacting. This gives rise to ‘impression management’, the selfconscious monitoring and direction of the evidence about oneself that one offers others during interaction (as opposed to the evidence the one ‘gives off’ without intending to). This includes the management of the potentially embarrassing relationship between back-stage and front-stage, private and public (Goffman 1963b). It is the art of attempting to impress others with the self-image that one is intending and attempting to express; getting others to see one as one wants to be seen, with respect to intentions, attitudes, status, access to resources, and so on (Goffman 1969a:183–209). It is, in large part, a matter of information control and appears in Goffman’s work as primarily a face-to-face process, which frequently hinges on the exercise of mutual, reciprocal tact and collusion by actors. Although he appears to have accepted, albeit unenthusiastically, that “the telephone and the mails” might offer a second-rate version of this (Goffman 1983:2), for Goffman the “primordial real thing” was clearly physically co-present interaction, not least because of the important contribution made to impression management by non-verbal communication. Three-dimensional, embodied face-to-face interaction and impression management, between co-present individuals, remain as important today as they were when Goffman was writing. Under whatever passes as normal circumstances in local context we still dress to impress, we still monitor and manage what we say, how we say it, and to whom we say it, we still attempt to shape and defi ne the information about us to which other people have access and we still take care about those with whom others may identify us. These all demand face-to-face work of one kind or another. Face-to-face impression management remains absolutely central to the mundane processes of identification without which the interaction order

The 21st-Century Interaction Order


would be impossible to negotiate (Jenkins 2008a:90–101). However, other kinds of interaction, which are also evidential, and demand, or offer scope for, impression management, have either changed or appeared on the scene since Goffman’s death. Let us return to, and look a little more closely at, ‘the telephone and the mails’ (see Rettie 2009, for another discussion of this topic).

Digitised Communication: Telephones and Mails The advent of mobile handsets has transformed telephony in the last twenty years or so. This has also changed many aspects of everyday social life (Katz 2006; Katz and Aakhus 2002; Ling 2008 and Ling’s chapter in this volume). A world away from the clumsy, expensive bricks that fi rst appeared on the market, contemporary mobile telephones most closely resemble the tiny communicators used by the crew of the Enterprise in the Star Trek television series in the 1960s. They have also become relatively cheap. In the course of these developments, they have become globally and socially ubiquitous (e.g. Horst and Miller 2006). As might be expected, mobile phones—not least the most expensive ‘top end’ hybrid mobile computer-phones such as the Blackberry and the iPhone—may, as desirable portable commodities, play an important part in individual impression management, communicating how up-to-date the owner is, how well-off, how fashionable and ‘cool’ or how technologically savvy (Katz 2006:51–65). Their consumption status aside, mobile phones, simply as objects, may make other contributions to impression management: for example, simply leaving one’s phone obviously switched on during meetings or social gatherings may be to make a conspicuous claim to busyness, connectedness, desirability and status. As well as allowing us to talk to each other, mobile phones transmit and receive SMS (short message service) or ‘text’ messages. This has inspired a generation of new verbs—‘SMSing’ and ‘texting’ are now well-established English usages, for example—and a generationally-specific repertoire of new keyboard skills. I will return to text messaging shortly. The capacity to take and transmit still and video pictures is also increasingly standard. Multimedia options allow one person to take photographs of themselves or others, and immediately send them to another person as part of a conversation, in which case a sort of attenuated face-to-face work has arguably been facilitated. That mobile phones are mobile means that it is impossible to know where people are when they answer the phone, or when they call. As a consequence, it is difficult to predict what kind of conversation is situationally appropriate: whether the person to whom one is talking is at work, home alone or in a public or private space, for example, can make a considerable difference. Both parties require framing information if the interaction is to be managed safely and to everyone’s satisfaction. As a consequence, a new conversational theme has been added to the established repertoire


Richard Jenkins

of telephonic conversation-opening conventions (Schegloff 1968, 2002a, 2002b), namely the specification of location and the identification of the co-presence of others (Laurier 2001). This ‘geographical talk’ is not simply a matter of interactional etiquette, however. New possibilities have been created for misdirection and misinformation, and for impression management. For example, who one is with, or where one is, may have implications for perceived status. “I’m in a meeting, I’ll call you later” or “I’m just on my way to see the boss” do not have to be true to foster an image of being a busy person who is much in demand, or a member of a charmed managerial inner circle. Other new information and communications technologies have extended the contexts within which routine face-to-face work, and impression management, can take place. Computer-mediated telephony, supplemented by web-cameras—using Skype, for example—has fi nally made real and practical the science fiction fantasy of the domestic video-phone. Web-camming of this kind means that digitised face-to-face work in real time—and over very long distances—is now fully possible without three-dimensional copresence; and, of course, the arts and devices of Goffmanian impression management are fully required. One of the more interesting developments in digitalised evidential interaction appears when we look at ‘the mails’, however. E-mailing and messaging—whether on a mobile phone or a computer—have transformed written person-to-person communication. The central point here is about immediacy. People can now write to each in real time or near-real time. Even without using a system such as MSN Web Messenger, we have probably all had the experience of e-mail exchanges bouncing around the globe at intervals that are marked out in handfuls of minutes, at most. As a result, writing has become increasingly interactional: turn-taking, which, let us remember, is perhaps the only “basic” and “recurrent interaction process” (Goffman 1983:7), and which always comes with its own etiquette, becomes possible. Something else happens along, too. Because of the potential immediacy of e-mailing, texting and messaging, because it begins to resemble conversation, and because of the visual nature of the medium itself, proxy faceto-face work appears, much of which is more or less frivolous or ironic (for a detailed discussion of the many varieties of playfulness that are possible in on-line communication, see Danet 2001). A range of textual abbreviations have been developed to stand in for non-verbal behaviours that offer evidence of reaction, mood, attitude and so on; the most well-known is probably ‘lol’, or ‘laugh out loud’, but there are many more.1 This is allied to the longer-established practice—dating back to teletype technology, which had some of the immediacy with which I am concerned here, and with even more distant precedents reaching back to the 19th century—of using conventional typography to communicate emotion, in the form of ‘emoticons’. 2 Well-known examples of these stylised and simplified faces

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are :-) to indicate happiness or positive intentions, ;-) to wink at someone, and :-( to signal unhappiness. There are many others, and they have been supplemented by a range of graphic emoticons—inspired by the ‘smiley face’ logo of the 1960s—that are often embedded within e-mail and messaging software. So facial non-verbal communication has become part of text communication, and something resembling minimal face-to-face work develops, even though actors are not physically co-present.

Interaction in Digitised ‘Spaces’ What about impression management during other kinds of digitised interaction, particularly on social networking sites, in chat rooms and in ‘virtual worlds’? Looking at social networking sites, such as Facebook, Bebo or MySpace (boyd and Ellison 2007), all of the comments that I have made above about digitised text communication and real-time web-camming may apply; the use of still photographs may also be significant. There is more to this, however, than simply a new setting in which to present oneself. When we look more closely at how people use social networking sites, it appears that advertising oneself to the world, and making new acquaintances, may not be these sites’ most important role. A recent, large-scale study of undergraduate students at the University of Sheffield demonstrates the degree to which social networking sites have become taken-for-granted as part of everyday life for contemporary young people. The overwhelming majority of the 672 students surveyed, nearly 90 percent, were members of one or more site. However, the more interesting fi nding was who they use them to interact with: 97 percent said friends outside university, 90 percent university friends, 69 percent the people they lived with, and 61 percent family members (Finlay and Jenkins 2008). This fi nding sits interestingly alongside US research that emphasises students’ use of social networking sites for ‘social browsing’ rather than ‘social searching’; users are most often trying to discover more information about people they have already met off-line (Lampe, Ellison and Steinfeld 2006). Taken together, these fi ndings suggest that social networking sites may bring together different, and not necessarily congruent, impression management requirements: one for family and old friends (who may know more about you), another for more recent acquaintances (who may know less, and wish to fi nd out more). There are also likely to be interesting discriminations to be made between family and close, same-generation friends. It is no surprise to discover that teenagers, for example, “work with a subtle classification of ‘friends’, graded in terms of intimacy, which is poorly matched to the notion of ‘public’ and ‘private’ designed into social networking sites” (Livingstone 2008:408). As a result, there are some interactions for which Facebook, for example, simply will not do: the options are switching to another digitised medium or going off-line altogether. Because they juxtapose different categories of acquaintance in a space that has only one


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front-stage and one back-stage, the impression management requirements and possibilities of social networking sites may be complex and themselves require management. Chat rooms come in many shapes and guises, from those in which participants know each other in the flesh and use their real names, to others in which neither of those things is true. In all cases, some degree of impression management is likely to be at work, drawing on the text conventions mentioned above; in situations of anonymity, it may be absolutely vital. Situations of anonymity present their own interactional risks; the best known is the ability of predatory paedophiles to use careful impression management, presenting as peers in order to contact children and young people. It has also been argued that chat rooms and other on-line discussion forums offer freedoms from the constraints of everyday etiquette which discipline—and are, arguably, the result of—physical co-presence. Anonymity and disembodiment mean that it is easier and safer, in the sense of actions not having physical consequences, to engage in abuse or misbehaviour, whether person-to-person or indirectly: “Sitting alone in front of your computer, online, you fi nd yourself in a social situation that has been privatized—customized, you might say . . . There are no concrete inhibitors” (Siegel 2008:173). Lee Siegel’s cultural pessimism about the ‘electronic mob’ does not seem to be wholly warranted. Despite some attention-demanding boorish bellowing, self-important pontificating and occasional sheer rudeness, on-line interaction is, in general, most likely to be ordered and orderly. Social networking sites, message boards and chat rooms have their local conventions, their peer group pressures, their moderators and, often, their explicit rules about inclusion and exclusion. More generally, since the earliest days of e-mail we have witnessed the gradual development of specific ‘netiquette’ that is part of digitised impression management: conventional dos-anddon’ts, procedural forms that are widely understood, routines and rituals that facilitate on-line interaction, etc. (Strawbridge 2006). 3 The mob, actually, has yet to take over, and the physical and digitised interaction orders resemble each other more than a little. They are not quite the same, however. ‘Virtual worlds’ are digitally conjured-up visual environments into which one can buy—literally—and, adopting an avatar identity, go off adventuring (Guest 2008). Avatars are, perhaps, among the most elaborate examples of impression management that one can imagine, in as much as the constraints of organic embodiment and resource availability can be set aside, not merely under a cloak of chat room anonymity, but in the assumption of an utterly new visual presence and identity (of sorts). Short people can become tall, fat people slim and sexual allure can be conjured up on the screen. A person of limited means can buy the yacht, the mansion, the helicopter and as much bling as the market will bear. To revisit a point that I have just made, ever since their inception it has been realised that social networking sites and chat rooms offer

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considerable potential for deception and misdirection, whether frivolous or more sinister, with respect to participants’ identities and intentions. On-line impression management is an intrinsic part of this, as Sherry Turkle (1996, 1999) discovered when she looked at early generations of Multiple-User Domains. Virtual worlds, however, are by defi nition exercises in falsehood or creativity, depending on how you want to interpret them. While they do not necessarily involve deception per se, they do offer many complex possibilities, whether ironic or sincere, for acting and for acting out (and, indeed, for acting up). Given this, and the earlier discussion of netiquette, it is not surprising that a virtual world such as Second Life, for example, has developed its own increasingly complex rules and conventions. These rituals and routines inform on-line impression management, setting a frame of constraints and enablements—cybersocial organisation—that is sufficiently extensive to warrant extended ethnographic exploration (Boellstorff 2008). In a virtual world careful impression management ‘in character’ is vital, perhaps even more vital than in one’s ‘fi rst life’, because the opportunity to create an impression that is utterly different from one’s mundane, everyday presence is precisely what Second Life originally offered. All of this virtual world is, indeed, a stage, and Goffman’s dramaturgical model has surely found a new world to conquer. And although what goes on in Second Life, or similar virtual worlds, is more-or-less fantastic, its relationships to ‘real’ fi rst lives may be powerful and are not to be underestimated (by anyone). Consider, for example, this recent British case, which attracted a good deal of media attention: Amy Taylor and David Pollard, who married after fi rst meeting in Second Life—tying the knot during a romantic cyber-ceremony as well as an eventual civil marriage—are to divorce, newspapers announced in November 2008. She caught David’s avatar, Dave Barmy, cuddling up to a female avatar, Modesty McDonnell, on a virtual sofa. Amy’s avatar, Laura Skye, had earlier hired a Second Life private eye to investigate his fidelity. This being his second such misdemeanour—on a previous occasion she had discovered him having sex with an avatar prostitute—her patience ran out. Dave and Laura divorced in Second Life, in advance of David and Amy going through the fi rst-life formalities. He then became engaged to Modesty’s fi rst-life mouse-clicker, a woman from Arkansas. Amy also met a new love on-line, playing the multi-player game World of Warcraft. Some of the newspaper coverage4 focused, in unkind detail, on the disparity between Amy and David—overweight, unemployed and living in a bedsit—and their Second Life characters and lives: Laura is a tall, slim club DJ, while Dave is a tall, slim, broad-shouldered night club owner who fl ies a helicopter gunship. In a fi nal twist, having fi rmly refused to speak to the press, the couple were eventually

266 Richard Jenkins persuaded to talk, separately, by two fi rst-life journalists who assumed Second Life avatar identities and gained their confidence.5 One of the morals of this unhappy tale is that the digitised interaction order is not insulated from the everyday ‘fi rst lives’ of its inhabitants. And how could it be? They are, after all, flesh-and-blood individuals, interacting with other flesh-and-blood individuals. The fact that Second Life interaction is digitally mediated is, in this respect, neither here nor there. It was in physical three-dimensional space that Amy discovered David’s indiscretions: she saw what he was up to on his screen—which is, after all, a material furnishing of their fi rst lives—while he was on-line. The Second Life ‘Linden dollars’ with which she paid the private eye convert into hard currency which came out of her, non-virtual, pocket. Avatars aside, the journalists were real enough, going about their fi rst life business, and their stories reverberated through networks of friends and family, as well as reaching a wider audience. In Amy’s words: “It may have started online but it existed entirely in the real world and it hurts just as much”. That ‘fi rst lives’ and Second Lives are not very different is suggested by research indicating that non-verbal behavioural norms are transferred from fi rst to Second (Yee, Bailenson, Urbanek, Chang and Merget 2007), and that players identify with their avatar characters emotionally and suffer distress when they are harmed (Wolfendale 2007). It is, further, irresistible to suggest that no matter why people embrace alternative Second Lives, and no matter how many waking hours they invest in them, whatever is going on in their fi rst lives is neither avoided nor mitigated.

TRAFFIC MANAGEMENT Although one can talk about the ‘digitised street’, the streets that most of us most have to negotiate in our everyday lives are three-dimensional thoroughfares of various kinds (see Ole B. Jensen’s chapter in this volume for a further discussion that complements what follows). These are among the most important settings in which ‘relations in public’ happen, and one of Goffman’s approaches to them was to draw an analogy between pedestrians and road transport. Seen in this light, people are ‘vehicular units’ of a sort—albeit that they are soft-shelled and vulnerable—which, in numbers, constitute ‘traffic’ (Goffman 1971:26–40, 1983:6). As with any other kind of traffic there are explicit and implicit rules for avoiding collision and conflict, and routines that count as competent travelling. Although it has been little remarked on, ‘traffic’ should arguably be recognised as one of Goffman’s key analytical metaphors; it has much in common—specifically the use of an apt metaphor to summarise and communicate the real world’s combination of rule observance and improvisation—with both drama and games.

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Getting from A to B on foot along crowded urban thoroughfares is usually ‘unfocused interaction’ (Goffman 1963a:24) between passing people who often do not know each other, whose only—or at least primary— interest in those around them is simply the accomplishment of mutually uncomplicated, smooth transit. This, too, involves impression management of a kind, in that pedestrians may send each other a range of signals about their intentions and demeanour, for the information and guidance of others. But, as unfocused interaction, it is a rather different kind of impression management to that which was discussed earlier. The most obvious difference is that pedestrian traffic is ideally characterised by what Goffman (1963a:84–88) called ‘civil inattention’: actors acknowledge-while-not-acknowledging each other’s presence in a self-interested spirit of mutually considerate live-and-let-live and tacit spatial negotiation. This is fleeting, impersonal face-to-face work in which mutual trust and voluntary coordination of action are required. So are perpetual ‘scanning’ and ‘body checking’, keeping an eye on approaching others in order to estimate their intentions, so that whatever navigational allowances and adjustments might appear to be necessary can be made in a timely and nondemeaning fashion. Although Goffman does not to my knowledge discuss this—at least, nowhere that I have been able to fi nd—visual cues are not the only source of information to which pedestrians must attend. Sound, too, is significant: those behind one may be audible as they approach, even if they are not yet visible, and motorised traffic on the road should certainly be listened, as well as looked out, for (hence car horns and bicycle bells).

Enter Podestrians Bearing in mind the considerations about traffic management just described, consider the following, gleaned from a recent London Evening Standard column: Some Londoners have a death wish. Every day I slam on the bike brakes to avoid ploughing into people blissfully unaware of traffic thanks to their iPods . . . Podestrians, as they’ve been labelled, wander blindly into moving traffic, smiling happily to Neil Diamond. Perhaps they think that the Kings of Leon can save them from the impact of a moving vehicle . . . Of course, it’s not just music-lovers who step rashly off the curb. Teenagers with text addictions can’t tear their eyes from the tiny screen they’re typing into.6 Allowing for journalistic brio and condescension, this may be a recognisable picture—or at least a recognisable topic of conversation—to many readers. For example, I recently had a conversation with an undergraduate student after a seminar. Joking, I told him that the next time he walked past me in the street without returning my greeting—he had recently done that


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twice—I would make sure that I got his attention. He apologised and explained that he must have had his music on: “I don’t notice anything when I’m listening to music. I nearly got hit by a car the other day”. The Evening Standard column appears to have been inspired by a press statement on the matter issued three days earlier by Swinton, a British insurance company: In many accounts of minor accidents on insurance claim forms, Swinton has seen a significant increase in drivers citing such individuals as having been a factor in the incident. According to Swinton’s data the most common scenario involves a ‘podestrian’ stepping into the road without looking properly and failing to hear an oncoming vehicle. This often forces the approaching driver to brake suddenly and subsequently get shunted by the car behind. The problem of music players masking the noise of cars can often be compounded by the simultaneous use of mobile phones. Text messaging on the move means many podestrians are not looking at what’s straight ahead or checking to their left and right. When this activity is combined with a lack of audible awareness, a ‘podestrian’ is even more oblivious to oncoming traffic.7 If there is any truth in the picture that Swinton is painting here, then podestrians are likely to be as oblivious to fellow foot-travellers as they are to motorists. Given the contemporary ubiquity of MP3 players, it suggests an increase in solipsistic self-absorption in public and a general disruption of mutual civil inattention and traffic awareness, resulting in more interpersonal collisions, whether major or minor. We would, however, be naive indeed to accept at face value data deriving from insurance claims. So how accurate is this picture? According to the UK Department for Transport (2007, Table 4e), the most important contribution, by a very long way, that pedestrians make to accidents is their failure to pay proper attention. It has probably ever been thus: preoccupation with business other than the safe negotiation of the traffic is nothing new. However, while walking has long been the second most dangerous mode of travel, after motorcycling, in the United Kingdom, it appears to be half as lethal as it was twenty-five years ago (Office for National Statistics 2008:173). So pedestrians may be paying more attention. Ultimately, however, we have no way of knowing, and these statistics tell us nothing about the role of personal stereos. The apparent decline in pedestrian danger might suggest that the significance of the podestrian phenomenon is overplayed; on the other hand, however, its impact could be hidden in the aggregate figures. Ethnography may help us to understand the situation better. Michael Bull’s study (2000) examined personal-stereo use in London in the mid1990s, in the Walkman era, before iPods conquered the High Street. Among other aspects of the ‘phenomenology of personal-stereo use’, it deals with

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eye contact and interpersonal attention. While his respondents exhibit considerable variation and diversity, two themes in common are relevant here. First, Bull’s personal-stereo users’ public absorption in private music militated against them making eye contact with others. Second, the music created a ‘bubble’ within which these mobile stereo-users felt somewhat insulated from the action around them. All of which might suggest that the stereotype of the podestrian—negotiating peopled public space while somewhat distracted, at least slightly disengaged, and deprived of external auditory stimuli—may have some substance. Which is also what everyday experience suggests. To adapt Rich Ling’s comment about mobile phones, MP3 players do “not always fit into the flow of co-present interaction” (Ling 2008:175). Indeed they do not, but this does not necessarily mean that either mobile phones or MP3 players have made everyday life dramatically more dangerous (which is not to ignore the fact that their use sometimes causes accidents). My student, mentioned above, is, so far, unscathed. The reasons why are probably quite straightforward. First, other people in the traffic, whether on foot or on wheels, do pay attention—or should that be civil inattention?—scanning and checking in the interests of self-preservation, if nothing else, and as a matter of socialised habit. Second, distracted as they may be by their music, by the text that they just have to send now, or by that urgent phone call, most users of mobile phones and MP3 players also pay some attention, in their own ways, some of the time. They are not completely in a bubble. Casual observation suggests that characteristic forms of interrupted but repetitive scanning and checking—head up, head down, head up, head down, for example—have developed to cope with the demands of using ICT on the hoof. Podestrians scan and check for the same reasons as everyone else: self-preservation and habit derived from socialisation. Scanning and checking as one goes, however it is done and whether one is distracted or not, is simply a public interaction routine.

Shared Space This point can be developed further, by looking briefly at the management of mixed traffic—pedestrians, cycles and motor vehicles of various kinds—in towns. Under pressure from increasing volumes of traffic of all kinds, and as part of a general increase in the surveillance and attempted management of public space and order, urban traffic management systems have tended to become more complex and more invasive. Combinations of spatial demarcation, specialised road surfaces, road markings, road features such as roundabouts and speed bumps, instructional and directional signs and signals, automatic signals, interactive signals (such as push-button traffic lights), speed cameras and traffic management video surveillance can be thought of as extensive public information technology systems. Their basic function, after all, is the transmission of information: communicating

270 Richard Jenkins ‘what to do’ to individuals in the traffic, and communicating ‘what the traffic is doing’ to those who manage traffic. Considerable scope for individual decision-making is ceded to traffic managers, and some scanning and checking by pedestrians, cyclists and drivers must be diverted away from other traffic, to the management information that is available in the environment. Not all urban traffic management has gone in this direction, however. Originally developed in Holland, an alternative approach called ‘shared space’ has been gradually gaining some acceptance (Hamilton-Baillie 2008; Vanderbilt 2008:186–210). Basically, it works by doing three things. First, it opens up as much public space as possible to mixed traffic: distinctions between pavements and roads are deliberately confused and understated, both physically and in the regulatory sense. As a result, pedestrian and vehicular traffic share space and, of necessity, interact. Second, they do so with the potential distractions of traffic management information reduced as much as possible: road signs, in particular, are kept to the bare minimum (or done away with altogether). Third, they interact with little or no intervention from intrusive traffic management technology: roundabouts replace traffic lights, for example. In certain kinds of urban environment—it is not clear that it would be appropriate for Fifth Avenue or the Champs Elysées, for example—this approach appears to work: vehicular traffic slows down, there are fewer collisions, of whatever kind, and fewer jams. This is in part because the enterprise of getting from A to B becomes more unpredictable; the sense of certainty fostered by intrusive traffic management is replaced by a sense of uncertainty. Drivers, in particular, slow down and begin to exercise decision-making caution—checking and scanning—rather than submitting to the external direction of a traffic management system. But it is also because, below a certain speed, drivers, cyclists and pedestrians cannot easily avoid making at least some eye contact with each other; as a result, they begin to behave towards each other in a spirit of mutuality and recognition. In other words, mixed traffic begins to resemble pedestrian traffic; uncivil inattention becomes increasingly civil. A direct and entertaining analogy may be made with ‘wiki’ software, in which content is the eventual product of negotiations among users. It appears that sometimes less regulation of interaction permits shared norms, routines and interaction rituals to emerge, and—generally—a form of shared reason to prevail. There is, indeed, such a thing as ‘society’.

A BRIEF FINAL WORD . . . It appears that new information and communications technologies have been readily incorporated into, and have readily incorporated, the everyday face-to-face work of impression management with which we are all so

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familiar. Even in wholly text-based digitised interaction, face-to-face work of a kind—an impoverished proxy, it must be admitted, albeit one that allows a considerable amount of frivolity and irony—appears to be possible in the absence of visible, physical co-presence (whether three-dimensional or on-screen). Face-to-face work in the digitised interaction order resembles closely, although perhaps not completely, what goes on in the physically co-present interaction order: there is impression management of varying degrees of honesty, authenticity, irony and deceit. There is interactional etiquette and canons of acceptable behaviour matter. In all of these respects, Erving Goffman’s sociology is a better than reasonable aid to understanding everyday life on the digitised street. On the three-dimensional street everyday life also goes on, however, albeit with the added complexity of pedestrians who are ‘plugged in’ (or ‘tuned out’) while they are physically co-present and on the move, on the one hand, and increasingly invasive networks of traffic management technology, on the other. However, the examples of podestrianism and ‘sharedspace’ traffic self-management suggest that, left to their own devices under whatever passes for routine conditions in local contexts, human beings are well able to sort out their interaction management problems in a spirit of distant mutuality and civil inattention. Modern information and communications technologies may have rendered doing so more varied and challenging, but they have neither obviated the need to do so, nor changed the very basic interactional ethos and techniques that inform and enable how human beings do it. There remains a further issue, however. Is it really sensible to talk about physical and digitised interaction orders, as I have done so far in this chapter? As the material that I have discussed suggests, the boundary between the digitised and the physical (or the three-dimensional) is, at most, osmotic and imprecise; where one ends and the other begins is not a matter of clearcut staging and framing. This has generally been interpreted in the literature and the media as opening up for us a new digitised frontier, a new world of marvels and dangers to explore and exploit. But, of course, the argument cuts both ways. No matter how much some of us may revel in the liberties afforded us by and in cyberspace, there are always flesh-and-blood fi ngers, living flesh-and-blood lives, hitting the keys and clicking the mouse (see Hakken 1999:69–92). There is no definite, qualitative transition from the three-dimensional to the digitised, nor is there a fi re door which we can walk through and close behind us (see Kendall 2002). And when we are out and about in the everyday world, although some of our fellow travellers may appear to be partly ‘there’ as well as ‘here’, they are always, no matter how much they may be insulated and distracted by iPods and mobile phones, completely three-dimensional. Flesh-and-blood, and the disciplines that it imposes, cannot be denied. Looked at in the widest perspective, these comments suggest that in the digital era framing and staging, and particularly how we understand


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co-presence, may require some reconsideration. ‘Physical’ co-presence, although it remains the irreducible basic reality of interaction, is no longer the only meaningful impression management game in town. Not only have the ‘telephone and the mails’ been transformed, becoming in the process extremely lively interactional media, but the development of social networking sites and virtual worlds has opened a vista of possibilities undreamt of by Goffman. Taken together, they suggest that time (immediacy) may have become as important a criterion of co-presence as space (physical tangibility). Goffman aside, this is a point that seems to have been obscured by the dominance of spatial metaphors and expressions in the conventional conceptualisation of digitised interaction (see Gotved 2002, 2006). In conclusion, with respect to impression and traffic management the 21st-century interaction order may, despite appearances, have changed surprisingly little since Goffman’s time. Since impression management and traffic management are among the most immediate realities of the interaction order, this suggests that the concept remains a robust and fruitful heuristic device for understanding the generic realities of everyday life. Information and communications technologies have transformed many aspects of our everyday lives, offering new opportunities for sociability, creating new temptations for fantasy, deception and misdirection, and impinging ever more on our journeying from one place to another. These new technologies have not necessarily changed how we negotiate these opportunities, temptations and journeys, however, and Erving Goffman’s sociology still has much to contribute to how we understand this new world. Humans remain humans, after all.

NOTES * I am extremely grateful to Jenny Owen, for her usual thorough and helpful job as critical-friend-and-editor, to Michael Hviid Jacobsen, for his detailed and insightful editorial comments, and to Rich Ling, for allowing me to read an early draft of his chapter in this collection, so that I could keep duplication to a minimum. The chapter has been much improved as a result (and, as ever, its shortcomings are all my own). 1. There is a useful Wikipedia article—a peculiarly appropriate source in this context, I hope—devoted to LOL: 2. On emoticons, their history and their cross-cultural variety of form and use, see: 3. See also: 4. My main sources for this vignette are The Guardian, November 14 and 15, 2008, and The Independent, November 14, 2008. See also The Times November 14, 2008. 5. For example, The Daily Mail, November 14, 2008; The Sun, November 14, 2008. 6. Charlotte Ross: “A London Life”. Evening Standard, October 10, 2008. 7. See: The original press statement was issued on October 7, 2008.

The 21st-Century Interaction Order


REFERENCES Beer, David and Roger Burrows (2007): “Sociology and, of and in Web 2.0: Some Initial Considerations”. Sociological Research Online, 12 (5). Available at: Boellstorff, Tom (2008): Coming of Age in Second Life: An Anthropologist Explores the Virtually Human. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. boyd, danah m. and Nicole B. Ellison (2007): “Social Network Sites: Defi nition, History and Scholarship”. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 13 (1). Available at: Bull, Michael (2000): Sounding Out the City: Personal Stereos and the Management of Everyday Life. Oxford: Berg. Burns, Tom (1992): Erving Goffman. London: Routledge. Danet, Brenda (2001): Cyberpl@y: Communicating Online. Oxford: Berg. Department for Transport (2007): Road Casualties in Great Britain 2007. Available at: Drew, Paul and Anthony Wootton (eds.) (1988): Erving Goffman—Exploring the Interaction Order. Cambridge: Polity Press. Finlay, Somer and Richard Jenkins (2008): Perceptions and Experience of Student Community at the University of Sheffi eld. Unpublished internal report, University of Sheffield. Goffman, Erving (1961): Encounters: Two Studies in the Sociology of Interaction. Indianapolis, IN: Bobbs-Merrill. . (1963a): Behavior in Public Places: Notes on the Social Organisation of Gatherings. New York: Free Press. . (1963b): Stigma: Notes on the Management of Spoiled Identity. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall. . (1967): Interaction Ritual. New York: Doubleday. . (1969a): The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life. London: Allen Lane. . (1969b): Strategic Interaction. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. . (1971): Relations in Public: Microstudies of the Public Order. London: Al-len Lane. . (1974): Frame Analysis: An Essay on the Organization of Experience. New York: Basic Books. . (1983): “The Interaction Order”. American Sociological Review, 48:1–17. Gotved, Stine (2002): “Spatial Dimensions in Online Communities”. Space and Culture, 5:405–414. Gotved, Stine (2006): “Time and Space in Cyber Social Reality”. New Media & Society, 10:467–486. Guest, Tim (2008): Second Lives: A Journey Through Virtual Worlds. London: Arrow. Hakken, David (1999): Cyborgs@Cyberspace: An Ethnographer Looks to the Future. New York: Routledge. Hamilton-Baillie, Ben (2008): “Shared Space: Reconciling People, Places and Traffic”. Built Environment, 34:161–181. Horst, Heather A. and Daniel Miller (2006): The Cell Phone: An Anthropology of Communication. Oxford: Berg. Jenkins, Richard (2008a): Social Identity (Third Edition). London: Routledge. . (2008b): “Erving Goffman: A Major Theorist of Power?”. Journal of Power, 1 (2):157–168. Katz, James E. (2006): Magic in the Air: Mobile Communication and the Transformation of Social Life. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers.


Richard Jenkins

Katz, James E. and Mark Aakhus (eds.) (2002): Perpetual Contact: Mobile Communication, Private Talk, Public Performance. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Kendall, Lori (2002): Hanging Out in the Virtual Pub: Masculinities and Relationships On-line. Berkeley: University of California Press. Lampe, Cliff, Nicole Ellison and Charles Steinfeld (2006): “A Face(book) in the Crowd: Social Searching vs. Social Browsing”, in Computer Supported Cooperative Work: Proceedings of the 2006 20th Anniversary Conference on Computer Supported Cooperative Work. Banff, Canada. Laurier, Eric (2001): “Why People Say Where They are During Mobile Phone Calls”. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, 19:485–504. Ling, Rich (2008): New Tech, New Ties: How Mobile Communication is Reshaping Social Cohesion. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Livingstone, Sonia (2008): “Taking Risky Opportunities in Youthful Content Creation: Teenagers’ Use of Social Networking Sites for Intimacy, Privacy and SelfExpression”. New Media & Society, 10:393–411. Office for National Statistics (2008): Social Trends 38. Basingstoke: Palgrave/Macmillan. Rettie, Ruth M. (2009): “Mobile Telephone Communication: Extending Goffman to Mediated Interaction”. Sociology, 43 (3):421–438. Schegloff, Emanuel A. (1968): “Sequencing in Conversational Openings”. American Anthropologist, 70:1075–1095. Schegloff, Emanuel A. (2002a): “Beginnings in the Telephone”, in James E. Katz and Mark Aakhus (eds.): Perpetual Contact: Mobile Communication, Private Talk, Public Performance. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Schegloff, Emanuel A. (2002b): “Opening Sequencing”, in James E. Katz and Mark Aakhus (eds.): Perpetual Contact: Mobile Communication, Private Talk, Public Performance. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Siegel, Lee (2008): Against the Machine: Being Human in the Age of the Electronic Mob. London: Serpent’s Tail. Smith, Greg (1999): Goffman and Social Organization: Studies of a Sociological Legacy. London: Routledge. . (2006): Erving Goffman. London: Routledge. Strawbridge, Matthew (2006): Netiquette: Internet Etiquette in the Age of the Blog. Ely: Software Reference. Treviño, A. Javier (ed.) (2003): Goffman’s Legacy. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield. Turkle, Sherry (1996): Life on the Screen: Identity in the Age of the Internet. London: Weidenfeld & Nicholson. . (1999): “Cyberspace and Identity”. Contemporary Sociology, 28:643– 648. Vanderbilt, Tom (2008): Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What It Says About Us). London: Allen Lane. Wolfendale, Jessica (2007): “My Avatar, My Self: Virtual Harm and Attachment”. Ethics and Information Technology, 9:111–119. Yee, Nick, Jeremy N. Bailenson, Mark Urbanek, Francis Chang and Dan Merget (2007): “The Unbearable Likeness of Being Digital: The Persistence of Nonverbal Social Norms in Online Virtual Environments”. CyberPsychology & Behavior, 10 (1):115–121.

11 The ‘Unboothed’ Phone Goffman and the Use of Mobile Communication Rich Ling

INTRODUCTION Many years ago when I had fi rst moved to Oslo from my native Colorado, I was walking across the campus of the University of Oslo en route to my Norwegian class. In what was likely one of my fi rst experiences of mastering the language I noticed some graffiti spray painted on one of the buildings that said “Goffman er gud” (Goffman is god). The experience has become one of those bits of cultural flotsam that has stuck with me. Not only was I learning to decode some of the language, but barring the possibility of Karl Marx, it is the only time I have ever seen graffiti dedicated to a sociologist. Somehow, someone was possessed with the motivation to take this form of expression into hand to tell the world their opinion of Erving Goffman. This was not an ode to some rock musician, a call to arms or the use of a random wall to show off the graffiti artist’s latest signature. It was graffiti inspired by a sociologist. How can you top that? While not generally being a big fan of graffiti, this example had a nice resonance. For me, as both an undergraduate and a graduate student, Goffman had been one of the big ones. I had used The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life in defending my decision to study sociology against the bemused inquiries of my grandparents who would have preferred that I go in a more commercially viable direction. I had found inspiration in Goffman’s writing as I went through my graduate career and I have also drawn on his work on interaction ritual during my career in the study of mobile communication. Thus, while I do not necessarily support the idea of deifying him as was suggested in the graffiti, he has been a continuous source of insight and inspiration. As Gary Alan Fine notes: “For most of our giant theorists, the number of important and lasting constructs can be counted on the fi ngers of one hand, but with Goffman even neophyte graduate students must use their toes” (Fine 2005:1287). I support this sentiment. His writing is as graceful as it is perceptive. His work retains freshness. His insights are still being used and they are still being applied to new and emergent situations and his pursuit of understanding situations and not individuals is a goal that we need to keep before us.


Rich Ling

When thinking of mobile communication, Goffman’s notion of how we order our collocated interactions and also his broader notions of how ritual helps us to develop and maintain social cohesion are issues of particular interest. These are the two broad themes that will be considered in this chapter.

TELEPHONY IN GOFFMAN’S OEUVRE There is a certain irony in writing about the sociology of Erving Goffman in the context of mobile communication. When looking at the literature on the social consequences of mobile communication, Goffman has been drawn upon in a broad variety of studies. Alex Taylor and Richard Harper (2002) use his work when considering mobile phone calls and text messages as gift giving. He is used in the analysis of phone calls in awkward situations (Ling 1997; Weilenmann 2003), mobile phone use in public spaces (Höfl ich 2003), the ritual nature of mobile communication (Ling 2008a), hearing only one side of a phone conversation (Monk, Carroll, Parker and Blythe 2004), the dimensions of presence and embodiment in mobile phone use (Rettie 2005), mobile phones as fashion statements (Fortunati 2005; Katz and Sugiyama 2005) and in dozens of others. Indeed, it is hard to fi nd another theorist who has been so liberally applied to the study of mobile communication. This is all the more odd since Goffman was doing his work in a predigital age and almost exclusively focused on collocated situations. Indeed, in his 1969 book Strategic Interaction, Goffman specifically stated: “My ultimate interest is to develop a study of face-to-face interaction as a naturally bounded, analytically coherent field—a sub area of sociology” (Goffman 1969:ix; emphasis added). When Goffman was doing his fieldwork on the Shetland Islands and in St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in Washington, DC, the computer was only starting to make the transition from vacuum tubes to transistors. By the end of his life in 1982, the mobile phone was starting to be seen, but it was most often bolted down in a car. The true adoption of the device only began a decade after his death. Thus, while landline telephony was widely available, Goffman lived in a period before the true digital era had begun. When he does discuss the telephone, he describes situations that today may seem quaint and removed. For example, he analyses status differences among dorm residents when answering the hall phone. He fi nds that the job of answering the phone often fell on the lower status individuals who would then also have to fi nd the person being called. Often the person being called did not immediately respond to the pleas of the person answering the phone. Rather they waited for their name to be called several times, thus broadcasting their popularity to others on the hall and further enforcing their status (Goffman 1959:4). Interestingly, mobile phone users today use the device to assert their status in different ways—the number of

The ‘Unboothed’ Phone 277 persons in their phone’s memory, faux complaints as to the insistence of the continually ringing phone, the ownership of a particularly stylish device, etc. Thus, the terms of the game have changed since the era of hall phones, but we are still playing the game. This is not to say that Goffman’s few discussions regarding the telephone were off the mark. In Behavior in Public Places he described telephone calls as a type of gift (Goffman 1963:102 n88), thus anticipating the work of Truls Johnsen (2003) as well as that of Alex Taylor and Richard Harper (2001). Later, in the same book, Goffman describes how co-located conversations go ‘limp’ when one of the participants receives a phone call (Goffman 1963:158)—an insight that has been discussed with regard to the disturbance of the front stage by a call on the mobile phone (Ling 1997). In this context, he suggested the concept of ‘civil inattention’ used by those who were waiting for the return of the person on the telephone (Goffman 1963). This idea has also been adopted into the study of mobile telephony (Cooper, Green, Murtagh and Harper 2002; Persson 2001). When thinking of the mobile phone, one of Goffman’s more intriguing discussions is his reference to the ‘unboothed’ street phone in Forms of Talk: In public, we are allowed to become fairly deeply involved in talk with others we are with, providing this does not lead us to block traffic or intrude on the sound preserve of others; presumably our capacity to share talk with one other implies we are able to share it with others who see us talking. So, too, we can conduct a conversation aloud over an unboothed street phone while either turning our back to the flow of pedestrian traffic or watching it in an abstracted way, without the words being thought improper; for even though our co-participant is not visually present, a natural one can be taken to exist, and an accounting is available as to where, cognitively speaking, we have gone, and, moreover, that this ‘where’ is a familiar place to which we could be duly recalled should events warrant (Goffman 1981:86; emphasis added). The notion of an ‘unboothed phone’ is a nice turn on the language that gives us a prevision of today’s use of mobile communication. The passage also gives us Goffman in a nutshell. We have the graceful prose, the detailed observation and the extension of the insight onto a broader analysis of society. The notion of an ‘unboothed’ phone displays his facility with language. The detailed observations of the user’s body language and posture are classic and indeed others have applied the same insight to the observation of mobile communication (Höfl ich 2003; Ling 2002, 2008a). Finally, his ability to examine effect of such a phone conversation on the broader co-present social situation is also characteristic of his work. Interestingly however, it stops there. Goffman does not include any analysis of the telephonic interaction. There is no interest as to why the person might be calling or as to the relationship between the telephonic partners.

278 Rich Ling Nonetheless, Goffman has provided us with keen insights as to how we maintain our facades in social interaction. It is perhaps not surprising that this insight has been adopted by mobile phone researchers since the ringing of the ‘unboothed’ phone brings these facades into question. His insight provides us with unique tools for these situations. Indeed, his use of observation and his rich theoretical insight is much needed as we interlace mediated with co-present interaction.

MOBILE TELEPHONY AND THE CONFUSION OF THE FRONT-STAGE It is interesting to note that Goffman mentions the telephone in the discussion of one of his signature concepts, namely ‘front-stage’ and ‘backstage’. Specifically he writes: “Here [in the back-stage area] devices such as the telephone are sequestered so that they can be used ‘privately’” (Goffman 1959:112). The mobile phone has changed this. We have taken this ‘back-stage’ device with us onto front-stage centre. At the same time, it can quickly make what was the front-stage into a type of back-stage. Not long ago I was having dinner with a colleague when she received a text message from one of her daughters. Generally, her children did not send her messages unless it was an emergency, but the situation seemed to dictate that this was an emergency. My colleague’s two daughters were going to attend a concert that evening. Both wanted to dress well for the concert and the younger daughter was having a disagreement with her older sister regarding whether she could borrow some boots. The text message to the mother resulted in a quick call and a few words to the daughters promising and cajoling them into agreement. Since she was in a restaurant, the mother was not located in a back-stage situation where she could exercise her full range of maternal negotiating skills. Rather, she balanced the requirement for decorum demanded of the restaurant with the escalating situation between her daughters. After the call, the mother gave me a quick explanation regarding the conflict and we both commiserated as to the issue regarding sibling disagreements and then carried on with our previous line of conversation. As is obvious from this event, the mobile telephone allows us to call individuals and not just to places. With the landline phone, we call locations in the anticipation that our intended interlocutor is there. With mobile phones we are all personally addressable regardless of where we might be and what we might be doing (Ling and Donner 2009). This extends the reach of the telephone system beyond what it was in Goffman’s time. Rather than the phone booth, the hall or the home phone which were placed in a specific location where one might expect that telephone-like activities could occur—and indeed were furnished with this in mind with, for example special chairs, notepads, the ability to close it off, etc.—we now live in a world where a call can occur any time and any place.

The ‘Unboothed’ Phone 279 Further, unlike more staid technical devices, the mobile telephone is infused into society. It is not just one place—it is everywhere. It has been widely adopted in the developed as well as in the developing world (ITU 2007). As the aforementioned incident with my colleague in the restaurant illustrates, this means that we have to be nimble in dealing with both the co-present and the telephonic situation when the phone rings. The mobile phone changes the way that we treat public space. Following Goffman in his essay “Territories of the Self”, we assert a type of ‘temporary tenancy’ over, for example, park benches, restaurant tables or seats on a bus (Goffman 1971:46). This gives us certain rights but it also assumes that we comport ourselves by observing the appropriate rules of tenancy. The mobile phone can make this difficult since it is a device that can impose itself into the flux of everyday events. The person carrying the phone may be engaged in one physical situation and the accessibility afforded by the mobile phone means that others can call and, in effect, rearrange the agenda.1 Receiving a mobile phone call or a text message removes the person from the co-present interaction and asks them to take up the thread introduced via the mobile phone. The person using the mobile phone is mentally but not physically removed from the co-present interaction. The ringing of the mobile phone is a threat to what Goffman calls the ‘officially accredited flow’ of interaction (Goffman 1967:35). Messages that are not part of the officially accredited flow are modulated so as not to interfere seriously with the accredited messages. Nearby persons who are not participants visibly desist in some way from exploiting their potential communication position and possibly modify their own communication, if any, so as not to provide interference (Goffman 1967:35). This is socially awkward since the others who are both physically and mentally co-present have to carry on. In addition, they also have to somehow pretend that they are not eavesdropping on the telephone call and they also have to live with the pending return of the telephonist to the collocated circle. If we are in the middle of telling a joke, we might have to wait to tell the punch line until after the call. If we are relating gossip, we might have to postpone the last telling detail, etc. The restaurant episode above illustrates several of these issues. It shows us how it is possible to expand Goffman’s concept of front-stage and backstage, how the mobile phone affects our sense of common shared space and how it exposes how co-present interlocutors may need to engage in studied non-observance. Another issue is how the mobile phone can function as an easily deployed barrier to interaction. Taking the first of these, the situation shows how mobile communication restructures and makes fluid what is considered the front-stage and back-stage. Upon calling, our remotely located telephonic interlocutor may well think that they are the ‘frontstage’ event. Cleary, this may not be the case. This puts the telephonist into the position of having to juggle two front-stages simultaneously. We may, more or less successfully, deal with co-present and telephonic interaction

280 Rich Ling by using different strategies. On the one hand, we might have to maintain a courteous and sombre tone with our co-present partners while also hearing a hilarious joke or an unbridled rant from our telephonic interlocutor. The fact that mobile communication pushes telephony into situations that were earlier telephone-free zones means that these interactions are taking place in a variety of new settings and that they are pushing us to reconsider how the decorum of both the co-present and the mediated interaction is to be maintained and which manners are to be applied. During a mobile phone call in a public setting, the politesse of the situation—both co-present and remote—is put into question. The management of this ‘dual front-stage’ (Ling 1997) is difficult and is indeed often seen as a strain on the rules of courtesy. The behaviour required of one situation is not necessarily suitable in the other. There can be a mismatch in the degree to which a common symbolic world is shared by the co-present and the telephonic interlocutors. The intensity and the zeal with which the interaction can be carried out may be widely different. As illustrated by the situation of my colleague and her daughters, the range of behaviour and vocabulary that can be used in the telephonic interaction is not necessarily suitable for the copresent interaction and vice versa. In an earlier paper I have noted this: The shifting front-stages for the phone user make it possible for others to see the user of the mobile telephone in a type of verbal cubism. While the face-to-face restaurant talk may be, for example, cosy, intimate and integrative, the talk on the mobile phone may be of power relations, fast deals and office politics. Another example of this that has been seen for its comic value is when one’s intimate dinner with a lover is interrupted by a call from an irate spouse. The stage management can become quite complex. Like a cubist painting, the speaker on the mobile phone is seen from two perspectives. There is a certain dissonance when judged from the perspective of classical notions of talk, dialogue and narration that present a single perspective to the audience (Ling 1997). Upon receiving a mobile phone call we are asked to make a decision as to which stream of communication is most important. 2 As illustrated by my colleague’s call from her daughter, it is often the case that the mobile phone is a conduit through which we maintain interaction with our nearest friends and family. Indeed, analysis of material from Norway has shown that the preponderance of all calls and text messages are to three or four persons. It is safe to say that the mobile telephone is an instrument of the intimate sphere. The material indicates that the mobile telephone—both in its phase as a device into which we speak and one with which we send and receive text messages—is the way that we maintain contact with our closest friends and family. This means that the telephonic and not the co-present interlocutor is often a privileged person in the eyes—and heart—of the person receiving

The ‘Unboothed’ Phone 281 the call. If it is also the case that there is a more causal relationship between the person receiving call and the co-present interlocutor, the mere fact of co-presence can be outweighed by the need to deal with the person on the phone.3 This goes against the grain of traditional interaction and it underscores the fact that we have developed our sense of courtesy and etiquette based on co-present interaction.4 The mobile phone introduces confusion as to the nature of shared common space. The fact that we use publicly accessible areas to have private conversations can lead to counter interpretations of the situation. Is, for example, a park bench suddenly to be seen as more private since one of the individuals occupying it has received a call? Akiba Cohen of Tel Aviv University relates the anecdote of being on a bus when another female passenger received a call on her phone. As she was talking, she apparently gathered the impression that others on the bus were following her conversation too carefully and so she told them: “Excuse me, this is a private conversation”. The juxtaposition of the private and the public is jarring. Clearly, there was disagreement between the woman and her supposed eavesdroppers as to whether she—and they—were observing the appropriate etiquette for that particular territory. Put into Goffmanian terms, public use of the mobile phone opens up the question as to the nature of the ‘conversational preserve’, which is defi ned as: The right of an individual to exert some control over who can summon him [sic] into talk and when he can be summoned; and the right of a set of individuals once engaged in talk to have their circle protected from entrance and overhearing by others (Goffman 1971:51). When writing this, Goffman was perhaps thinking of the prerogative of the person initiating and participating in the conversation to protect the flow of the interaction. However, as the example of the bus illustrates, it is also worth asking about the prerogative of those who are involuntarily asked to listen. Just as there is the “right . . . to control who can summon him into talk”, the mobile phone forces us to also think about our right to refuse the summons. Another issue arising because of mobile phones in co-present situations is their role in causing the need for studied non-observance and eventual social repair work. The ringing mobile phone disrupts the flow of the interaction and it puts the temporarily redundant co-present interlocutor in an awkward spot. Following the lead from Goffman, when we are interacting in social situations we often need to turn a blind eye to events that threaten the situation. When our interlocutor sneezes or is seized by the urge to cough, we are trained to minimise the event such that it does not interrupt the broader flow. We, in turn, are afforded the same courtesy. Thus, we engage in a type of open conspiracy that facilitates the staging of the situation (Goffman 1969). The mobile phone means that there is more than

282 Rich Ling one situation in which we have a responsibility and, as noted earlier, the trajectory of one may have implications for the success with which we deal with the other. We have started to develop a repertoire of devices with which we handle these situations, ways of maintaining the facade of the situation. One of the most obvious is the use of texting. Indeed, as will be discussed below, students can be quite adept in presenting the facade of the interested note taker while they are busy negotiating their social life via a mobile phone concealed under the desk during lectures (Ling 2008a). Other devices for dealing with telephone conversations include moving out of earshot and in effect fi nding a ‘back-stage’ area away from co-present individuals. Yet another strategy is to temporarily grant the collocated individuals a type of back-stage pass and indeed Goffman considers this alternative (Goffman 1959:139). Receiving a phone call when engaged in another interaction often also means that the collocated individuals need to quickly stage-manage the situation. The ringing of the phone signals the need to summarise or to negotiate the suspension of the interaction while the phone call takes place (Ling 2002). The collocated individuals need to assume the new roles. The telephonic interlocutor is a speaker and the other co-present individuals have to somehow encapsulate the caller and continue. If there are a large number of collocated persons they might well continue undeterred. However, if there is, for example, only one other co-present interlocutor, he or she might need to strike the pose of studied non-observance (Goffman 1967:18). Thus, while they might be privileged to hear the whole conversation they are often not an accredited part of the call. During this period they are left hanging. As discussed earlier, they also may gain insight into the back-stage. This may be dangerous since once back-stage the third person may see through a facade that the telephonist has worked carefully to develop. Indeed, it may take considerable work on the part of the person receiving the call to rebuild the veneer that was so quickly damaged. The content of the phone call may have revealed too much and the person being called often has to do repair work by explaining the context of the call. An informant in a set of interviews on this issue described the dining partners of a restaurant patron by saying: “He always has a companion with him who is left to peruse the alphabetised beer bottle collection behind the bar for five or ten minutes”. In short, the third parties needed to fi nd an occupation while they are awaiting the return of their co-present partners. Another strategy for the person receiving the call is vicariously to include the other co-present people in the call by saying something like: “Hi Julie, How are you? I am having a nice walk with Frank. He says hi”. This works particularly well if the caller knows some of the other people. The person receiving the call thus signals to the caller that he/she is not alone and that perhaps certain topics are out of bounds. It also partially relieves the other co-present people from the responsibility of being somehow non-existent

The ‘Unboothed’ Phone 283 during the call. Indeed, they may interject side-comments during the call in some situations (Lohan 1997). In this situation, the third person is granted access to the circle of conversation and all parties are warned that some topics may be deemed out of bounds. The staging of the phone call is such that it can help co-present interlocutors manage their time. This is particularly true at the end of the interaction. The closing sequence of a phone conversation has a series of features that are easily understood by both the telephonic partners and by others who are within earshot (Sacks, Schegloff and Jefferson 1974; Schegloff 1968). The co-present third person can take this as cue that they will soon be back on front-stage. They will be revived as the primary conversation partner. It is at this point that the person who has received the call needs to begin repair work. As noted, the danger with allowing a co-present third party temporary access to this telephonic back-stage is that when the call is over, the facade of the person being called may have been injured in the eyes of the collocated third person. Indeed, this points to the problem of emerging from the phone call back into the collocated interaction. As was the case with my dining partner in the restaurant, upon the completion of the call the person who has received the call will often engage in a type of salvage operation. They may feel the need to revive the spirit of the prephone call situation that existed between the co-present individuals. Clearly, power issues can come into play wherein, for example, the selfimportant boss may shuffle between issuing commands via the phone and also to members of a co-present entourage without the polish of courtesy. In general, however, where there are not such status differences—be they perceived or real—we are developing a set of courtesies with which to accommodate these telephonic interruptions. Finally, the mobile phone can be used as an easily deployed prop to avoid unwanted interactions. Teen girls are reported posing as though they were talking on a phone when, for example, walking in the evening in areas where they felt insecure. The idea is that the appearance of talking on the phone can deter eventual attackers by using the gestures associated with talking on the phone, and thus being connected to someone who could organise assistance. Interestingly, both male and female teens have reported the same behaviour, however the motivation was not to avoid talking to people with whom they did not want to interact (Ling and Baron 2007). Seen in Goffmanian terms, this use of the mobile phone can be seen as the unwillingness to extend accreditation to eventual conversation partners (Goffman 1967:35). Goffman’s insight into the staging of interaction has provided us with a tool to examine the social effect of mobile communication. The addition of mobile communication has added a new level of complexity. The complexity of the situation has, however, provided us with an understanding of just how carefully we need to attend to the sometimes cross-cutting needs of two audiences.

284 Rich Ling THE MEDIATION OF INTERACTION RITUALS Beyond the immediate effect of the mobile phone on the co-present situation, Goffman, and the tradition in which he worked, have also provided insight into the way that mobile telephony can be a cohesive force. While, on the one hand, the mobile telephone can, as noted before, disrupt the local situation, the preponderance of calls are to those people who are in the intimate sphere. A wide circle of scholars from around the world are coming to the same conclusion (Castells, Fernandes-Ardevol, Qiu and Sey 2007; Dobashi 2005; Donner 2005; Kim et al. 2006; Ling 2008b; Ling et al. 2003; Smoreda and Thomas 2001; Wei and Lo 2006). Thus, the mobile phone is a device through which we develop and maintain our closest friendships and family bonds. One of the mechanisms through which this happens is by having the freedom to contact one another to carry out mundane everyday tasks as well as various other types of ritual interactions (gossiping, joking, fl irting, arguing, chatting) through which we engage in the development of social cohesion (Fine and DeSoucey 2005; Ling 2008a). Goffman was interested in the way we produce what Anne Warfield Rawls (1989) has called ‘locally produced order’. He used the concept of ritual and interaction rituals to describe how, in everyday life, we use mundane rituals to achieve this order. In this respect, Goffman was following the tradition established by Émile Durkheim (Collins 2004). Indded, Goffman drew on the work of Durkheim. According to Durkheim, social cohesion arises from the effervescence of the ritual. In an oft-quoted citation from The Elementary Forms of Religious Life he writes: By themselves, individual consciousnesses are actually closed to one another, and they can communicate only by means of signs in which their inner states come to express themselves. For the communication that is opening up between them to end in a communion—that is, in the fusion of all the individual feelings into a common one—the signs that express those feelings must come together in one single resultant. The appearance of this resultant notifies individuals that they are in unison and brings home to them their moral unity. It is by shouting the same cry, saying the same words, and performing the same action in regard to the same object that they arrive at and experience agreement (Durkheim 1917/1995:231–232). Durkheim saw ritual as being an arranged ceremony that was separate from daily life. Rituals result in a mutually recognised status among the participants and thus they reduce the barriers between the participants and pave the way to a stronger sense of social cohesion. Finally, as comes through in the citation above, Durkheim notes that ritual can produce effervescence in the minds of the participants. Taking Durkheim as a point of

The ‘Unboothed’ Phone 285 departure, Goffman saw ritual as an integral element in mundane everyday life.5 While accepting the sense of ritual as a catalyst for cohesion, Goffman examined ritual in the context of contemporary everyday society. He was interested in how we are able to sustain social interaction and social encounters often in spite of facades that slipped at inopportune moments (Williams 1986:352). This close link between Durkheim and Goffman is already well recognised (Collins 2004; Williams 1986). Indeed, Goffman acknowledges the link at the end of his essay “On Deference and Demeanor”. He writes: I have suggested that Durkheimian notions about primitive religion can be translated into concepts of deference and demeanor, and that these concepts help us to grasp some aspects of urban secular living. The implication is that in one sense this secular world is not as irreligious as we think. Many gods have been done away with, but the individual himself stubbornly remains as a deity of considerable importance. He walks with some dignity and is the recipient of many little offerings. He is jealous of the worship due him, yet, approached in the right spirit, he is ready to forgive those who may have offended him (Goffman 1967:95). There are intellectual affi nities between the two and there are differences. Where Durkheim describes ritual in the context of religion, Goffman describes it as a part of secular life. While Durkheim focuses on discrete staged ritual under the agency of a priest or other authority figure, Goffman sees rituals as a ubiquitous part of everyday life. As noted, ritual is a central catalyst for social cohesion (Ling 2008a). Ritual interaction involves a mutually recognised focus. It engenders a common mood and a common sense of shared status. As we saw with the discussion of mobile telephony, there are also often barriers to those who are not a part of the grouping and indeed the arrangement and maintenance of these barriers can be awkward to manage (Fine and Holyfield 1996). The nature of the ritual can also be transformative or they can simply help in the maintenance of pre-existing relations. In some cases the ritual may have a ‘liminal’ quality. That is, it may mark a transition of some sort (a wedding, coming of age ceremony, etc.). However, most Goffmanian rituals are simple interactions through which we reaffi rm our common bonds to one another (shaking hands, using greeting and parting sequences, etc.). It is in this way that we pay heed to the individual described in the previous citation. The result of a ritual—be it large or small—is an enhanced sense of social solidity. For Durkheim it was ritual interaction that was used to maintain the sense of the group. As noted by Randall Collins (2004), rituals may also fail—a joke can insult, gossip can be indiscrete, etc. In this case, rather than being integrative, rituals can actually fragment social cohesion.


Rich Ling

If successful, the result of ritual is cohesion. Ritual is a strategy with which we can produce a sense of local order (Rawls 1989). It is through our developing a mutually recognised focus and engendering a common mood and a common sense of shared status that we can cultivate our social ties to others. Goffman writes: “If societies are to be societies, [they] must mobilise their members as self-regulating participants in social encounters. One way of mobilising the individual for this purpose is through ritual” (Goffman 1967:44). Both Goffman and Durkheim were concerned with the way that rituals can be used in the development and the maintenance of sustained social interaction. They perhaps necessarily focused on face-to-face interactions. Mobile communication has allowed us to extend the boundaries of such social interaction. This is not to say that we generally are able to use only mediated interaction to develop and maintain social ties. While there are some instances of social groups forming in the mediated world, they are rare. The preponderance of our social interaction arises primarily in copresent interaction (Collins 2004). The mobile phone allows us, however, to extend these social bonds. In particular, the mobile phone provides us with a convenient link to our intimate sphere. Indeed, it can tighten the links with the most intimate sphere of friends and family (Ling 2008b). This is achieved through the use of both instrumental and expressive interactions. I was recently giving a lecture in a class where I asked the students if they had received any text messages in the time since they had been in class. In this particular situation three students volunteered that indeed they had. When asked about the content, one student said that it had been a simple ‘good morning’ from her boyfriend. A second had exchanged information on flight numbers with a friend who she was planning to pick up at the airport and fi nally a third woman said: “It was just gossip”. These three interactions show the different dimensions of mediated ritual. They include more functional interactions—the fl ight information—as well as more expressive forms of interaction—the greeting and the gossip. The texting with regard to the fl ight information was perhaps the farthest from a ritual interaction. It was ritual in the sense that there was a common focus but it was furthest from producing Durkheim’s effervescence. In the case of the greeting between boy/girlfriend and the exchanging of gossip there were likely additional dimensions to the interaction. The couple who exchanged the greeting were rejuvenating their ties (Afi fi and Johnson 1999). While not a visual ‘tie-sign’ as noted by Goffman (1971), this was what Mizuko Ito and Daishuke Okabe (2005) call a “virtual tap on the shoulder”. It was a maintenance activity that if neglected may have precluded other forms of interaction in subsequent co-present meetings of the couple. Unsurprisingly, the girl who described the exchange of the gossip was perhaps the most guarded in wanting to go into the details of her interaction. Gossip is a particularly rich form of social ritual. In the process of gossiping,

The ‘Unboothed’ Phone 287 there is a common focus between the interlocutors that was, in this case, mediated through the text messages. Depending on the richness of the tidbit there can be an excitement about the interaction and, as evidenced by the student’s guardedness with sharing the content of the gossip, the interaction marked the boundary between the in-group and the out-groups. In addition, when gossip is particularly salacious it can have a liminal dimension. That is, it asks the participants to suspend the normal proscriptions to not speak ill of others (Fox 2001; Jaworski and Coupland 2005:691). There is a slightly conspiratorial dimension to the use of gossip and, as with the suggestion of Gary Alan Fine and Lori Holyfield (1996), there are both the need to trust the person with whom we gossip and the implied sharing of a secret. Indeed, Goffman discusses the role of gossip in his analysis of the hotel workers on the Shetland Islands (Goffman 1959:116). In different ways, the interactions of the students illustrate how communication via the mobile phone can be seen as ritual interaction that engenders a common mood, produces a common sense of shared status and is, in some ways, effervescent. It is wrong to assert that the rituals examined here were only the result of mobile mediation. The interactions between the interlocutors were fi rmly grounded in previous co-present interactions. The telephone interlocutors had established the basis for an ongoing relationship in face-to-face interaction. However, the text messages were the quiet extension of the relationship into another sphere. Had I not asked, none of the text-based interactions would have been known to others in the classroom. The students would have continued to maintain their ‘student’ facades and their social lives would have remained in the background. Harking back to the discussion of the double front-stage noted above, the mobile phone allowed the students to participate in these remote interactions, all the while giving off the impression of their earnest interest in the content of the lecture. The effect of these text messages was to extend the possibilities for the development and maintenance of group interaction into another setting. The morning greeting from the boy/girlfriend need not wait until class is over. The bit of gossip could be shared—to an appropriately discrete partner—as preparation for their eventual meeting for lunch. Thus, there is a type of continual stream of interaction within the group. There is the ability to extend the common sense of affection or the common surprise over the latest bit of gossip beyond simple physical co-presence. This is one dimension of what Christian Licoppe (2004) calls ‘connected presence’. The texting of the students were everyday Goffmanian rituals that helped them to produce what Rawls calls a local sense of order and cohesion (Rawls 1989). By using the mobile phone they had developed the techniques of doing this without disturbing the main line of interaction in the classroom, namely my lecture. The text messages were a type of ‘under the radar’ social interaction that made a small contribution to the students’ sense of social cohesion with their peers.


Rich Ling

CONCLUSION The telephone was not often a part of Erving Goffman’s focus and further, the mobile phone was far from being a common item during his lifetime. While he focused on co-present interaction, his writing has nonetheless been a source of inspiration for the study of mobile communication. There are two general areas outlined here in which Goffman has provided insight into the analysis of the mobile phone. The fi rst is in the staging of everyday interaction, and the second is the use of everyday ritual in the development and maintenance of social cohesion. His focus on these issues among others provides a context in which mobile telephony can be examined. The mobile phone’s ability to interrupt pre-existing social situations is a violation of the taken-for-granted situation. The ringing of the mobile phone means that we need to move quickly from a collocated interaction to a mediated interaction. This often involves the need to quickly ‘park’ one set of interlocutors and pick up the thread with another. In these different phases of interaction, we need to be careful to avoid unduly abusing the sensibility of either. The partitioning of the collocated and the mediated interaction can be difficult, particularly in the case of voice telephony. As we move from the one interaction to another we are also, in effect, dealing with two front-stages, the local one and the telephonic one. Each of these has its demands on our attention and we need to be mindful of both. This is not easy and it opens up the opportunity for a slip. Thus, Goffman has provided mobile communication researchers with a useful approach to understanding the pragmatics of mobile phone use. Hopefully the community of mobile phone researchers has returned the favour by faithfully employing the concept and by extending it. The second point covered here is the role of the mobile phone in the ritual interaction of everyday life. On the one hand, mobile communication in public settings can be disruptive. However, the communication itself often has an integrative effect for the two mediated interlocutors. Goffman, along with the intellectual heritage from Émile Durkheim and the insight of Randall Collins, has allowed us to make out how various types of local ritual interaction can be seen in this context. We tell jokes, we gossip and we fl irt via the mobile phone. While co-present interaction allows the development of the relationships, we are able to extend and embroider them using mobile communication. We are not simply bounded by co-present situations when conducting these mediated rituals of everyday life. The mobile phone extends our ability to cultivate such ties. So far, mobile communication has largely been the use of voice- and text-based interaction. The technology is, however, not standing still. Location-based services, the rise of the mobile Internet, the infusion of camera phones into society and the growth of mobile communication in the developing world are all coming issues. Seen within a Goffmanian perspective,

The ‘Unboothed’ Phone 289 each of these will provide an opportunity to glean further insight into the functioning of society. In the mobile phone, we see Goffman’s ‘unboothed phone’. In examining the social consequences of the mobile phone, we also see many of his insights brought into life.

NOTES 1. Clearly, we can also use the phone to call out to others. In this case, the persons doing the calling have more control over their own collocated situation, but not necessarily that of the person to whom they are calling. Third persons who are not a part of the conversation run the risk of becoming inadvertent listeners regardless of who calls and who is being called, though if they are in the location of the person who is receiving the call, they are also exposed to the sound of the ringing and to the perhaps hurried rearrangement of the local situation to accommodate the mediated interaction (Monk, Carroll, Parker and Blythe 2004). 2. Again, this is a discussion about receiving a call, not initiating one. Making a call when engaged in a co-present interaction is truly a snub of our co-present interlocutor. 3. Discussions and complaints with regard to this are one of the reoccurring themes of the mobile phone era. We are, in effect, working out the rules and the courtesies of how to interlace telephonic and co-present activities. This is nothing new in itself. We had to work through the placement of the landline telephone in its time (Guttu, Jørgensen and Nørve 1985; Marvin 1988), just as the introduction of other technologies in the home such as the flush toilet, the radio and the TV caused us to think about the interaction of their respective activities and the traditional arrangement of both our time and space (Umble 2000). 4. The use of courtesy and etiquette are a set of more or less formalized norms intended to round off what might otherwise be seen as awkward situations. Courtesy is a type of buffering that allows us to navigate the difficult waters of social interaction (Cahill 1990; Duncan 1970:266–269; Geertz 1972:290; Gullestad 1992:165; Toby 1952). According to Hugh Duncan, manners are a way of recognizing the social dimension of everyday life: Anger over ill manners of others arises out of the belief that not following our manners is a way of telling us that we are not really important in the eyes of the transgressor. We excuse a faux pas made out of ignorance (and soon corrected) because we still feel the importance of our manners as a social bond. We laugh at comic depictions of vulgarity so long as the majesty of what we hold important is not threatened. But we do not laugh at savage ridicule or continued vulgarity, because they endanger the social principle upon which our manners are based. (Duncan 1970:267) 5. There is a fairly direct academic heritage between Durkheim and Goffman. Durkheim’s analysis of ritual interaction came out of his analysis of Australian Aborigines. In this analysis he used secondary data. One of Goffman’s teachers was W. Lloyd Warner, who also started his career studying Aborigines fi rsthand (Warner 1957). Warner then took the tools of observation he developed in this earlier work and applied them in his Yankee City studies (Warner et al. 1963). Thus, he moved away from the study of remote cultures to studying his own. Goffman followed the lead of Warner and indeed he was a student of Warner in the late 1940s.

290 Rich Ling REFERENCES Afi fi , Walid A. and Michelle Johnson (1999): “The Use and Interpretation of Tie Signs in a Public Setting: Relationship and Sex Differences”. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 16 (1):9–38. Cahill, Spencer E. (1990): “Childhood and Public Life: Reaffi rming Biographical Divisions”. Social Problems, 37 (3):263–270. Castells, Manuel, Miriea Fernádes-Ardèvol, Jack L. Qiu and Araba Sey (2007): Mobile Communication and Society: A Global Perspective. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Collins, Randall (2004): Interaction Ritual Chains. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. Cooper, Geoff, Nicola Green, Ged M. Murtagh and Richard Harper (2002): “Mobile Society? Technology, Distance, and Presence”, in Steve Woolgar (ed.): Virtual Society? Technology, Cyberbole, Reality. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Dobashi, Shingo (2005): “The Gendered Use of keitai in Domestic Contexts”, in Mizuko Ito, Daishuke Okabe and Misa Matsuda (eds.): Personal, Portable, Pedestrian: Mobile Phones in Japanese Life. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Donner, Jonathan (2005): “The Rules of Beeping: Exchanging Messages Using Missed Calls on Mobile Phones in Sub-Saharan Africa”. Paper presented at the International Communications Association, New York, USA. Duncan, Hugh Danzel (1970): Communication and the Social Order. London: Bedminster Press. Durkheim, Émile (1917/1995): The Elementary Forms of Religious Life. Glencoe, IL: Free Press. Fine, Gary Alan (2005): “Interaction Ritual Chains (Review)”. Social Forces, 83 (3):1287–1288. Fine, Gary Alan and Lori Holyfield (1996): “Secrecy, Trust and Dangerous Leisure: Generating Group Cohesion in Voluntary Organizations”. Social Psychology Quarterly, 59 (1):22–38. Fine, Gary Alan and Michaela DeSoucey (2005): “Joking Cultures: Humor Themes as Social Regulation in Group Life”. Humor, 18 (1):1–22. Fortunati, Leopoldina (2005): “Mobile Telephone and the Presentation of Self”, in Rich Ling and Per E. Pedersen (eds.): Mobile Communications: Re-Negotiation of the Social Sphere. London: Springer. Fox, Kate (2001): “Evolution, Alienation and Gossip: The Role of Mobile Telecommunications in the 21st Century”. SIRC (electronic version). Available at: http:// Geertz, Clifford (1972): “Linguistic Etiquette”, in Joshua A. Fishman (ed.): Readings in the Sociology of Language. The Hague: Mouton. Guttu, Jon, Ivar Jørgensen and Siri Nørve (1985): Bovaner: En undersøkelse av 30 blokkleiligheter i Oslo. Oslo: Norges Byggforskningsinstitutt. Goffman, Erving (1959): The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life. New York: Doubleday/Anchor Books. . (1963): Behavior in Public Places: Notes on the Social Organization of Gatherings. New York: Free Press. . (1967): Interaction Ritual: Essays on Face-to-Face Behavior. New York: Pantheon Books. . (1969): Strategic Interaction. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. . (1971): Relations in Public: Microstudies of the Public Order. New York: Harper. . (1981): Forms of Talk. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.

The ‘Unboothed’ Phone 291 Gullestad, Marianne (1992): The Art of Social Relations: Essays on Culture, Social Action and Everyday Life in Modern Norway. Oslo: Universitetetsforlaget. Höfl ich, Joakim (2003): Mensch, Computer und Kommunikation. Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang. Ito, Mizuko and Daishuke Okabe (2005): “Intimate Connections: Contextualizing Japanese Youth and Mobile Messaging”, in Richard Harper, Lysia Palen and Alex Taylor (eds.): The Inside Text: Social, Cultural and Design Perspectives on SMS. Dordrecht: Reidel. ITU (2007): “Mobile Cellular Subscribers per 100 People”. Available at: http:// Jaworski, Adam and Justine Coupland (2005): “Othering in Gossip: “You Go Out You Have a Laugh and You Can Pull Yeah Okay but Like…”. Language in Society, 34 (5):667–694. Johnsen, Truls (2003): “The Social Context of the Mobile Phone Use of Norwegian Teens”, in Leopoldia Fortunati, James E. Katz and Raimonda Riccini (eds.): Mediating the Human Body: Technology, Communication and Fashion. London: Lawrence Erlbaum. Katz, James E. and Satomi Sugiyama (2005): “Mobile Phones and Fashion Statements: Evidence from Student Surveys in the US and Japan”, in Rich Ling and Per E. Pedersen (eds.): Mobile Communications: Re-Negotiation of the Social Sphere. London: Springer. Kim, Hyo et al. (2006): “The Configurations of Social Relationships in Communication Channels: F2F, Email, Messenger, Mobile phone, and SMS”. Paper presented at the ICA pre-conference on mobile communication, Erfurt/Dresden, Germany. Licoppe, Christian (2004): “Connected Presence: The Emergence of a New Repertoire for Managing Social Relationships in a Changing Communications Technoscape”. Environment and Planning: Society and Space, 22:135–156. Ling, Rich (1997): “‘One Can Talk About Common Manners!’: The Use of Mobile Telephones in Inappropriate Situations”, in Leslie Haddon (ed.): Themes in Mobile Telephony: Final Report of the COST 248 Home and Work Group. Stockholm: Telia. . (2002): “The Social Juxtaposition of Mobile Telephone Conversations and Public Spaces”. Paper presented at the conference The Social Consequences of Mobile Telephones, Chunchon, Korea. . (2008a): New Tech, New Ties: How Mobile Communication is Reshaping Social Cohesion. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. . (2008b): “The Role of Mobile Communication in the Maintenance of the Intimate Sphere”. Paper presented at the 2008 ICA pre-conference on mobile communication, Toronto, Canada. Ling, Rich et al. (2003): “Mobile Communication and Social Capital in Europe”, in Kristof Nyri (ed.): Mobile Democracy: Essays on Society, Self and Politics. Vienna: Passagen Verlag. Ling, Rich and Naomi Baron (2007): “The Mechanics of Text Messaging and Instant Messaging Among American College Students”. Journal of Sociolinguistics, 26 (3):291–298. Ling, Rich and Jonathan Donner (2009): Mobile Communications. Cambridge: Polity Press. Lohan, Maria (1997): “No Parents Allowed!: Telecoms in the Individualist Household”, in Enid Mante-Meijer and Annevi Kant (eds.): Blurring Boundaries: When are Information and Communication Technologies Coming Home? Stockholm: Telia. Marvin, Carolyn (1988): When Old Technologies Were New: Thinking about Electric Communication in the Late Nineteenth Century. New York: Oxford University Press.

292 Rich Ling Monk, Andrew, Jenni Carroll, Sarah Parker and Mark Blythe (2004): “Why are Mobile Phones Annoying?”. Behavior and Information Technology, 23 (1):33– 41. Persson, Anders (2001): “Intimacy among Strangers: On Mobile Telephone Calls in Public Places”. Journal of Mundane Behavior, 2 (3):309–316. Rawls, Anne Warfield (1989): “Language, Self and Social Order: A Reformulation of Goffman and Sacks”. Human Studies, 12:147–172. Rettie, Ruth M. (2005): “Presence and Embodiment in Mobile Phone Communication”. PsychNology Journal, 3 (1):16–34. Sacks, Harvey, Emanuel A. Schegloff and Gail Jefferson (1974): “The Simplest Systematics for the Organization of Turn-Taking for Conversations”. Language, 50 (4):696–735. Schegloff, Emanuel A. (1968): “Sequencing in Conversational Openings”. American Anthropologist, 70 (6):1075–1095. Smoreda, Zbigniew and Frank Thomas (2001): “Social Networks and Residential ICT Adoption and Use”. Paper presented at the EURESCOM Summit 2001 on 3G technologies and applications, Heidelberg, Germany. Taylor, Alex and Richard Harper (2001): “The Gift of the Gab? A Design-Oriented Sociology of Young People’s Use of ‘MobilZe’!”. Working Paper, Digital World Research Centre. Taylor, Alex and Richard Harper (2002): “Age-Old Practices in the ‘New World’: A Study of Gift-Giving Between Teenage Mobile Phone Users”, in Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems: Changing Our World, Changing Ourselves. Available at Toby, Jackson (1952): “Some Variables in Role Confl ict Analysis”. Social Forces, 30:323–327. Umble, Diane Zimmerman (2000): Holding the Line: The Telephone in Old Order Mennonite and Amish Life. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press. Warner, W. Lloyd (1957): A Black Civilization: A Social Study of an Australian Tribe. New York: Harper. Warner, W. Lloyd et al. (1963): Yankee City. New Haven: Yale University Press. Wei, Ran and Ven-Hwei Lo (2006): “Staying Connected While on the Move: CellPhone Use and Social Connectedness”. New Media and Society, 8 (1):53–72. Weilenmann, Alexandra (2003): “‘I Can’t Talk Now: I’m in a Fitting Room’: Formulating Availability and Location in Mobile Phone Conversations”. Environment and Planning A, 35 (9):1589–1605. Williams, Simon J. (1986): “Appraising Goffman”. British Journal of Sociology, 37 (3):348–369.

12 The Question of Calculation Erving Goffman and the Pervasive Planning of Communication Espen Ytreberg

Whenever students of the human scene have considered the dealings individuals have with one another, the question of calculation has arisen. (Goffman 1970:85)

INTRODUCTION Throughout Erving Goffman’s writing runs not just an expansive view of subjects as performers but a deeply suspicious one. Repeatedly he has raised the ‘question of calculation’, as he calls it in his book Strategic Interaction (1970). For Goffman, the possibility of calculation raises fundamental doubts about the motives, feelings and manoeuvrings of performers: When a respectable motive is given for action, are we to suspect an ulterior one? When an individual supports a promise or a threat with a convincing display of emotion, are we to believe him? When an individual seems carried away by feeling, is he intentionally acting this way in order to create an effect? When someone responds to us in a particular way, are we to see this as a spontaneous reaction to the situation or a result of his having canvassed all other possible responses before deciding this one was the most advantageous? (Goffman 1970:85) At heart the question of calculation concerns how, and how covertly, communication is planned. The element of planning has long been acknowledged in reflections on communication. In the classical rhetorical tradition, planning was conceived of primarily as conscious, intentional activity on the part of individual speakers. Preparation was generally considered a matter of training, the product of a teacher/pupil relationship (e.g. Quintilian 1980). The ‘mode of production’ was not a matter for reflection, in the way we use that term today. Numerous factors have intervened since then to make production salient to planning. Two of the most important are modern forms of technology, and modern modes of organisation. These are in themselves exceedingly complex phenomena, but with one basic feature in common: they greatly extend the forms and processes of planning


Espen Ytreberg

communications. Modern organisations require their employees to speak on behalf not primarily of themselves but of management and of the organisation’s strategic aims. Thus the intentions and plans of individuals become incorporated and subsumed under the strategies of the organisation by means of its hierarchical lines of command. In this process plans become more standardised and codified. As for technology, it routinely acts in tandem with modern organisation because it requires professional handling and logistics, often also major investment. Then there is the issue of what technologies afford in themselves, what they add and subtract to communication. In his brief but highly suggestive discussion of ‘secondary orality’, Walter Ong has pointed to a key difference between traditional, non-mediated forms of orality and the forms of secondary orality one fi nds in electronic media: the latter might seem spontaneous and immediate but are in fact based on writing and print, particularly on various forms of scripts. Today, Ong says, “we plan our happenings carefully to make sure they are thoroughly spontaneous” (Ong 1982:134). Behind this somewhat ironic formulation lurks the suspicion that electronic media involve a communication cover-up, an attempt to hide the calculations that went into them. In a sense, covering up communication is nothing new either. The ‘art of concealing the art’, the dissimulatio artis or ne ars appareat, is a wellestablished ideal from the tradition of rhetorics (Andersen 1996). It was commonplace to hold, with Aristotle, that the composition of a discourse should be done “without being noticed and give the impression of speaking not artificially but naturally” (Aristotle 1991:218). The problem becomes much more pressing in a modern age, however, since so much more pervasive forms of communicative calculation are going on, and since the technologies and organisations involved are often impermeable to outsiders. It seems warranted to say that the contemporary world is profoundly marked by organised and comprehensive plannings of communication. Both the internal and external communications of larger modern organisations are as a rule carefully planned by professional information workers. Here communication technologies come into play, since today’s information workers routinely operate web-pages, write e-mails, construct newsletters and Power Point presentations for purposes of communicating. As for the media industries, they are places where the planning of communication is at perhaps its most advanced and extensive. At the same time, much of contemporary mediated communication strives to seem informal and authentic, thus presenting modern-day, elaborate versions of dissimulatio artis. Research on call-centre operators by Deborah Cameron (2000) and on air flight attendants by Arlie Russell Hochschild (1983) has demonstrated that similar communicative cover-ups take place in a wide range of contemporary communication settings. In this climate of pervasive planning Goffman has raised the question of calculation. His extensive writing on communication of the face-to-face,

The Question of Calculation 295 the organisational and the mediated kind puts the issue of planning centre stage. Goffman’s writings contain arguably the most insightful discussions we have of the general role of planning in communication. This chapter first discusses a historical moment when the pervasive planning of communication became a salient topic for discussion, in the mid–20th-century transition from a manufacture-based to a service-based economy. The work of Goffman on the dramaturgy of social life is then introduced, and framed as a contribution to communication theory. Because it centrally deals with the ways people manage their social encounters strategically, Goffman’s work has been interpreted as a prime symptom of service economy mentality. This chapter argues for seeing Goffman’s writings rather as an ongoing engagement with, and reflection on, the fundamental importance of planning to communication. A closely related argument is that Goffman’s writing on media and communication has not received the attention it deserves. The media were a key area of interest for the late Goffman (Ytreberg 2002). This chapter outlines some continuities between Goffman’s late writing on mediated communication and his earlier writings on communication theory and on organisations. It does so in order to argue for Goffman’s importance to our understanding of what communication is, both generally and in the specific context of today’s communication culture.

GOFFMAN’S WORK AS SYMPTOM It is a commonplace in contemporary history to see the development of capitalism during the 20th century as moving from an industrial manufacturing economy to a ‘post-industrial’ service economy (Bell 1974). The archetypical figure of the fi rst is the assembly-line factory worker; of the second, the white collar serviceperson. The transition between them has been partial and uneven. It is customary, however, to point to the period up to World War II as one marked by industrial manufacture, while the post-war period belongs more to the post-industrial service sector. The latter continues the use of advanced technologies of production, within complex and hierarchical organisations. To this the post-industrial period adds an emphasis on furthering sale by planning the communicative encounter between salesperson and customer. In this period, the service sector grows in relative economic importance. Here, the service is integral to the product itself—part of buying a restaurant meal, for instance, is buying a particular form of communication with a waiter. The mid-20th century moment of transition from industrial manufacture toward post-industrial service coincided with the rise of a host of seminal academic works on the dramaturgy of social life. The year 1955 saw the publication of John L. Austin’s How To Do Things With Words (Austin 1955/1994), where he introduced the view of language as ‘performative’, as a form of ritual social action. In the 1940s and 1950s, a key contribution to


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rhetoric was Kenneth Burke’s ‘dramatism’, where persuasive communication was viewed as a strategic use of language in social circumstances (e.g. Burke 1945/1969). And arguably, the dramaturgical perspective on social life found its most influential expression in Goffman’s 1959 book, The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life. Here Goffman makes the point that social actors’ adaptations to circumstances of communicative co-presence go far beyond the expressions they intend to give. A host of impressions are also ‘given off’ that are non-intentional but nevertheless highly ritualised and functional in making social life possible. It is symptomatic that he perhaps most famous example in The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life is drawn from the service sector; while in the dining room’s ‘front region’ the waiter must be committed to a performance of courtesy and commitment to the cuisine when dealing with customers. Upon retreating to the kitchen area ‘back region’, waiters may comment disparagingly on customers and make jokes about the food—but this too is a species of performance. In short and to put it rather crudely, Goffman’s dramaturgy involves seeing all we do as performance, and all performance as an adaptation to thesocial situation at hand. Goffman’s dramaturgical approach to social life could be seen as a symptom of the transition from manufacture to service. This is the line taken in one of the most trenchant criticisms of Goffman’s work, put forward by the sociologist Alvin W. Gouldner. He accuses Goffman of picturing society in an ahistorical and atomised fashion, merely as a loose and essentially unchanging assemblage of interpersonal social situations. Gouldner provides a historically based explanation for the salience of Goffman’s dramaturgical approach: Dramaturgy marks the transition from an older economy centered on production to a new one centered on mass marketing and promotion, including the marketing of self . . . In this new ‘tertiary economy’ with its proliferating services, men are indeed increasingly producing ‘performances’ rather than things. Moreover, both the performances and products they produce are often only marginally differentiated; they can be individuated from one another only by their looks. In this new economy, then, sheer appearance is especially important . . . Style becomes strategy of interpersonal legitimation for those who are disengaged from work and for whom morality itself becomes a convenience. (Gouldner 1970/2000:247) Gouldner links the ‘marketing of self’ to organisation—more precisely, to modern, large-scale bureaucracies (Gouldner 1970/2000:248). These render individuals interchangeable, hence vulnerable. In such circumstances the management of impressions becomes a means of trying to remain individually competitive. The generalisation of dramaturgy, then, is as much a historical moment as a general fact of social life. As C. Wright Mills (1953:xv) argued already as this moment was occurring, the “picture of

The Question of Calculation 297 society as a great salesroom . . . a new universe of management and manipulation” was the product not of man as such but rather an emerging class of white collar men.

GOFFMAN’S WORK AS SITE OF REFLECTION The great value of Gouldner’s reading lies in the way he situates Goffman in a socio-historical context. At the same time, Gouldner’s polemic tends to reduce Goffman’s work to a set of involuntary symptoms of the times. There are more sympathetic ways to do symptomatic readings. Gouldner’s critique does not consider Goffman’s writing on organisations, on media and on planning in communication. This sort of omission is quite common; however it bears pointing out that only Goffman’s early fieldwork in a Shetland Island community did not involve organisations. His one-year ethnographic fieldwork in the St. Elizabeth’s mental hospital in the late 1950s resulted in the book Asylums (1961). An early 1960s stint doing participant observation in Nevada gambling casino fed into Strategic Interaction (1970), which also deals centrally with intelligence organisations. The 1970s and early 1980s saw a particular interest in broadcasting, concurrently with his systematic statements in Frame Analysis (1974) and Forms of Talk (1981) on the ‘production format’ of communication. As for his work on the media, they were a key area of interest for the late Goffman. Gender Advertisements (1979) is an analysis of images in popular magazines, much of Forms of Talk is about broadcasting, and Frame Analysis is littered with examples from and discussions of the media. Goffman’s writing on communication is also significant but more scattered throughout his work. The most sustained discussion takes place in his PhD dissertation Communication Conduct in an Island Community (1953) and is partially restated six years later in The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life (1959). The concept and defi nition of communication are also discussed in Strategic Interaction, published seventeen years after the dissertation. The consensus on Goffman is that his work was about the social orderings of face-to-face interaction. Indeed this is what Goffman himself said when he outlined the domain of the ‘interaction order’ in his late, summing-up statement to the American Sociological Association (Goffman 1983a). The introduction to the most comprehensive collection of Goffman commentary to date frames him squarely as a sociologist of face-to-face interaction, concerned with naming “regularities of social behaviour” (Fine, Manning and Smith 2000:xli). As one of the preeminent social thinkers of the previous century, Goffman’s oeuvre has of course sparked much debate and disagreement, both over his way of understanding social interaction and over interaction’s links with other orders and levels of society. Few seem to want to say that his work is centrally about something other than social interaction,


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however, at least when taken as a whole. In practice his contribution usually gets narrowed down to the micro-social and to face-to-face interaction. Consequently, Goffman’s writings on organisations, on media and communication have been assigned a relatively marginal status, although two anthologies have sought to widen the perspective on Goffman to include issues of social organisation (Smith 1999) and of communication and institutions (Riggins 1990). These are valuable collections, but arguably their perspectives remain sociological more than communication-theoretical. Interestingly, sociological readings dominate the use of Goffman also within media and communication studies. A wide and scattered group of researchers have drawn on Goffman’s work, including media theorists (e.g. Meyrowitz 1985; Rothenbuhler 1988; Thompson 1995); conversation analysts (albeit often critically, e.g. Garfi nkel 1967; Schegloff 1988); discourse theorists/analysts (e.g. Fairclough 1992; Tolson 2006; Montgomery 2007) and recently in a number of writings dealing with interaction and the performance of self via digital media (e.g. Miller 1995; Papacharissi 2002; Robinson 2007). Their standard procedure is that of borrowing some of Goffman’s key conceptual resources (‘performance’, ‘frame’, ‘footing’, ‘region’) and extending them to mediated forms of performance and interaction.1 There is nothing wrong with this, per se. However, Goffman’s own work on the plannings of communication tells quite a different story.

THE MANAGEMENT OF COMMUNICATION Goffman’s status as a contributor to the field of communication research has rarely been discussed in any sustained way. Some contributions simply assume that the study of social interaction is also a communication studies matter, and that Goffman is important to the latter by virtue of being central to the former. This is done without looking much into what he wrote specifically on the theory and concept of communication (e.g. Riggins 1990; Scannell 2007). A somewhat closer consideration has led Wendy Leeds-Hurwitz to assert that “Goffman was a sociologist, but what he studied was communication” (Leeds-Hurwitz 2004; 2008). She points to Goffman’s PhD dissertation. Its title, Communication Conduct in an Island Community, is no accident. Goffman says quite explicitly that the dissertation’s ambition is to use field data in developing “a general communication framework” (Goffman 1953:9). This framework has gone virtually uncommented, perhaps because it comes more clearly to the fore in his little-read dissertation than in its famous, revised restatement as The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life. Goffman’s core defi nition of communication in the dissertation is “the transmission of information by means of configurations of language signs” (Goffman 1953:43). The vocabulary bears the imprint of information-theoretical thinking on communication in mid-century American

The Question of Calculation 299 thought. Key for Goffman, however, is the relationship between communication in a restricted, intentional sense, and expressivity in a wider, ostensibly non-intentional sense. The issue is stated in The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life via his well-known conceptual distinction between ‘expressions given’ and ‘expressions given off’ by someone communicating in a social setting: The fi rst involves verbal symbols or their substitutes which he uses admittedly and solely to convey the information that he and the others are known to attach to these symbols. This is communication in the traditional and narrow sense. The second involves a wide range of action that others can treat as symptomatic of the actor, the expectation being that the action was performed for reasons other than the information conveyed in this way. As we shall have to see, this distinction has an only initial validity. The individual does of course intentionally convey misinformation by means of both these types of communication, the fi rst involving deceit, the other feigning. (Goffman 1959:14) This citation contains both two preliminary defi nitions of communication (one narrow, one broad) and an argument against making too hard and fast distinctions between them. As Goffman says, for one thing impressions given off might actually be given intentionally but in a covert way. He goes on to suggest that the link between the strategic and the intentional is weakened by the fact that we observably seem able often to manage our impressions strategically without reflecting on that fact. A sort of bottom line seems to be reached when Goffman states that whether intentionally engineered or not, communication always involves an impulse to “control the conduct of others” (Goffman 1959:16). The impulse to control is thus seen as common to all communication processes, whether narrowly or broadly defined. The vocabulary of The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life hints heavily at the need to control: ‘dramaturgy’, ‘calculation’, ‘staging’, ‘management’. Also when talking about communication in the broad sense, Goffman used a vocabulary that strongly suggests purposive action, even if the category includes action seen as non-purposive. Occasionally, this produces formulations that are downright strange, or at least marked by great internal tension. For instance, Goffman speaks of our everyday work to project suitable but unstrained expressions as “calculated unintentionality” (Goffman 1959:20). In The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life, his chief example of the calculatedly unintentional person is the radio broadcaster: “To give a radio talk that will sound genuinely informal, spontaneous, and relaxed, the speaker may have to design his script with painstaking care testing one phrase after another” (Goffman 1959:42). 2 In these passages from his early work on management and control, Goffman fi rst raises the general issue of planning’s role in communication. He


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does not pursue it far enough to provide an account of just how it is that unintended forms of communication can serve purposes of control, however. It is worth noting that Goffman professes himself dissatisfied with his chosen metaphorics of dramaturgy in The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life. He says upfront, in the Preface, that his approach has ‘obvious inadequacies’. This means, for instance, that he retreats from the challenge of explaining what he means by a concept such as ‘management’. Of course, ‘managing’ can be used in the sense of ‘making do’ and in the sense of managing an organisation; that is, in a purposive, systematic and explicit way, involving particular competencies and procedures. In his dissertation and later in The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life Goffman does not systematically address the question of just how planning works in communication. What he does is provide some brief and intriguing suggestions. The fi rst lines of the Preface to The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life are these: “I mean this report to serve as a sort of handbook detailing one sociological perspective from which social life can be studied, especially the kind of social life that is organised within the physical confi nes of a building or plant”.

THE ORGANISATION OF SUBJECTIVITY In the time between the dissertation and its revised publication as The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life, Goffman undertook an ethnographic study of a mental hospital, reported in Asylums. The book’s most famous concept is that of the ‘total institution’, which includes institutions that have an “encompassing character”, as Goffman (1959:15) calls it. Mental asylums fall into this category, average workplaces and bowling clubs do not. Media organisations do not count as total institutions either, if we apply Goffman’s defi nition of that concept strictly. On the other hand, he does want to draw connection between total and other forms of institutions, arguing in the Introduction to Asylums that total institutions “exhibit to an intense degree” (Goffman 1961:17) characteristics also found in institutions more generally. The book contains several passages that deal in more general terms with organisations—both of the ‘total institution’ kind and more generally. In Asylums, Goffman speaks to an issue closely connected to that of pervasive planning; namely, the organisation of subjectivity. Modern organisations may be said to place on us an imperative to perform (McKenzie 2001). A total institution such as the asylum imposes particularly comprehensive forms of organisation and affects inmates’ subjectivity in particularly pervasive ways. Goffman emphasises the importance of the ways modern organisations link overall aims to bureaucratic and professionalised procedures. This does not mean that asylums built on a professionalised bureaucracy are always able to put into practice their ideals of reforming mental

The Question of Calculation 301 patients. What they do—as bureaucracies tend to—is to proceduralise the issue in particularly comprehensive ways: It is widely appreciated that total institutions typically fall considerably short of their official aims. It is less well appreciated that each of these official goals or charters seems admirably suited to provide a key to meaning—a language of explanation that the staff, and sometimes the inmates, can bring to every crevice of action in the institution . . . Each official goal lets loose a doctrine, with its own inquisitors and its own martyrs, and within institutions there seems to be no natural check on the licence of easy interpretation that results. (Goffman 1961:80–81) It is not quite clear in this citation whether Goffman is talking about total institutions or about institutions more generally. In any case it is worth noting his emphasis on how the power that professional staff wields is extremely pervasive—potentially totally pervasive. This totalising view of organised action ties in with another key notion developed in Asylums: that total institutions have the power to constitute a self. A total institution such as the asylum effects what Goffman calls a ‘mortification’ of the preinmate self and the reconstruction of a different one according to the institution’s parameters. Asylums does discuss a number of limitations to the disciplining powers asylum staff can exert, and a number of mitigating adjustments inmates can employ. Still it is axiomatic for Goffman that subjects must adapt to their social circumstances not only in order to get by, but ultimately in order to develop a notion of who they are: The self . . . can be seen as something that resides in the arrangements prevailing in a social system for its members. The self in this sense is not a property of the person to whom it is attributed, but dwells rather in the pattern of social control that is exerted in connexion with the person by himself and those around him. This special kind of institutional arrangement does not so much support the self as constitute it. (Goffman 1961:154) The peculiar thing about total institutions is the way they place the social constitution of self under the control of a set of professions and bureaucratic procedures. The emphasis in Asylums on the mortification and disciplining of the self is rooted in rich analyses of actual staff–inmate interaction, but it is also based in a critical diagnosis of the mental institution itself. The human interactions it details are always placed in the context of bureaucratic and professionalised organisation. This, as much as anti-psychiatry sentiment, links Asylums to Michel Foucault’s writings on types of modern discipline as exercised in organisational settings (see particularly Foucault 1975/1991). Both theorists zone in on the ways that such


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organisations shape subjectivity to the point of constituting it. Several theorists have noted affi nities between Foucault and Goffman on this point (e.g. Battershill 1990:174–180; Giddens 1984:145–158; Hacking 2004). Ian Hacking suggests the main difference between them is that while Foucault is a ‘top-down’ macro-theorist, Goffman is a ‘bottom-up’ micro-theorist. This is hardy true of any of Goffman’s work that involves organisations, and certainly not of Asylums. Here Goffman deals precisely with the intersection of top-down bureaucratic processes and bottom-up inmate tactics for coping with them. It is true that many aspects of organisations seem to have held limited interest for Goffman. He did not focus much on the specifics of their cultures or structures. His main concern was the relationship between forms of organised planning and the performances of self in concrete social settings. Particularly he was interested in the ways pervasive forms of planning fed into the very “discipline of being” (Goffman 1961:171)—a topic Goffman would pursue into his later work.

PARTITIONING THE PERFORMER The book Strategic Interaction from 1970 deals with what Goffman terms the “calculative, gamelike aspects of interaction”. Its main protagonist he terms “the organisationally committed observer” (Goffman 1970:4). Goffman’s interest—in Strategic Interaction as in so many of his works—is in analysing situations of interaction that require actors to exert control through complex calculations of risk and gain. Goffman uses much of the book to detail how this calculation is realised via various forms of particularly extensive impression management. The performance of spies, of course, needs to cover as many facets of expressions given off as possible, over as long stretches of time as possible. This requires very extensive training and planning, often also concerted team performances. In Strategic Interaction Goffman faces head-on the issue of manipulation in communication. This follows from his chosen main examples, of course: spying and casino gambling. But Goffman explicitly also wants to argue that the strategic interactions one fi nds in these sorts of organised contexts can be generalised in order to say something about communication in more general terms. Strategic Interaction features a systematic theoretical partitioning of the performer into a set of organised functions. The concepts he uses are game-theoretical. There is the ‘party’, a coalition of people with a joint interest to promote: heads of intelligence, casino owners. There are individual agents within this party, so-called ‘players’, who are authorised to perform on behalf of the party. Goffman describes the stakeouts of spies and the interrogations of intelligence officers. The plays that parties get up to involve so-called ‘pawns’, who perform but have no individual

The Question of Calculation 303 interest in the matters, as in the case of croupiers. There are also ‘tokens’, mere representatives of some stake in the interaction, for instance hostages. These four categories can be housed within the same individual, but they can also be separated, and complex, modern organisations show off such separation at its most radical. Pawns and tokens are clear examples of this. Their individual intentions and purposes do not enter into the matter at all. They are performers without individuality or subjectivity. In Strategic Interaction Goffman is generally keen to distance himself from notions of interaction in the sense of mutual communicative interchange. He also goes quite far in distancing himself from notions of individuality as being any kind of driving force in strategic interaction. The individual is a “game-relevant resource” (Goffman 1970:88), a tool in communication. Goffman’s account of the radical splitting-up of the individual combines a game-theoretical perspective with a view of communication that is relentlessly unidirectional. He revisits the concept of communication in the preface to Strategic Interaction, in order to write off completely the broad sense of communication as synonymous with all forms of ‘expressions given off’ in an interactional setting. He now wants to reserve ‘communication’ for “socially organised channels for transceiving information” (Goffman 1970:ix). Thus, the high point of Goffman’s interest in organised, calculated performances coincides with a relentlessly unidirectional and control-dominated view of communication.

THE ORGANISATION OF PRODUCTION FORMATS In Goffman’s later work the issue of subject partitioning in organisational settings is pursued in a different vocabulary. The game theories of Strategic Interaction give way to a strong and explicitly recognised influence from sociolinguistics, pragmatics and conversation analysis (Goffman 1983b:1). These scientific foundations are married to concerns of planning performances in Frame Analysis and his last book from 1981, Forms of Talk. Concurrently, the four functions of the organised performer are revised and reformulated into what Goffman calls the “production format” of performances (Goffman 1974:516–523, 1981:226–227). References to specifically strategic forms of interaction are gone; according to the late Goffman, all performative utterances involve an organisation of functions. The splitting of the individual into functions is presented—both in Frame Analysis and in Forms of Talk— as a completely general and basic feature of social life. The revised vocabulary involves the splitting of an individual, fi rstly, into a ‘principal’, the party whose position is being established in the act of communication. Second, into an ‘author’, the “agent who puts together, composes, or scripts the lines”; and third, into an ‘animator’, the “sounding box from which utterances come” (Goffman 1981:226). 3 The most marked


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change happens closest to the performance, so to speak. In Strategic Interaction, the functions of ‘pawn’ and ‘token’ catch at the exchange and negotiation aspects of interaction but not much more. So in Frame Analysis we fi nd Goffman instead going back to a more theatrically inflected vocabulary and using the concept of a ‘figure’, meaning a fictional or actual character within the performance. Organised contexts of performance dominate Frame Analysis when Goffman seeks to illustrate the relationships between individuals and functions. The book’s subtitle (An Essay on the Organization of Experience) indicates a work that is concerned with ‘organisation’ not only in the general but also the specific sense. Goffman discusses how one individual may fill only one function in organisations. One example is the professional speechwriter, who authors but does not animate and is not the originator. Another is the news broadcaster who animates but is neither an author nor an originator. In Frame Analysis Goffman also discusses cases when one and the same individual seems to embody all four functions. This is what we are used to calling simply ‘talk’—that is, seemingly spontaneous, ordinary, natural conversation that occurs outside of organised and institutional contexts. Goffman’s view of the status of such talk is decidedly suspicious. He prefers to focus on what he calls the “preformulated character of ordinary talk” (Goffman 1974:509). In effect, he sees also ordinary talk as marked by planning. Of course there are limits. Goffman speaks of ordinary talk as involving a ‘taboo’ on setting-up efforts that go beyond single turns at talk. But such single turns are in fact routinely set up, he argues: “We fish for compliments, ‘steer’ a conversation, introduce a topic likely to lead in a usable direction, and the like” (Goffman 1974:510). Thus, Goffman’s view of talk-in-interaction, as formulated in Frame Analysis and Forms of Talk, is very different from those who want to see it as an evolving mutual accomplishment, in the way conversation analysts tend to do. For Goffman, conversation is much more a parade of little presentations in a group where people wait to take their turn performing for

Strategic Interaction

Frame Analysis/Forms of Talk

Whose position is represented?



Who assembles the performance?



Who brings the performance to life?



Who represents the above within the performance?



The Question of Calculation 305 the others. The performer–audience relationship, then, is seen to underlie not only mediated communication but non-mediated communication also. Much of what one would consider typical of mediated communication— dramatisation, audiencehood, vicarious participation—Goffman places squarely in the centre of ordinary, everyday talk. In effect he portrays us all as conditioned for pervasive premeditation, as ready for illusions and as willing to accept the concealments of planning. Of the growth of television as a household medium he states: I do not think that suddenly we have been turned into passive viewers demanding that the world present itself to us so that we can be temporarily enthralled by a show and that behind this orientation in life there are advertisers and politicians arranging for the profitable delivery of vicarious second hand experience. I believe we were ready for the enthrallment all the time . . . For there is one thing that is similar to the warm hours we now spend wrapped in television. It is the time we are prepared to spend recounting our own experience or waiting an imminent turn to do so. (Goffman 1974:550)

BROADCASTING’S SEEMINGLY FAULTLESS FRESH TALK In Goffman’s late work a continuum of planning is explored. At one end stands the routine but limited setting up of individual turns in everyday talk; at the other, broadcasting. The talk of television and (particularly) radio announcers is Goffman’s prime example of the comprehensively planned communicator, expanded on in the essay “Radio Talk” from Forms of Talk (Goffman 1981). Here he portrays the announcer as someone whose performances need to be disciplined in the extreme, since broadcasting involves the management of so many special contingencies. One is the need to conform to the overall aim of the organisation, a contingency familiar from Asylums (Goffman 1981:231). Another is technology; broadcasting involves the bringing together of disparate times and places via the affordances of pre-recording and live broadcasting. The radio announcer must be able link together live and pre-recorded segments; must be able to segue between address to present individuals in the studio, address to audiences present in the studio and address to absent audiences. Furthermore, broadcasting means communicating to an audience that is not present. This means that audiences are freer to find fault with the performance—not only on behalf of themselves but also of what they think is proper and required for a general audience. In the case of the announcer, impression management must thus be done on a vast scale and under particularly treacherous conditions. For the announcer to master these contingencies, Goffman says in “Radio Talk”, comprehensive training for performance is needed. This includes training in the handling of technology and of various kinds of


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scripts. Training cannot be not one-sidedly about achieving faultlessness in performance, however. Technology can fail, the memorised or aloud reading of scripts can falter and anyway radio broadcasting will have to depend also on extemporaneous speech to some degree. An ability to remedy faults extemporaneously but with fluency and control is therefore as important as avoiding faults. The trick is to be able to produce a performance at any point that is fluent, controlled and correct while seeming to be much like individualised and informal talk. In order to be able to pull this off, the announcer will have to develop through training a repertoire of set phrases and expressions that can be called up and strung together on demand, at any time. Goffman (1981:242) calls this “seemingly faultless fresh talk”; the convoluted phrase invokes the paradoxical nature of this communication that is so comprehensively planned, yet still wants to pass itself off as an informal and ‘natural’ form of talk.4 Goffman’s view of this effect of informality and naturalness is highly sceptical. For him, the partitioning of the performer is the fact that lies at the heart of things. More formal and stylised announcers display the fact of partitioning when they appear visibly as ‘animators’ who merely relay what authors and originators have put before them. The seemingly faultless fresh talk of broadcast announcers, on the other hand, involves a false claim that animating, authoring and originating all emanate from the individual performer. Goffman is particularly scathing about this claim in “Radio Talk”, at one point calling it “institutionalised lying” (Goffman 1981:237). Here his argument differs from later media researchers who have seen broadcaster informality more as an accommodation to the specific communicative challenges of broadcasting (perhaps most prominently Scannell 1996; Scannell and Cardiff 1991). For Goffman, the more comprehensive the planning, the more fraudulent the claim that putting on an informal front can erase what is going on in the wings. At the same time he warns that such goings-on should not lead us to harbour any illusions about everyday talk, since it too involves planning and so is “something of an illusion of itself, never being as fresh as it seems” (Goffman 1981:172). In short, the example of broadcast announcers’ communication serves to underline Goffman’s general view of communication and communicators as unavoidably marked by planning: “In the last analysis, it [announcer communication] speaks to the job of being a person, not an announcer” (Goffman 1981:320). What does comprehensively planned communication do to the communicator? Through years of professional training the repertoire of set phrases becomes second nature to the informal radio broadcaster. These media ‘personalities’ project themselves as individual and spontaneous not in spite of planning but through it. A process of constituting the self through performance is clearly involved for these professionals, as is the case for those operating within total institutions. Now broadcasting organisations are not total institutions in the way asylums are, but Goffman clearly saw the disciplining and self-constituting powers of comprehensive planning as

The Question of Calculation 307 a general phenomenon. Forms of Talk also contains an essay that expands on the case of lecturers. It contains perhaps Goffman’s fullest general statement on the way that planned communication constitutes the self, and is worth citing at some length: The predetermined text (and its implied self) that the speaker brings to a podium is somewhat like other external matters that present themselves to a local situation: the age, sex, and socio-economic status that a conversationalist brings to a sociable encounter; the academic and associational credentials that a professional brings to an interview with clients; the corporative organization that a deputy brings to the bargaining table. In all these situations, a translation problem exists . . . The external must be melded to the internal, coupled in some way, if only to be systematically disattended . . . So, in a deeper way, an author’s speaking personality maps his text and his status into a speaking arrangement. Observe, no one can better provide a situationally usable construing of the individual than that individual himself. For if liberties must be taken with him, or with what he is identified with, he alone can cause no offense in taking them. If the shoe is to pinch, it is the wearer himself who had best ease it on. (Goffman 1981:193–194) The lecturer invests himself into the communication, Goffman says, by making himself personally available at the occasion, usually also by projecting something of his individual personality into it. Here, again, is the notion of the performing subject as a ‘resource’, this time someone who actively makes himself (or rather his self) a tool in communication. By doing so that subject becomes the main means by which the demands of an organisation and of the macro-orders of society are translated into communicative performance.

PLANNING AS A COMMON RESEARCH AGENDA Erving Goffman’s work stands as perhaps the most suggestive contribution to date on the general role of planning in communication. There is no shortage of research about various planning processes; media production research, public relations research and organisational communication research all deal with them routinely. An effect of specialisation seems to be going on, however, where it is the specifics and the local contexts of communication that are expounded on. Goffman’s contribution suggests a common agenda for those interested in communication: what planning basically is, and basically does to communication and its performers. Goffman did not couch his insights in historical terms, and this chapter has argued for a more historically informed interpretation of his work. Still, the conclusion must be that

308 Espen Ytreberg Goffman’s writing on the role of planning is more important than ever; in a culture profoundly marked by pervasive premeditations the issue of planning should be considered key in the study of communication. His writings provide fundamental observations on how planning shapes communicative performances, how it involves the exertion of power and the construction of selfhood. He has introduced a valuable conceptual framework for the ‘partitioning of the performer’ and contributed concrete studies of how organised planning processes constitute the self. That being said, the pronouncements one fi nds in Goffman’s later work on the general nature of communication do have clear limitations. He has little time for reciprocity or for spontaneity; Goffman seems to always want to remind us of how pervasive planning is, to the point where one may wonder if he wants us to believe that is all there is to the phenomenon of communication. His relentlessness in these matters renders him open to many of the same charges that have been levelled at his dramaturgical approach; for instance that it is the product of a “cynical eye” (MacIntyre 1969/2000:335), and that it amounts to a “sociology of soul-selling” (Gouldner 1970/2000:249). As Paddy Scannell (2007:165) points out, Goffman gives us mostly the speaker’s side of things. Ethnomethodology and conversation analysis in some senses provide a more comprehensive account of communication, by focusing on actual instances of talk and showing how they might be seen as mutual accomplishments. On the other hand, Goffman was very much alive to the inherent uncertainties and strains in planning communication. In that sense he can be seen as a precursor to some recent and influential writings on communication that emphasise its disseminative character over the dialogic (e.g. Chang 1996; Derrida 1982; Peters 1999). 5 Goffman may be a theorist of plans and of control, but to him these are measures of defence and amelioration. They are a refuge taken by parties in communication against what Goffman called, at the end of his writing life, “the fl ickering, cross-purposed, messy irresolution of their unknowable circumstances” (Goffman 1981:195). The test of Goffman’s continued relevance will necessarily lie in whether his contributions are taken up and used in research. As has been mentioned, Goffman is in fact being used in recent research, but from a sociologist’s rather than a communication theorist’s angle. An example is the research agenda of ‘emotional labour’, whose key theorist draws on Goffman. The term ‘emotional labour’ was initially launched by Arlie Russell Hochschild (1983) to describe processes in the service sector where employees are required to manage their emotions professionally, cultivating certain feelings required for the job. Emotional labour disciplines the labouring self for performances that are planned to make the customer feel in contact with a real, friendly and empathetic person, rather than some featureless organisation. Here, then, is an effect familiar from Goffman’s writing on informality and individuality as products of comprehensive planning.

The Question of Calculation 309 The concept of ‘emotional labour’ has been influential in several areas of media and communication research, for instance on the entertainment television industry. The production of game shows and reality TV has been shown to crucially involve emotional work. Such work is prominent in female-dominated researcher and casting professions, as well as being key to the disciplining of the performances of non-professional participants (e.g. Grindstaff 2002; Hesmondhalgh and Baker 2008; Ouellette and Wilson 2008). Talk show and reality television may be all about the display of emotions, but production teams still need to retain control, and these studies argue for viewing emotional labour as a means of retaining such control. Although rarely citing him they provide an approach that closely resembles Goffman’s, zoning in precisely on the nexus between organised planning, performance and self. As for Hochschild, she was a student of Goffman and has acknowledged his influence on her work on several occasions (Hochschild 1983: 224–229; 1990). Still she follows a too narrow sociologist’s approach to his work when she asserts that “we should take what Goffman has developed and link it to institutions on the one hand and personality on the other” (Hochschild 1983:225). This chapter’s argument has been that Goffman did precisely that in his writings on planned communication, and consequently that he is an even more useful ally for the researcher of emotional labour than Hochschild allows. The research area of emotional labour is of particular interest in this chapter’s context because it straddles the traditionally separate domains of research on media, on organisational communication and face-to-face communication. In doing so it points to the basic and general importance of issues of planning. The research on emotional labour also demonstrates how cover-ups of planning happen in today’s communicative culture. Research done by Hochschild, by Deborah Cameron (2000) on call-centre operators and by analysts of entertainment TV production all highlight the notion of authenticity. Air flight attendants, TV casting staff and call-centre operators are all in various ways committed to ideals of ‘being themselves’ and ‘being genuine’. The researchers, on their part, take the quintessentially Goffmanian approach, which is to insist that authenticity, too, is performed, and that authenticity and planning cannot meaningfully be opposed to each other. In fact, the two might be considered mutually constitutive. When authenticity is so often conceived as something pure and condensed this may be precisely because it gets formulated as an almost utopian ideal in the context of pervasive planning.6 This argument is a crucial one; here is a key to the way we might go about understanding today’s communicative calculations and how they are hidden from view. Contemporary dissimulatio artis works not least through notions of a pure, condensed authenticity. Erving Goffman provides the mindset necessary to keep on keeping such illusions at a distance, and a toolkit for analysing how they are produced.

310 Espen Ytreberg NOTES 1. A stimulating exception to the ’standard approach’ is Yves Winkin’s ideapacked discussion of Goffman’s formative experiences as an employee at the National Film Board of Canada (Winkin 1988:18–21). Winkin speculates that Goffman may have taken from that environment and from the teaching of fi lmmaker John Grierson a ’cinematic’ view of the world as constructed illusion, amenable to deconstruction into its constitutive parts. Winkin sees this vision of the world as recurring throughout Goffman’s work but articulated clearly only relatively late, in Frame Analysis. 2. In a chapter on collusion in communication, Goffman exemplifies this general phenomenon with reference to radio and television production, where “a system of control communication is in operation in addition to the communication in which performers and audience are officially participating” (Goffman 1959:176). 3. Goffman uses ‘author’ in Forms of Talk and ‘strategist’ in Frame Analysis. In the latter work he also alternates between ‘animator’ and ‘emitter’. Precedents for the production format taxonomy appear as early as in Goffman’s PhD dissertation. Here the role of ‘drafter’ covers much the same ground as the ‘author’. There is also mention of a ‘relayer’, which is equivalent to an ‘animator’ (Goffman 1953:107f). 4. For a closer look at this paradoxical broadcast talk, and the concrete ways it is achieved in television production settings, see Ytreberg (2008). 5. Philip Manning fi nds this theme already present in Goffman’s 1953 PhD dissertation (Manning 1992:35). 6. Similar arguments have been put forward by Anne Jerslev and Arlie Russell Hochschild, using the concepts of ‘fabrication’ and ‘management’. Jerslev (2004:130) writes about the “fabrication of authenticity” in the context of the Big Brother reality series, while Hochschild (1983:190) proposes that “the value placed on authentic or ‘natural’ feeling has increased dramatically with the full emergence of its opposite—the managed heart”.

REFERENCES Andersen, Øivind (1996): “Lingua Suspecta: On Concealing and Displaying the Art of Rhetoric”. Symbolae Osloenses, 71:68–86. Aristotle (1991): The Art of Rhetoric. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books. Austin, John L. (1955/1994): How To Do Things With Words. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Battershill, Charles D. (1990): “Erving Goffman as a Precursor to Post-Modern Sociology”, in Stephen H. Riggins (ed.): Beyond Goffman: Studies on Communication, Institution and Social Interaction. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter. Bell, Daniel (1974): The Coming of Post-Industrial Society. New York: Harper. Burke, Kenneth (1945/1969): A Grammar of Motives. Berkeley: University of California Press. Cameron, Deborah (2000): Good to Talk? Living and Working in a Communication Culture. London: Sage Publications. Chang, Briankle G. (1996): Deconstructing Communication: Representation, Subject and Economies of Exchange. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Derrida, Jacques (1982): “Signature Event Context”, in Margins of Philosophy. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

The Question of Calculation 311 Fairclough, Norman (1992): Discourse and Social Change. Cambridge: Polity Press. Fine, Gary Alan, Philip Manning and Gregory W. H. Smith (2000): “Introduction”, in Gary Alan Fine and Gregory W. H. Smith (eds.): Erving Goffman: A Four Volume Set (Sage Masters in Modern Social Thought Series). London: Sage Publications. Foucault, Michel (1975/1991): Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books. Garfi nkel, Harold (1967): Studies in Ethnomethodology. Cambridge: Polity Press. Giddens, Anthony (1984): The Constitution of Society. Cambridge: Polity Press. Goffman, Erving (1953): Communication Conduct in an Island Community. Unpublished PhD thesis, Department of Sociology, University of Chicago. . (1959): The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books. . (1961): Asylums. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books. . (1970): Strategic Interaction. Oxford: Basil Blackwell. . (1974): Frame Analysis: An Essay on the Organization of Experience. Boston: Northeastern University Press. . (1979): Gender Advertisements. London: Macmillan. . (1981): Forms of Talk. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. . (1983a): “The Interaction Order”. American Sociological Review, 48:1– 17. . (1983b): “Felicity’s Condition”. American Journal of Sociology, 89 (1):1– 53. Gouldner, Alvin W. (1970/2000): “Other Symptoms of the Crisis: Goffman’s Dramaturgy and Other New Theories”, in Gary Alan Fine and Gregory W. H. Smith (eds.): Erving Goffman: A Four Volume Set (Sage Masters in Modern Social Thought Series). London: Sage Publications. Grindstaff, Laura (2002): The Money Shot: Trash, Class and the Making of TV Talk Shows. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Hacking, Ian (2004): “Between Michel Foucault and Erving Goffman: Between Discourse in the Abstract and Face-to-Face Interaction”. Economy and Society, 33 (3):277–302. Hesmondhalgh, David and Sarah Baker (2008): “Creative Work and Emotional Labour in the Television Industry”. Theory Culture & Society, 25 (7–8):97– 118. Hochschild, Arlie Russell (1983): The Managed Heart: Commercialization of Human Feeling. Berkeley: University of California Press. . (1990): “Gender Codes in Women’s Advice Books”, in Stephen H. Riggins (ed.): Beyond Goffman: Studies on Communication, Institution and Social Interaction. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter. Jerslev, Anne (2004): Vi ses på TV—medier og intimitet. Copenhagen: Gyldendal. Leeds-Hurwitz, Wendy (2004): “Erving Goffman as a Communication Theorist”. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the International Communication Association, New Orleans Sheraton, New Orleans, May 27th. . (2008): “Erving Goffman”, in Wolfgang Donsbach (ed.): The International Encyclopaedia of Communication. Oxford: Blackwell. MacIntyre, Alasdair (1969/2000): “The Self as a Work of Art”, in Gary Alan Fine and Gregory W. H. Smith (eds.): Erving Goffman: A Four Volume Set (Sage Masters in Modern Social Thought Series). London: Sage Publications. Manning, Philip (1992): Erving Goffman and Modern Sociology. Cambridge: Polity Press.


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McKenzie, Jon (2001): Perform or Else: From Discipline to Performance. London: Routledge. Meyrowitz, Joshua (1985): No Sense of Place: The Impact of Electronic Media on Social Behavior. New York: Oxford University Press. . (1990): “Redefi ning the Situation: Extending Dramaturgy into a Theory of Social Change and Media Effects”, in Stephen H. Riggins (ed.): Beyond Goffman: Studies on Communication, Institution and Social Interaction. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter. Miller, Hugh (1995): “The Presentation of Self in Electronic Life: Goffman on the Internet”. Paper presented at the conference Embodied Knowledge and Virtual Space, University of London. Mills, C. Wright (1953): White Collar: The American Middle Classes. New York: Oxford University Press. Montgomery, Martin (2007): The Discourse of Broadcast News. London: Routledge. Ong, Walter (1982): Orality and Literacy: The Technologizing of the Word. London: Methuen. Ouellette, Laurie and Julie Wilson (2008): “Women’s Work: Affective Labor, Media Convergence and the Dr. Phil Brand”. Paper presented at the annual ICA Conference, Montreal, Canada. Papacharissi, Zizi (2002): “The Presentation of Self in Virtual Life: Characteristics of Virtual Home Pages”. Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly, 79 (3):643–660. Peters, John Durham (1999): Speaking into the Air: A History of the Idea of Communication. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Quintilian (1980): Institutio Oratoria. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Riggins, Stephen H. (ed.) (1990): Beyond Goffman: Studies on Communication, Institution and Social Interaction. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter. Robinson, Laura (2001): “The Cyberself: The Self-ing Project Goes Online— Symbolic Interaction in the Digital Age”. New Media & Society, 9 (1):93– 110. Rothenbuhler, Eric W. (1988): Ritual Communication: From Everyday Conversation to Mediated Ceremony. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications. Scannell, Paddy (1996): Radio, Television and Modern Life. Oxford: Blackwell. . (2007): Media and Communication. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications. Scannell, Paddy and David Cardiff (1991): A Social History of British Broadcasting: ‘Serving the Nation, 1923–1939’. Oxford: Blackwell. Schegloff, Emanuel (1988): “Goffman and the Analysis of Conversation”, in Paul Drew and Anthony Wootton (eds.): Erving Goffman: Exploring the Interaction Order. Cambridge: Polity Press. Smith, Greg (ed.) (1999): Goffman and Social Organisation: Studies in a Sociological Legacy. London: Routledge. Thompson, John B. (1995): The Media and Modernity: A Social History of the Media. Cambridge: Polity Press. Tolson, Andrew (2006): Media Talk: Spoken Discourse on TV and Radio. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. Winkin, Yves (1988): “Erving Goffman: Portrait du sociologue en jeune homme”, in Erving Goffman: Les moments et leurs hommes. Paris: Seuil/Minuit. Ytreberg, Espen (2002): “Erving Goffman as a Theorist of the Mass Media”. Critical Studies in Media Communication, 19 (4):481–497. Ytreberg, Espen (2008): “Om det planlagt spontane”. Norsk Medietidsskrift, 15 (1):22–37.

13 Goffman and the Tourist Gaze A Performative Perspective on Tourism Mobilities Jonas Larsen

SETTING THE SCENE Despite that Erving Goffman did ethnographic research for his famous book The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life (1959/1969) in a hotel in the Shetland Islands, in this particular book or subsequent publications, tourism and long-distance travel were never really a ‘social occasion’ in any of his richly detailed studies of face-to-face interactions in everyday life. One exception is one of his early books, Behavior in Public Places (1963), in which he notes how “airplane and long-distance bus travel have here underlined some interesting issues. Seatmates, while likely to be strangers, are not only physically too close to each other to make non-engagement comfortable, but are also fi xed for a long period of time, so that conversation, once begun, may be difficult thereafter either to close or sustain” (Goffman 1963:139). One reason that tourism and travel is not discussed systematically may in part be that such leisurely mobile life was less prevalent and widespread when Goffman wrote compared with today: tourism and travel has become the largest economy in the world (Urry 2002), the tourist is a fundamental metaphor of modern life (Bauman 1995), mobility has become a main source of social stratification (Larsen and Jacobsen 2009) and, as John Urry states, “it sometimes seems that all the world is on the move” (Urry 2007:3). Due to global tourists and business travellers in 2004 there was a record 760 million legal international passenger arrivals compared with 25 million in 1950 and 700 million in 2002, now making travel and tourism the largest industry in the world (Larsen, Urry and Axhausen 2006). There is very little travel in Goffman’s writing and we may say that his sociology is largely a-mobile being concerned primarily with relatively localised interactions. Another—but related—reason may be that travel and tourism in sociology and beyond is treated as an exotic set of specialised consumer products occurring at specific times and places which are designed, regulated or preserved more or less specifically for tourism. Tourism is what everydayness is not. It is an escape from the ordinary and a quest for more desirable and fulfilling places to consume (Urry 1995). Differences between tourists are explained in terms of the


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places they are attracted to and how they consume them, visually or bodily, romantically or collectively, as high-cultural texts or liminal playgrounds or places where the active body comes to life (Larsen 2008). Despite the fact that Goffman himself never discussed or researched tourism and the tourism literature has been concerned with extraordinary face-to-place interactions, Goffman’s metaphors and sociological sensibility surface occasionally, implicitly and explicitly, in post-positivistic tourism research. This chapter traces the use of the perspectives, methods and metaphors of Erving Goffman within cultural research of tourism by sociologists, geographers, anthropologists and beyond. First, I discuss how sociologist Dean MacCannell’s (1976/1999) classic and hugely significant The Tourist: A New Theory of the Leisure Class places Goffman’s metaphors of theatre and ritual and especially ‘front-stage’ and ‘back-stage’ on the centre stage for understanding the staging of authenticity in tourism. Second, I discuss how John Urry’s recent tourism and mobility research is using Goffman’s work on face-to-face meetings to explain how in societies where social networks are often distanciated much tourist travel is about meeting up with significant others, to have a pleasurable time and meet social obligations, from time to time, in another place (Urry 2007; Larsen, Urry and Axhausen 2007). Third, within the last decade there has been move towards embodied tourism performances, and a ‘performance turn’ in part influenced by Goffman is spreading into and transforming contemporary tourism studies. This turn’s point of departure is a critique of John Urry’s ‘tourist gaze’ and other cultural research on tourism that loosely followed in the footsteps of Michael Foucault and explored tourism through a representational lens of discourses, images and not least gazes (Urry 1990). I end the chapter by discussing how I employ this performance turn and Goffman’s dramaturgical sociology more broadly in relation to my own work on tourist photography.

STAGED AUTHENTICITY There are hardly more than two classic tourist studies books. The most recent one is John Urry’s Foucault-inspired The Tourist Gaze (1990, 2002) while the fi rst one was The Tourist: A New Theory of the Leisure Class (1999) by Dean MacCannell (fi rst published 1976). The book is a sophisticated structural ethnography of modernity though the lens of tourism. There is a certain Goffmanian sensibility to it and Goffman is cited on many occasions. For a start, both Goffman and MacCannell state that they are concerned with middle-class America (Jacobsen 2008) and the social organisation of behaviour in public places, but with a slightly new twist. As MacCannell says: Erving Goffman has studied behaviour in public places and relations in public for what they can reveal about our collective pride, shame and

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guilt. I want to follow his lead and suggest that behaviour is only one of the visible, public representations of social structure found in public places. We also fi nd decay, refuse, human and industrial derelicts, monuments, museums, parks, decorated plazas and architectural shows of industrial virtue. Public behaviour and these other visible public parts of society are tourist attractions. (MacCannell 1976/1999:39) Both Goffman and MacCannell are brilliant sociological essayists who mastered the art of combining the novelist’s eye for the detail with the systematising gaze of the social scientist. And as I will show below, another similarity is that MacCannell in a Goffmanian fashion emphasises both the socially ordered rituals and the manipulative, calculating presentations that take place upon and order tourism places. MacCannell theorises tourism as an emblematic modern search for vanished authenticity. Nostalgia, understood as mourning for an authentic past, thus emerges as a formative theme of modern tourism and modernity as a whole. Tourism is portrayed as a side-product of modernity’s dominating logic of inauthenticity; modernity’s ‘other’ transports alienated people back to places of authenticity: “Modern man has been condemned to look elsewhere, everywhere, for his authenticity, to see if he can catch a glimpse of it reflected in the simplicity, poverty, chastity or purity of others” (MacCannell 1976/1999:41). Tourism represents a utopian search and desire for what modernity destroys and keeps out. Tourists search for authenticity because their everyday is superficial, contrived and artificial. Tourists are a kind of contemporary pilgrim who leaves home to seek out authenticity in other places and times. For MacCannell, “sightseeing is a modern ritual”; “a twofold process of ‘sight sacralization’ that is met with a corresponding ‘ritual attitude’ on the part of tourists” (MacCannell 1976/1999:42). MacCannell’s portrait of tourism as ritualised, normatively sanctioned behaviour is in part drawn with Goffman’s words: Modern international sightseeing possesses its own moral structure, a collective sense that certain sights must be seen . . . Modern guided tours, in Goffman’s terms, are “extensive ceremonial agendas involving long strings of obligatory rites” . . . There are quite literally millions of tourists who have spent their savings to make the pilgrimage to see these sights . . . The ritual attitude of the tourist originates in the act of travel itself and culminates when he arrives in the presence of the sight. (MacCannell 1976/1999:42–43) By arguing that the socially constructed nature of tourism sightseeing is a “ceremonial” one “involving long strings of obligatory rites”, MacCannell simultaneously aligns with and departs from Goffman’s writing on rituals, because the latter argued that (something that MacCannell also points out) “in contemporary society rituals performed to stand-ins for supernatural


Jonas Larsen

entities are everywhere in decay”, as are “extensive ceremonial agendas involving long strings of obligatory rites” (Goffman 1971:62; MacCannell 1976/1999:46). So MacCannell departs from Goffman by arguing that rituals of modern tourism replace religious rituals and that “long stings of obligatory rites” are staged and performed at tourist attractions across the world. While this metaphor of tourism as ritual connotes the Durkheimian idea of moral order and the structure and organisation of human performances, MacCannell turns to and elaborates upon Goffman’s famous spatial metaphors and simple structural social division of back-stage and front-stage to highlight the creative, manipulative staging of authenticity and scenes in tourism. As we know, Goffman illuminates how performances entail audiences (now or later, real or imagined) (Goffman 1959/1969, Chapter 2) and are organised socially in ‘teams’ and spatially on front-stages where masks are deliberately put on for a specific audience, which is in contrast to back-stages where public masks are lifted (Goffman 1959/1969:114). MacCannell’s argument is that tourists desire authenticity, or back-stage realities, but they often only encounter ‘staged authenticity’, that is, a touristic front-region staged to give the impression that it is a non-touristic backstage region: Tourist consciousness is motivated by its desire for authentic experiences, and the tourist may believe that he is moving in this direction, but often it is difficult to know for sure if the experience is in fact authentic. It is always possible that what was taken to be entry into a back region is really an entry into a front region that has been totally set up in advance for touristic visitation. (MacCannell 1976/1999:99) So every so often “what is being shown to tourists is not the institutional ‘back-stage’, as Goffman defined this term. Rather, it is a staged back region, a kind of living museum for which we have no analytical terms” (MacCannell 1976/1999:99). Rather than equating staging and performing with insincerity, Goffman highlighted how identities are performative, that is, they are always produced though performances. Yet, the common ontological distinction so prevalent in Western modernity between an authentic world of natural being and an inauthentic one made up by performers has haunted tourist studies for a long time. In much tourism writing—including the work of MacCannell—it sometimes seems that modern tourism is nothing but performative illusions because it is a mobile world of ‘staged’ authenticity: modern tourism is therefore permeated with inauthenticity. However, that all places and cultures are fabrications in the sense of being something made and therefore in a sense also contrived or inauthentic is something neglected in the tourism literature; yet this changed with the rise of the performance turn in the 1990s. But before we move on to discuss this turn in detail, through a cursory excursion into John Urry’s later research and

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writing, I will show how Urry—the other major sociological scholar of tourism (and travel and mobility more broadly)—recently discovered Goffman at the expense of Foucault, who in the main informed his classic work on ‘the tourist gaze’ (Urry 1990).

TRAVEL AND ‘MEETINGNESS’ For Goffman, embodied co-presence in a physical setting was the defining feature of face-to-face interactions and meetings. Co-present interaction is fundamental to social interaction within institutions, families and friendships, for producing trust, sustaining intimacy and providing for pleasurable gatherings. Studies of tourism have mostly neglected issues of sociality and co-presence and overlooked how much tourism is concerned with performing face-to-face interaction and (re)producing social relations. One exception is the recent work of John Urry on mobilities, where he argues that it is necessary to analyse proximity, obligations and what he terms ‘meetingness’ in relation to touristic mobility. While sporadically speaking of business meetings, Urry mainly refers to ‘meetingness’ in relation to friends and families more or less informally visiting each other or meeting up in significant places, so a ‘business’ metaphor is used to explain the nature of affective sociability such as family meals, birthdays, weddings, friendship reunions and so on (see Larsen, Urry and Axhausen 2006; Urry 2007). Urry’s argument is not that ‘visiting’ today bears a resemblance to the instrumentality and formality of businesses meetings but rather that close ties increasingly meet up only ‘intermittently’, that such visiting requires much coordination effected through communications and that travel is required for attending since many network ties are not just around the corner but at a distance. For Urry, “much travel results from a powerful ‘compulsion to proximity’ that makes it seem absolutely ‘necessary’” (Urry 2002:168). Starting with Goffman’s observation that “co-presence renders persons uniquely accessible, available and subject to one another” (Goffman 1963:22), Urry makes the case that “as a result of travel people come to be bodily in the same physical space as various others, including work-mates, or business colleagues, or friends, or partners or family . . . This proximity is ‘obligatory, appropriate or desirable’” (Urry 2003:164–165). Tourists theory that conceptualises tourists as free-floating and hedonistic fail to notice the many obligations that choreograph ‘tourism escapes’ are more or less binding and pleasurable obligations requiring intermittent face-to-face co-presence, often at particular moments (e.g. birthday, wedding or Christmas). If these rituals do not take place at their right time, they cease to be meaningful. Telephone calls, text messages or courier-delivered flowers can only substitute for a journey to and physical presence at a church, hospital or Christmas dinner, if people have a really good excuse for not being able to attend. Communications will often be thought too one-dimensional to fulfil certain kinds of social obligation that


Jonas Larsen

cannot be missed. Fulfilling such obligations required relatively little long distance travel when social networks were socially and spatially close-knit. Obligations of visiting and showing hospitality become central to tourism and indeed social life at-a-distance, as cheaper and faster travel ‘compresses’ or ‘stretches out’ networks. Intermittent face-to-face meetings sustain social life that involves much virtual travel and communicative travel in the long periods of distance and of solitude. Despite the proliferation of communication technologies, corporeal travel and co-present meetings are of increasing importance because they produce thick, embodied socialities of corporeal proximity where people are accessible, available and subject to each another. We witness an increasing amount of corporeal travel because travel enables distanciated significant others to have pleasurable, yet obligatory face-to-face meetings that cannot be satisfactorily fulfilled through communications. So far, virtual communications are often about coordinating physical travel and enabling talking between visits and meetings rather than substituting for corporeal travel (for an empirical study of this, see Larsen, Urry and Axhausen 2008). Here Urry echoes Deidre Boden and Harvey Molotch’s Goffman-inspired argument that “the robust nature and enduring necessity of traditional human communication procedures have been underappreciated’ in writing on media and globalisation” (Boden and Molotch 1994:258). In mobile networked societies with connections at-a-distance and people being less likely to bump into or visit their strong ties on a daily or weekly basis, the potential for undertaking physical travel for intermittent meetings is a key for meeting the social obligations that are involved in being part of a social network. So far phones and various types of screens have been poor substitutes for the sensuous richness of face-to-face sociality. The geographical ‘stretching out’ of social networks makes tourism desirable and indeed necessary because social networks so far do not only function through phone calls, texting and email. One cannot share a meal or buy rounds or hug one’s mother or cuddle one’s grandchild or kiss the bride over the telephone or through an email or a videoconference. Unlike telephone conversations, where many struggle to talk for more than 15 to 30 minutes, people often talk for hours over a coffee, a restaurant meal or drinks, because co-present talk is embodied and located within a shared physical place, temporarily at least ‘full of life’. Having discussed how Goffman has inspired the two most prominent tourism and travel scholars, I now discuss how a Goffman-informed performance turn is shaping contemporary cultural studies of tourism.

THE PERFORMANCE TURN A performance turn can be traced from the late 1990s in sociological and geographical tourism theory (e.g. Edensor 1998, 2000, 2001; Franklin and

Goffman and the Tourist Gaze


Crang 2001; Perkin and Thorns 2001; Coleman and Crang 2002b; Larsen 2005; Haldrup and Larsen 2009). Much cultural tourism research has been concerned with how tourists are drawn to and experience—gaze, sense and represent—destinations and the performance turn continues in that direction. But it also redirects tourism theory and research in some important ways. Since the use of dramaturgical metaphors is constitutive of this turn, Goffman—especially his The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life—is one source of inspiration. For instance, Adrian Franklin and Mike Crang suggest that “the cultural competencies and acquired skills that make up touristic culture themselves suggest a Goffmanesque world where all the world is indeed a stage” (Franklin and Crang 2001:17–18). Yet, it is crucial here to recognise that Goffman never suggested that the world is a stage only that we can study social life as if it is a stage (‘if’ being the key here). In Goffman’s work, performative metaphors are used as imaginative and fictitious lenses that temporarily can shed unfamiliar light on the familiar and render the exotic familiar (Jacobsen and Kristiansen 2006); metaphors are like temporary ‘scaffolds’ assisting in imagining and building something new, yet they “should be erected with an eye to taking them down” (Goffman 1959/1969:254). In the following I outline the central features of the performance turn and how Goffman’s sociology can be said to have influenced or least share commonalities with it. First, the performance turn is formed in opposition to the ‘tourist gaze’ and other representational approaches privileging the eye (e.g. MacCannell 1976/1999; Shields 1991; Dann 1996; Selwyn 1996) by arguing that “tourism demands new metaphors based more on being, doing, touching and seeing rather than just ‘seeing’” (Perkin and Thorns 2001:189). John Urry’s notion of ‘the tourist gaze’ (Urry 1990, 2002) has been extremely influential in portraying the tourist experience as a visual experience; the tourist gaze suggests that people travel to destinations that are visually striking. In contrast, the performance turn highlights how tourists experience places in more multi-sensuous ways that can involve more bodily sensations, from touching, smelling, hearing and so on. So the performance turn employs performative metaphors to conceptualise the corporeality of tourist bodies and ‘embodied’ actions of tourist workers and tourists. And whereas much writing about tourism “rapidly pacify the tourist—that is they tend to experience, perceive and receive but not do” (Crang 1999:238), the performance turn energises the agents of tourism by shifting the focus to ontologies of doing and acting (Franklin and Crang, 2001). This turn to ontologies of doing and acting are a sign that the influence of Goffman lurks in the background. One defining feature of Goffman’s sociology is a painstaking attention to the detail of the embodied as well as the performed nature of human interaction, co-presence, communication and social life in general. His sociology is very much a microsociology of enacting, expressive, emotional and responsive bodies: posing, gesticulating, conversing, apologising, blushing, avoiding eye contact and so on. The performance turn can be said to be Goffmanian in its portrayal

320 Jonas Larsen of the tourist body as both psychobiological, expressive and socialised in terms of a style or body use. Another similarity between the two is that they share a perspective from which situations, processes and performances are everything; there are no performances without doings. Through the lens of the performance turn, tourism is a doing, something accomplished through performances. Second, following on from Goffman’s observation that teams are the basic unit of the performances, much of the work associated with the performance turn discusses the host of agents that make up particular tourism stages, stages normally typified by co-presence between providers and consumers. On the one hand, there is a body of literature exploring the production-side; of how stages are materially and symbolically staged and how key personal on the ground perform the tourist product before audiences of tourists. The geographer Phil Crang (1994, 1997) was one of the fi rst to utilise Goffman’s framework to discuss how tourism as a service economy is typified by face-to-face performances. He shows how waitingwork in a dinner-style restaurant is a form of conscious acting that is simultaneously scripted and creative taking place before the dining audience. Due to a subtle combination of training and detailed in-house scripts for appropriate waitering, on the one hand, and prescripted, personal skills of improvising, on the other, a Goffmanian universe of deference, eagerness to please and friendliness is enacted day in and day out. The geographer Tim Edensor (1997, 2000, 2001), who recently has written extensively about tourism and performance, imports much of Goffman’s language, speaking of tourists as improvising performers, actors, cast members, sites as stages, guides as directors, stage management and so on. He shows ethnographically, for instance, the significance of tour guides in choreographing tourists’ spatial movement through and their interpretation of places. More broadly, business scholars Joseph Pine and James Gilmore coined the concept ‘experience economy’ in 1998 and argued that the economy was evolving from a service paradigm into an experience paradigm. Revenues would henceforth derive more and more from staging memorable, exciting and engaging experiences. Their point was that businesses should be perceived as if they were theatres. A cafe, restaurant or store might be managed in a way that would redefi ne the roles of the service economy. Waiters should no longer be mere service providers but performing artists (Pine and Gilmore 1999:104). The business should be perceived as a venue, a factory of atmospheres and events rather than as a site for the fulfi lment of mere basic service desires. What this diverse body of literature shows is that the production-side of the tourism economy (and the service economy more broadly) is increasingly theatrical and performative; they resemble real theatres as workers are ‘cast members’ wearing costumes and trained to enact scripts and roles that fit in with their institutional setting, which is often a theatrical themed environment. As Urry states more generally: “Tourism is often about the body-as-seen, displaying, performing and seducing visitors

Goffman and the Tourist Gaze


with skill, charm, strength, sexuality and so on” (Urry 2002:156). Moreover, they show how the Goffmanian issue of appropriate behaviour and movement at tourist sites is frequently regulated or choreographed by key personnel, who monitor and instruct participants and maintain key scripts. In this sense, this literature moves beyond Goffman since he never really addressed issues of power and social control in his writing on the ‘interaction order’. As Edensor asserts: “The stage-management of tourist space, the directing of tourists and the choreographing of their movement can reveal the spatial and social controls that assist and regulate performance” (Edensor 2001:69). Or, to cite Adam Weaver, who critically employs performative metaphors in his ethnography of ‘interactive service work’ in the tourism cruise industry: “The importance of power, control and conflict is underestimated in Goffman’s research” (Weaver 2005:8). On the other hand, there is literature exploring how tourists themselves can be said to perform; performances are not only enacted for tourists and the only people on stage are not only tourist workers. For instance, Edensor (1998, Chapter 4) explores how ‘tourists at the Taj’ perform walking, gazing, photographing and remembering, while Jørgen O. Bærenholdt, Michael Haldrup, Jonas Larsen and John Urry (2004) examine various performances of strolling, beach life and photography. Metaphorically speaking, in addition to looking at stages, tourists step into them and enact them corporeally. By portraying tourists solely as consumers, one disregards that they ‘produce’ photos and place-myths; in the act of consuming, tourists turn themselves into producers (see next section). To a certain degree the performance turn builds upon Judith Adler’s article “Travel as a Performed Art”, where it is argued that “the traveller’s body, as the literal vehicle of travel art, has been subject to historical construction and stylistic constraint. The very senses through which the traveller receives culturally valued experience have been moulded by differing degrees of cultivation and, indeed, discipline” (Adler 1989:8). When stepping into particular stages, tourists are not only ‘choreographed’ by concrete guiding strategies, by present guides and visible signs, but also by ‘absent’ or invisible cultural codes, norms and etiquettes for how to perceive and value tourist objects (Edensor 2001:71). Just like Goffman, who stressed how our styles of bodily idiom and self-presentation are specific to, learned though and regulated by ‘cultural membership’, the performance turn makes the case that tourist performances are in part preformed. Performances are never for the fi rst time because they require rehearsal, imitation of other performances and adjustment to norms and expectations to such an extent that they appear natural and become taken-for-granted rituals. Performances are largely habitual and unplanned. As Goffman states: The legitimate performances of everyday life are not ‘acted’ or ‘put on’ in the sense that the performer knows in advance just what he is going to do, and does this solely because of the effect it is likely to have. The


Jonas Larsen expressions it is felt he is giving off will be especially ‘inaccessible’ to him . . . The incapacity of the ordinary individual to formulate in advance the movements of his eyes and body does not mean that he will not express himself through these devises in a way that is dramatized and pre-formed in his repertoire of actions. In short, we all act better than we know how. (Goffman 1959/1969:79–80)

Along the same line, Edensor argues against the idea that tourism represents a break from the everyday: “Rather than transcending the mundane, most forms of tourism are fashioned by culturally coded escape attempts. Moreover, although suffused with notions of escape from normativity, tourists carry quotidian habits and responses with them: they are part of their baggage” (Edensor 2001:61). Tourists never just travel to places: their mindsets, routines and social relations travel with them. As tourists we leave behind our home but many of our embodied gestures, routine practices, social habits and small daily rituals travel along with us (Larsen 2008; Haldrup and Larsen 2009). Yet another Goffmanian element to the performance turn is that while performances are taught, learned and regulated, they are never completely predetermined. Throughout his writings Goffman maintains that “for interactants, rules are matters to be taken into consideration, whether as something to follow or carefully circumvent” (Goffman 1963:42). In contrast to the many studies portraying tourism as an over-determined stage where tourists are reduced to passive consumers who follow prescripted routes, the performance turn insists on uncovering creativity, detours and productive practices as much as choreographies and scripts. Much tourism research focuses on how tourism companies and organisations—through guides, brochures, web-pages and stage-management—design destinations by inscribing them with place-myths and staging them in postcard fashions. While tourism performances are surely influenced by guidebooks, concrete guidance, promotional information and existing place-myths, the performance turn argues that tourists are not just written upon, they also enact and inscribe places with their own stories and follow their own paths. A too fi xed focus upon already inscribed destinations and staged experiences renders the tourist a passive sightseer consuming sites in prescribed fashions. Performances are, however, never determined by their choreographing, since there is always an element of unpredictability: the places and performances that tourist staff and tourists enact are never completely identical to the scripts in staff handbooks, marketing material, guidebooks and so on (Larsen 2005). Performative metaphors challenge ideas of complete standardisation and control because they highlight fluidity and malleability of human activity (Weaver 2005:6) and the manifold roles that we can play: “Notions of tourism as performance indicate that a range of roles can be selected and enacted through experience, from disciplined rituals to partially improvised performances to completely improvised enactions

Goffman and the Tourist Gaze


in unbounded spaces. Thus, the same tourist may act out a medley of roles during a single tour or holiday” (Edensor 2000:341). In much tourism writing, places are presumed to be relatively fi xed, given, passive and separate from those touring them. While the metaphor of the theatre thus seems an appropriate way of grasping tourism performances, it also carries some problematic connotations regarding space. This is also the case with Goffman’s work in that is does not say much about the performative production and regulation of space (of course, the exception is his discussion of front-stage and back-stage regions). “Too often”, as anthropologist Simon Coleman and cultural geographer Mike Crang point out, “dramaturgical metaphors suggest perfor mance occurs in a place—reduced to a fi xed, if ambient container” (Coleman and Crang 2002a:10). Hence, the multiple ways in which the stage for tourist performance is socio-materially produced is not sufficiently examined. The performance turn destabilises such static and fi xed conceptions of places and sites. Yet, there is something uniquely Goffmanian in the way that the performance turn treats space and place; they are seen as something contingently accomplished through performances. Places and performances are conceived as non-stable and contingent enactments. As Edensor argues: The nature of the stage is dependent on the kinds of performance enacted upon it. For even carefully stage-managed spaces may be transformed by the presence of tourists who adhere to different norms. Thus, stages can continually change, can expand and contract. For most stages are ambiguous, sites for different performances. (Edensor 2001:64) Like this, tourism performances are not separated from the places where they happen; they are not taking place in inert and fi xed places. Tourist places are produced places, and tourists are co-producers of such places. They are performances of place that partly produce and transform places and connect them to other places. Most tourist places are ‘dead’ until actors take the stage and enact them: they become alive and transformed each time new plays begin, face-to-face proximities are established and new objects are drawn in. Indeed, it can be argued that places only emerge as tourist places, stages of tourism, when they are performed (Bærenholdt, Haldrup, Larsen and Urry 2004). Lastly, the performance turn is inspired by Goffman’s ethnographic approach. The performance turn has challenged representational and textual readings of tourism, in which bodies and places often end up being reduced to ‘travelling eyes’, by making ‘ethnographies’ of what humans and institutions do—enact and stage—in order to make tourism and performances happen. So the performance turn represents a move to ethnographic research in tourism, as we will see in the next section where I discuss in detail my performance approach to tourist photography.


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PERFORMING TOURIST PHOTOGRAPHY . . . just as a Coca-Cola ad might feature a well-dressed, happy looking family at a posh beach resort, so a real family of modest means and plain dress might step up their level of spending during ten days of summer vacation, indeed, that a self-realizing display is involved by making sure to photograph themselves onstage as a well-dressed family at a posh summer resort. (Goffman 1976:27) Vacationing is probably that single event where most snapshot images are taken, and it is almost unthinkable to travel for pleasure without bringing the lightweight camera along and returning home with many snapshot memories. In much literature, the camera work of tourists is too easily and too quickly seen as passive, superfi cial and disembodied, a discursive prefigured activity of ‘quotation’. For instance, the metaphor of the ‘vicious hermeneutic circle’ is paradigmatically employed to illustrate the choreographed nature of actual photographic sightseeing (Albers and James 1988; Osborne 2000; Schroeder 2002; Jenkins 2003). This ‘vicious hermeneutic circle’ effectively suggests that people travel in order to see and photograph what they have already consumed in image form. It captures the idea that sightseeing is about consuming signs or markers. This model essentially portrays commercial photography as an all-powerful machinery that turns the photographic performances of ‘tourists’ into a ritual of quotation by which tourists are framed and fi xed rather than framing and exploring (see Osborne 2000:81). Being apparently too automatic and too instantaneous, it is not regarded as a performance as is dance, walking, painting and so on; it is preformed rather than performed. It renders an image of tourist photography as an over-determined stage that permits no space for creativity, self-expression or the unexpected. This explains the many studies of commercial images and the neglect of photography performances enacted, and the images produced, by tourists themselves. Tourist studies have predominately been preoccupied with ‘dead’ images, thus excluding from analysis the lively social practices producing tourism’s sign economy. A too-fi xed focus on already produced images and already inscribed sights and places render the tourist a passive sightseer—‘all eyes, no bodies’—consuming sights in prescribed fashions, and places become lifeless, predetermined and purely cultural. Analysing photographs “without looking for practices can only produce a mortuary geography drained of the actual life that inhabits these places” (Crang 1999:249). Consequently, writings on tourist photography have produced lifeless tourists, eventless events and dead geographies. Edward Said once briefly observed that “the very idea of representation is a theatrical one” (Said 1995:63). The vicious hermeneutic circle obscures the fact that much camerawork might be densely performed, bodily and creatively. Grasping tourist photography as a performance can highlight

Goffman and the Tourist Gaze


the embodied practices and social dramas of it. Humans enact photography bodily, creatively and multi-sensually in the company of significant others (one’s family, partner, friends and so on) and with a (future) audience at hand or in mind. The humanly performed aspects of tourist photography are visible in relation to practices of ‘taking’ photos, ‘posing’ for cameras, ‘choreographing’ posing bodies, ‘watching’ photographing tourists and ‘consuming’ photographs. The camerawork of tourists is concerned not only with ‘consuming places’ (Urry 1995) or hegemonic ‘place-myths’ (Shields 1991) but also with Goffmanian self-presentation and ‘strategic impression management’ enacted by teams of friends, couples and especially families through what I have coined ‘the family gaze’ (Haldrup and Larsen 2003; Larsen 2003, 2005). One advantage of this performative approach is that it does not a priori reduce the significance of family photography to an ideological reproduction of the loving nuclear family as is widespread in the sociological literature of family photography (e.g. Bourdieu 1990), but instead explores how people do photography and present places and themselves photographically. It thus represents a shift from why to how, from studying functions of photography to doings and actions of photography (that might reproduce discourses of loving family life), and crucially, such performative actions are both representational (e.g. posing, self-representation and drawing on cultural discourses) and non-representational (they involve interactions, work, sociability, etc.), that is, all photography performances are always more-than-representational. This also means that photography produces new rather than mirrors situations, which is in line with Goffman’s idea that the self and social groups are a dramaturgical effect emerging through the enactment: A status, a position, a social place is not a material thing to be possessed and then displayed; it is a pattern of appropriate conduct, coherent, embellished, and well-articulated. Performed with ease or clumsiness, awareness or not, guile or good faith, it is none the less something that must be enacted and portrayed, something that must be realized. (Goffman 1959/1969:75) Goffman’s metaphors of ‘expressive messages’, ‘impression management’, ‘giving’/‘giving off’ information, ‘idealisation’ and ‘front-stages’/‘backstages’ are productive for portraying tourist photography as performance. Goffman’s point is that we all play roles and have done so since childhood even though we often lack dramaturgical awareness. But when we are faced by the camera-lens we become extraordinarily aware of our psychobiological and cultural body, its appearance and manner, and the setting we are part of, and we pose by reflex to ‘give’ an appropriate ‘personal front’ in Goffman’s term. Being photographed is one social situation where dramaturgical awareness always seems to arise; it is a form of bodily communication concerned with expressive messages. As Roland Barthes stated in


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an almost Goffmanian fashion: “I have been photographed and I knew it. Now, once I feel myself observed by the lens, everything changes: I constitute myself in the process of ‘posing’, I instantly make another body for myself, I transform myself in advance into an image” (Barthes 2000:10). Poses (one example of impression management) are integral to photography. It seems to be a ‘law’ of photography that we pose when camera-faces gaze at us. When one is being photographed one cannot avoid ‘giving off’ information, but through posing one can try to convey a specific image for the future (see Larsen 2005). And yet this posing often goes unnoticed as ‘expressive messages’, as Goffman says, and “must often preserve the fiction that they are uncalculated, spontaneous and involuntary” (Goffman 1963:14). A Goffmanian interpretation of self-presentation in photography would be that we do not pose in a particular fashion because we have a certain nature or self but because we have learned to do so in a particular fashion when the social situation calls for a specific pose: poses do not reflect as much as they bring forth selves (Goffman 1976). This is because . . . a correctly staged and performed scene leads the audience to impute a self to a performed character, but this imputation—the self—is a product of the scene that comes of it’. The self, then, as a performed character, is not an organic thing that has a specific location, whose fundamental fate it is to be born, to mature, and to die: it is a dramatic effect arising diffusely from a scene that is presented, and the characteristic issue, the crucial concern, is whether it will be credited or discredited. (Goffman 1959/1969:244–245) Performances cannot be explained by refereeing back to peoples’ selves; rather, the self emerges through performances. The self is a ‘dramatic effect’; that is, it is continuously created in ‘public’ performances. Photography is part of the ‘theatre’ that people enact to produce their desired and expected self-image and togetherness, wholeness and intimacy with their partner, family and friends (Kuhn 1995; Hirsch 1997:7; Holland 2001). Frictions are almost automatically put on hold and even dead gatherings become full of life when the camera appears. Virtually all picturing amounts to a front-stage of encoded and enacted impression management. Not all enacted love for the camera is necessarily ‘sincere’; Goffman also highlights how performers may be ‘cynical’ or ‘secretive’ (Goffman 1959/1969:28). He makes the case that performance often is about presenting one’s true face, but ‘idealisation’ is another common dramaturgical practice (Goffman 1959/1969:47). As Goffman mentions: Given the fragility and the required expressive coherence of the reality that is dramatized by a performance, there are usually facts which, if attention is drawn to them during the performance, would discredit,

Goffman and the Tourist Gaze


disrupt, or make useless the impression that the performance fosters. These facts may be said to provide ‘destructive information’. In other words, a team must be able to keep its secrets and have its secrets kept. (Goffman 1959/1969:141) As Annette Kuhn (1995) so poignantly exposes in her book Family Secrets, family photographs can be full of secrets, secrets that are hidden (more or less convincingly) for the audience. Even families where little affection is shown tend to perform affectionate family life for the camera. That photographing often involves ‘teamwork’ and ‘audiences’ also indicate the usefulness of studying it as performance. Photographing is typified by complex social relations between photographers, posers and present, imagined and future audiences. It is common that posers are instructed by photographers or other members of the team to bring into being certain appropriate fronts (the most common being: ‘Smile’!) or break off inappropriate fronts or activities. There can thus be conflicts between the team members about what poses are appropriate, say, between an instructing mother and her posing teenager daughters about whether their impression should signify pleasantness or coolness. Goffman once said that “we have party faces, funeral faces, and various kinds of institutional faces” (Goffman 1963:28). And to this list of faces we may add ‘happy tourist faces’ for the camera—something I will now discuss drawing on my ethnographic observations of picturing tourists at tourist attractions and readings of tourists own photographs (Larsen 2003, 2005; Haldrup and Larsen 2009). Tourist photography is intimately tied up with joyful moments and happy faces. Careful impression management ensures returning home with ‘lovely’ photographic memories of apparently ‘loving’ family life. Most tourists express a simultaneous desire to make pictures of and at destinations. They are looking out for what Goffman calls ‘physical settings’ such as viewing-stations, beautiful spots and nice views to frame their family members within. The art is to place one’s loved ones in the attraction in such a way that both are represented aesthetically with grace. The aim here is to produce ‘personalised’ postcards: to stage the family within the attraction’s socially constructed aura. When tourists are faced by the ‘camera eye’, tourists do indeed make other bodies for themselves. Activities and walking are put on hold, and in posing, people present themselves as desirable future memories. People have learned the importance and the pleasure of exhibiting themselves in a world in which the consciousness of one’s constant visibility has never been more intense. Reflecting that photography generally does not so much reflect ‘realities’ as produce them, new bodies and ‘ways of being together’ are constantly produced when camera action begins. Family frictions are almost automatically put on hold when the camera appears. Stressed parents, bored teenagers and crying kids are instructed to put on a happy face and embrace one another before the camera begins to click. Even when picturing in the


Jonas Larsen

back-stage regions of the secluded beach and private holiday house, body management and social disciplining takes place: Public masks are put on rather than lifted. Nearly all family picturing amounts to a front-stage of encoded and enacted impression management. The space of ‘ordinary’ tourist photography is an omnipresent ‘privatised front-stage’, a hybrid of the ‘private-in-public’ of ‘front-stage-in-back-stage’. On this stage most tourist teams co-produce one social body that is ceremoniously displayed. Everyone expresses respect for the photographic event by posing in a dignified way; gentle smiles are worn, bodies are straightened, hands are kept at sides. No one pokes fun or monopolises attention (for ethnographic evidence of this, see Bærenholdt, Haldrup, Larsen and Urry 2004, Chapter 6). This neatly ties into Goffman’s idea that perhaps the most general situational propriety of all is the role of obliging participants to ‘fit in’. Touch—body-to-body or what Goffman terms ‘shoulder hold’ and ‘handholding’ (Goffman 1976:55–56)—is an essential dramaturgical practice to especially tourist family photography (and commercial advertising photography, see Goffman 1976). When cameras appear, almost as a reflex people assume tender, desexualised postures holding hands, hugging and embracing. ‘Arms around shoulders’ or ‘shoulder hold’ is the common way friends and family members bond as one social body (see Figure 13.1). Tourist photography simultaneously produces and displays the family’s closeness. The proximity comes into existence because the camera event draws people together. Such staged intimacy tends to be put to an end when the shooting has finished (it would be rather inappropriate to carry on hugging even a good friend once the photo is taken!). To produce signs of

Figure 13.1 Photograph by Jonas Larsen.

Goffman and the Tourist Gaze


loving and intimate family life, families need to enact it physically, to touch each other. To produce signs of affections they need to be affective. Signs of affections equal affections (signifieds) in family hugs. So tourist photography produces unusual moments of intimate co-presence rare outside the limelight of the camera eye. This ties into Goffman’s central idea that “one of the most interesting times to observe impression management is the moment when a performer leaves the back region and enters the place where the audience is to be found, or when he returns therefrom, for at these moments one can detect a wonderful putting on and taking off of character” (Goffman 1959/1969:123). Lastly, ‘civil inattention’ and ‘courtesy’ are common at tourist destinations. Passing strangers take little interest in other tourist’s private dramas. Tourists do not stare at each others photography performances; they are not each others audiences. This explains why not many people seem to be uncomfortable with staging the ‘intimate’ in the midst of the public. People are not looking over their shoulders, waiting for other tourists to get out of the line of sight or rushing from the event. That tourist photography is often enacted at busy scenes brimming with families on set does not cause ‘snap-rage’. To cite one tourist at a busy tourist attraction: “Most people are polite enough to move when they see you with a geared-up camera. Few cause annoyance by passing straight through a setting. People have become more considerate of one another, aware that other people want good family photos too; they’re very thoughtful . . . ” (cited in Larsen 2003:134). And to cite a father: “I don’t even think about it [other tourists]. It’s a tourist attraction, so you have buses and lots of people. That’s the reality . . . Well, if we want to stage and take a picture of the family . . . we just wait for our turn” (cited in Larsen 2003:134). Thus, a whole culture of waiting, taking turn and ‘looking out’ for photo performances is in place: the tourist is entitled to photograph his/her family on its own and not to be ‘flashed’ by other tourists. That is precisely why the ‘family gaze’ can be performed satisfactorily in often crowded tourist places.

CLOSING STAGES This chapter has explored how the work of Erving Goffman has travelled into and been mobilised by cultural scholars of tourism and travel. I began with noting how tourism and travel were not social occasions Goffman systematically studied nd yet we have seen how Goffman’s sociological sensibility and metaphorical imagination increasingly inform and inspire theories and concrete studies of tourism and travel. Given Goffman’s idiosyncratic style and method that do not offer much ‘choreography’ for researchers who wish to enact Goffmanian sociology, his presence in the tourism and travel literature has been mostly subterranean, out of sight. Yet, this chapter has discussed various forms of work in which Goffman’s


Jonas Larsen

sociology takes the front-stage, occasionally playing the main role but most often sharing the stage with other practice and performance-oriented social and cultural scholars such as Pierre Bourdieu, Nigel Thrift and Judith Butler, just to name a few (Edensor 2000, 2001; Larsen 2005). I have shown how Goffman’s metaphors of ritual as well as the theatrical metaphor of back-stage and front-stage regions played leadings roles in Dean MacCannell’s classic work on tourist authenticity and ‘sight sacralisation’. It was then argued that contemporary tourism theory is typified by a performance turn in which the influence of Goffman is omnipresent although most of the literatures only sporadically cite his work. One exception, as I have shown in this chapter, is my own work on tourist photography that explicitly discusses tourist photography in a Goffmanian fashion as performance. Broadly speaking, the Goffmanian element to the performance turn lies in its insistence on studying tourism as embodied ‘social situations’ where corporeal performances constantly initiate, unfold, progress and come to an end. The performance turn is concerned with the ‘doings of tourism’. Yet, this turn also moves beyond Goffman’s somewhat narrow perspective. While Goffman never really examined the power relations involved in face-to-face interactions in public life (although it is an implicit issue in this writing on mental institutions), the performance turn addresses power in relation to employers vs. employees, hosts vs. guests as well as wider structural questions of political economy and global order, reflecting that the pleasures of touristic mobility are unequally distributed both within national societies and across the globe. Moreover, whereas Goffman in the main is concerned with ‘representational doings’ (broadly understood), the performance turn in tourism is more-than-representational. Finally, I have shown how research inspired by Goffman’s study of faceto-face meetings argues that tourist performances are not only tied up with forms of exotic tourism, but through a ‘tourism of meetingness’ friends and family members can enjoy each other’s company from time to time, in other places. What this literature shows is that in increasingly mobile societies where social networks are distanciated more and more, tourist travel is about having ‘necessary’ face-to-face meetings with significant others, friends and family members, living elsewhere. Hopefully this chapter has succeeded in showing why Goffman’s sociology seems absolutely ‘necessary’ for contemporary and future theories and studies of tourism mobilities.

REFERENCES Albers, Patricia C. and William R. James (1988): “Travel Photography: A Methodological Approach”. Annals of Tourism Research, 15:134–158. Adler, Judith (1989): “Travel as Performed Art”. American Journal of Sociology, 94:1366–1391. Barthes, Roland (2000): Camera Lucida. London: Vintage. Bauman, Zygmunt (1995): Life in Fragments. Oxford: Blackwell.

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Boden, Deirdre and Harvey Molotch (1994): “The Compulsion of Proximity”, in Roger Friedland and Deidre Boden (eds.): Nowhere: Space, Time and Modernity. Berkeley: University of California Press. Bourdieu, Pierre (1990): Photography: A Middle-Brow Art. Cambridge: Polity Press. Bærenholdt, Jørgen O., Michael Haldrup, Jonas Larsen and John Urry (2004): Performing Tourist Places. Aldershot: Ashgate. Coleman, Simon and Mike Crang (2002a): “Grounded Tourists, Travelling Theory”, in Simon Coleman and Mike Crang (eds.): Tourism: Between Place and Performance. Oxford: Berghahn Books. Coleman, Simon and Mike Crang (eds.) (2002b): Tourism Between Place and Performance. Oxford: Berghahn Books. Crang, Mike (1999): “Knowing, Tourism and Practices of Vision”, in David Crouch (ed.): Leisure/Tourism Geographies: Practices and Geographical Knowledge. London: Routledge. Crang, Phil (1994): “Its Showtime: On the Workplace Geographies of Display in a Restaurant in South East England”. Environment and Planning D, 12:675–704. . (1997): “Performing the Tourist Product”, in Chris Rojek and John Urry (eds.): Touring Cultures: Transformations of Travel and Theory. London: Routledge. Dann, Graham (1996): The Language of Tourism: A SocialLlinguistic Perspective. Wallingford: Cab International. Edensor, Tim (1998): Tourists at the Taj: Performance and Meaning at a Symbolic Site. London: Routledge. . (2000): “Staging Tourism: Tourists as Performers”. Annals of Tourism Research, 27:322–344. . (2001): “Performing Tourism, Staging Tourism—(Re)producing Tourist Space and Practice”. Tourist Studies, 1:59–81. Franklin, Adrian and Mike Crang (2001): “The Trouble with Tourism and Travel Theory?”. Tourist Studies, 1 (1):5–22. Goffman, Erving (1959/1969): The Presentation of the Self in Everyday Life. New York: Doubleday. . (1963): Behavior in Public Places: Notes on the Social Organization of Gatherings. New York: Free Press. . (1971): Relations in Public: Microstudies of Social Order. New York: Basic Books. . (1976): Gender Advertisements. London: Harper. Hirsch, Marianne (1997): Family Frames: Photography, Narrative and Postmemory. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. Haldrup, Michael and Jonas Larsen (2003): “The Family Gaze”. Tourist Studies, 3:23–46. . (2009): Tourism, Performance and the Everyday: Consuming the Orient. London: Routledge. Holland, Patricia (2001): “Personal Photography and Popular Photography”, in Liz Wells (ed.): Photography: A Critical Introduction. London: Routledge. Jacobsen, Michael Hviid (2008): “Goffman Meets Bauman at the Shopping Mall—en diakron konfrontation om selv, samfund og sociologi”. Sociologi i dag, 38 (3):37–71. Jacobsen, Michael Hviid and Søren Kristiansen (2006): “Goffmans metaforer—om den genbeskrivende og rekontekstualiserende metode hos Erving Goffman”. Sosiologi i dag, 36 (1):5–33. Jenkins, H. Olivia (2003): “Photography and Travel Brochures: The Circle of Representation”. Tourism Geographies, 5 (3):305–328. Kuhn, Annette (1995): Family Secrets: Acts of Memory and Imagination. London: Verso.


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Larsen, Jonas (2003): Performing Tourist Photography. PhD thesis from the Institute of Environment, Society and Spatial Change, Roskilde University. Available at: . (2005): “Families Seen Sightseeing: Performativity of Tourist Photography”. Space and Culture, 8:416–434. . (2008): “De-Exoticizing Tourist Travel: Everyday Life and Sociality on the Move”. Leisure Studies, 27 (1):21–34. Larsen, Jonas, John Urry and Kay Axhausen (2006): Mobilities, Networks, Geographies. Aldershot: Ashgate. Larsen, Jonas, John Urry and Kay Axhausen (2007): “Networks and Travel: The Social Life of Tourism”. Annals of Tourism Research, 34:244–262. Larsen, Jonas and Michael Hviid Jacobsen (2009): “Metaphors of Mobility—Inequality on the Move”, in Timo Ohmacht, Hanja Makism and Manfred Max Bergman (eds.): Mobilities and Inequality. Aldershot: Ashgate. MacCannell, Dean (1976/1999): The Tourist: A New Theory of the Leisure Class. New York: Schocken Books. Osborne, Peter (2000): Travelling Light: Photography, Travel and Visual Culture. Manchester: Manchester University Press. Perkin, C. Harvey and David C. Thorns (2001): “Gazing or Performing? Reflections on Urry’s Tourist Gaze in the Context of Contemporary Experience in the Antipodes”. International Sociology, 16:185–204. Pine, B. Joseph and James H. Gilmore (1999): The Experience Economy. Boston: Harvard Business School Press. Said, Edward (1995): Orientalism: Western Conceptions of the Orient. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books. Schroeder, Jonathan (2002): Visual Consumption. London: Routledge. Selwyn, Tom (1996): “Introduction”, in Tom Selwyn (ed.): The Tourist Image: Myths and Myth Making in Tourism. Chichester: John Wiley. Shields, Rob (1991): Places on the Margin: Alternative Geographies of Modernity. London: Routledge. Urry, John (1990): The Tourist Gaze. London: Sage Publications. . (1995): Consuming Places. London: Routledge. . (2002): The Tourist Gaze (Second Edition). London: Sage Publications. . (2003): “Social Networks, Travel and Talk”. British Journal of Sociology, 54 (2):155–175. . (2007): Mobilities. London: Routledge. Weaver, Adam (2005): “Interactive Service Work and Performative Metaphors: The Case of the Cruise Industry”. Tourist Studies, 5 (1):5–27.

14 Erving Goffman and Everyday Life Mobility Ole B. Jensen

INTRODUCTION Contemporary social life is marked by increasing levels of physical movement of people, goods and symbols. Within this context much theoretical activity points at notions of globalisation and the network society (e.g. Castells 1996). Such macro-theoretical interpretations capture only parts of the meaning of contemporary mobility. In this chapter the thesis is that by exploring contemporary mobility practices in an everyday life context and by applying theories and concepts coined by Erving Goffman, a much richer sociological vocabulary emerges. The chapter contains a rereading of Goffman with the ambition of presenting a vocabulary that makes the macro-societal conditions for contemporary mobility comprehensible from the vantage point of the ‘little practices’ of everyday life. The exploration of everyday life mobility using Goffman as guide makes us see that waiting in line for the bus, riding the subway, biking to work or the freeway commute are by no means neither just instrumental practices of getting from A to B nor trivial acts of physical displacement. Goffman’s insights into the ‘little practices’ of social life substantiate that contemporary everyday life mobility is produced by and reproducing culture and social norms. Goffman’s concepts provide us with a rich vocabulary describing how everyday life mobility in the contemporary city is regulated both formally and informally. Clearly, Goffman’s immediate applicability is more relevant in ‘micro-mobility’ studies than in, for example, studies of global migration and large-scale population shifts, even though such ‘macro-phenomena’ could also be studied at the ‘micro-level’ (this distinction being perhaps less fruitful at the end of the day). The chapter offers a novel way of conceptualising the sociological meaning of an important contemporary phenomenon as it invites application of Goffman’s work to a new field. This is in particular explored in the concepts of the ‘mobile with’ and the ‘networked self’ where the legacy of Goffman is put to use analysing the phenomenon of everyday life mobility. In contemporary social theory, within sociology and human geography in particular, there has for some time been an interest in physical mobility

334 Ole B. Jensen as a field of study in its own right. John Urry terms this the ‘mobility paradigm’ or the ‘mobility turn’ (Urry 2000, 2007). It crosses sociology, geography but also architecture and design (see Cresswell 2006; Jensen 2006, 2007, 2009; Kaufmann 2002). Within these strands of social theory there is a renewed focus on issues that used to be central to sociology like the city and its inhabitants. However, in a globalised era the notion of the city has become wedded to concepts like mobility, networks and mediated interaction in order to capture some of the new complexity characterising contemporary urban everyday life. It is in relation to this ambition that the chapter explores the value of rereading a thinker like Erving Goffman (see Jensen 2006 for a reading of Goffman and Simmel on the topic of mobility). The chapter is structured into four sections. After the introduction we move into some of Goffman’s own thinking related to mobility in section two. This was not a prime concern for Goffman as in the contemporary ‘mobility turn’. However, reading Goffman today with an interest in mobility, it is striking to observe the many examples that he in fact uses from the realm of everyday life mobility. In section three the chapter moves into another territory trying to ‘think with Goffman’ in the sense that we argue for the value of two Goffman-inspired concepts developed for the study of contemporary urban mobility: the ‘mobile with’ and the ‘networked self’. The chapter ends in section four with a few concluding remarks.

GOFFMAN AND URBAN MOBILITY Goffman has been declared to belong to many different theoretical corners or camps of the sociological landscape—from game theorist to carrier of the legacy from Émile Durkheim to symbolic interactionism (see Jacobsen and Kristiansen 2002:25–27 as well as their contribution in this volume for a description and discussion of the ‘war over Goffman’). Seen as part of ‘symbolic interactionism’, Goffman stresses the face-to-face interaction in everyday life situations (Ritzer 1992). Still, he comes up with explorations of much more general phenomena than simple conversations or street meetings. Often this was done by creating and applying metaphors. Goffman’s use of metaphors has given rise to a debate in his reception. Does the coining of metaphors lead to a conflation between methodology and theory as some seem to suggest? Or is his working with metaphors to be understood as a creative and abductive approach enriching the capacity for social analysis and understanding? (See Jacobsen and Kristiansen 2006; Rigney 2001, for reports on this debate.) In this chapter, we shall subscribe to the latter of these interpretations and see the creation of metaphors within Goffman’s vocabulary as one of the very central and fruitful elements in his social analysis in general and in his understanding of everyday life mobility in particular. One of Goffman’s most important metaphorical tools for understanding the sociology of everyday life interaction is his ‘dramaturgical metaphor’,

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whereby social agents ‘play roles’ in accordance with more or less self-conscious ‘scripts’ for social action (Goffman 1959). In this way, our social life is marked by the expressions we send, as we attempt to control how these are perceived by others. As Goffman observes: “The expressiveness of the individual appears to involve two radically different kinds of sign activity: the expression that he gives and the expression he gives off” (Goffman 1959:2). The point is that we might intend not to express ourselves but we cannot (as soon as we engage in social interaction) avoid ‘giving off’ signs, signals and expressions that will be interpreted by our consociates. In the words of Goffman, “performers can stop giving expressions but cannot stop giving them off” (Goffman 1959:108). Furthermore, the dramaturgical metaphor led Goffman to coin the concepts of ‘front-stage’ and ‘back-stage’ regions (Goffman 1959)—concepts that have had profound implications for the understanding of the dividing line between private and public spaces in the city (Madanipour 2003). In Goffman’s PhD thesis on communication and interaction in a Shetland Island community from 1953 much of the ground is laid out for the later perspective. This also includes sensitivity to the meaning of mobility even though this never became articulated as an explicit focus in his theoretical efforts. Thus, from his studies in a remote and isolated island community Goffman already saw the importance of mobility, e.g. to the way island inhabitants greet each other. So the particular mode of transportation and the particular infrastructure had repercussions on what Goffman terms ‘road salutations’ (Goffman 1953:181–188). Furthermore, the physical location and movement of the interacting persons were seen as important to the defi nition of the ‘sending positioning’ of a communicating agent (Goffman 1953:202–203). However, we may say that these early writings only in a very indirect manner took on the issue of mobility as a sociological field of investigation.

BEHAVIOR IN PUBLIC PLACES One of the most obvious pointers from Goffman’s work into the study of mobility comes from the attention he directed to the fact that we manage to get around in busy and dense social settings without constantly coming to a halt or even colliding. The conceptual tool explaining this is the notion of ‘civil inattention’. In his book Behavior in Public Places, Goffman defi nes the concept of ‘civil inattention’ in the following manner: What seems to be involved is that one gives to another enough visual notice to demonstrate that one appreciates that the other is present . . . while at the next moment withdrawing one’s attention from him so as to express that he does not constitute a target of special curiosity or design. (Goffman 1963:84)


Ole B. Jensen

With reference to Goffman, John Urry argues that meetings are especially important in ‘facework’ between people who interact (Urry 2007). The term ‘facework’ is precisely Goffman’s terminology for how we, as consociates, both give and take impressions by means of our (facial) expressions in face-to-face interactions. Interestingly, the many transit spaces of our global network society facilitate meetings of all sorts. Thus, they are sites of mobile face-to-face interaction. Many empirical examples inhabiting Goffman’s analytical universe in the book on behaviour in public places have to do with mobility, as here in a comment on long-distance travel: Airplane and long-distance bus travel have here underlined some interesting issues. Seatmates, while likely to be strangers, are not only physically too close to each other to make non-engagement comfortable, but are also fi xed for a long period of time, so that conversation, once begun, may be difficult thereafter either to close or sustain. (Goffman 1963:139) This feature will be of some importance in the discussion of the ‘mobile with’ later in this chapter. Moreover, Goffman saw the practice of the street-meeting as more than just moving from location A to B: One of the most significant infractions of communication rules has to do with street accosting. There are, of course, some legal restrictions placed upon its varieties, upon begging, peddling, and pestering in public streets. But in the main, the force that keeps people in their communication place in our middle-class society seems to be the fear of being thought forward and pushy, or odd, the fear of forcing a relationship where none is desired—the fear, in the last analysis, of being rather patently rejected or even cut. (Goffman 1963:140) What on the surface looks rather trivial—a random meeting in the street— becomes in this perspective an important window into profound social processes that make up actual everyday life.

THE INDIVIDUAL AS A UNIT In the essay “The Individual as a Unit”, Goffman articulates many thoughtprovoking arguments and much of what has inspired this chapter. Again the scene is related to that of mundane mobility: City streets, even in times that defame them, provide a setting where mutual trust is routinely displayed between strangers. Voluntary coordination of action is achieved in which each of the two parties has a

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conception of how matters ought to be handled between them, the two conceptions agree, each party believes that this agreement exists and each appreciates that this knowledge about the agreement is possessed by the other. In brief, structural prerequisites for rule by convention are found. Avoidance of collision is one example of the consequence! (Goffman 1972:17) Moving about either as pedestrian or as an airborne jetsetter is a symbolic act of identity construction as well as it is an expression of physical movement: Take, for example, techniques that pedestrians employ in order to avoid bumping into one another. These seem of little significance. However, there are an appreciable number of such devices; they are constantly in use and they cast a pattern of street behaviour. Street traffic would be a shambles without them. (Goffman 1972:6; emphasis in original) From this, it should be clear that the basic ways of getting around in the city by no means are trivial features of urban life. Goffman’s understanding of such complex relationships predates the now wide-spread ‘actor network theory’ or ANT (Latour 2005) and its dismissal of the agent as isolated from environment and objects (not all agree on the sociological importance of ANT; see e.g. Dant 2004 for a critique of ANT, social agency and intentionality in relation to mobility). Partly in parallel to the way ANT sees ‘hybrid connections’ between agent and object, so did Goffman see the mobile agent as both embedded in and embedding a so-called ‘vehicular unit’: A vehicular unit is a shell of some kind controlled (usually from within) by a human pilot or navigator. A traffic code is a set of rules whose maintenance allows vehicular units independent use of a set of thoroughfares for the purpose of moving from one point to another. (Goffman 1972:6) Vehicular units (cars, planes etc.) are in Goffman’s terms a sort of ‘thick skin’. In this perspective, “the individual himself, moving across roads and down streets—the individual as pedestrian—can be considered a pilot encased in a soft and exposing shell, namely his clothes and skin” (Goffman 1972:7). Inspired by ANT and Goffman in analysing the production of lived mobility within the subway systems of London, Paris and Copenhagen, I thus conclude that trains, trails, stations, platforms, escalators, metro staff, travellers, signs, commercials, musicians, homeless, police force, tickets, ticket machines, power supplies, newspaper stands, coffee shops, customers, etc., are assembled into socio-technical systems producing the lived mobility of metro travellers in London, Paris and Copenhagen. The specific assemblage within the socio-technical systems is ‘what makes

338 Ole B. Jensen metro mobility’ by means of sorting, fi ltering, circulating and orchestrating mobilities (Jensen 2008:22). Material objects are, however, not only functional (or dysfunctional) but also symbolic and semiotic. Sign-giving in traffic is also about interaction. Much of it is codified within legal frameworks specifying the meaning of various signs. However, mobile units, artifacts and objects also have semiotic properties. Thus, the meaning of seeing a Mercedes Benz in the rear-view mirror differs from seeing a Morris Minor. Visible and conspicuous car brands or high-end biking equipment become important mobile identity requisites. As one of the central concepts to be developed later in this chapter is the ‘mobile with’, we must initially explore Goffman’s own defi nition of a ‘with’. Goffman defi nes a ‘with’ as “a party of more than one whose members are perceived to be ‘together’” (Goffman 1972:19). As Goffman was less explicit in elaborating on this defi nition, we here follow Ron Scollon and Sue Scollon in their way of making the notion more operational. Accordingly, a ‘with’, in Goffman’s sense, is characterised by: civil inattention to non-members, proximity to members, the right to initiate talk and interaction amongst members, availability of interactions to members, ritual practices for joining and departing and greater latitude in behaviour than members would have as singles in a comparable situation (Scollon and Scollon 2003:60). Later, when we develop the notion of ‘networked self’, we shall have to be critical about the proximity requirement. The contemporary urban situation is marked by many groups that are connectedin-motion (perhaps still mostly young ones) and where we would argue that we are dealing with ‘mobile withs’ even though they are beyond close proximity. This is exactly the potential of the ‘digital layer’ that in a sense has been added to the physical city; that we can keep being related and even deepen our relationships despite being on the move and even moving in opposite directions and places in the city. Moreover, the notion of rituals for becoming a member might be more loosely defi ned. In some contexts there defi nitely exist rituals and informal rules, like when waiting in line for the bus in the United Kingdom or when seating in a carriage. However, contemporary Danish practices related to waiting, entering or seating, for example in a bus, seem not to be governed by much more than personal utility and comfort. In his presidential address to the American Sociological Association in 1982 entitled “The Interaction Order”, Goffman became more explicit in his articulation of the relationship between the interaction order, ‘withs’ and mobility: One can start with persons as vehicular entities, that is, with human ambulatory units. In public places we have ‘singles’ (a party of one) and ‘withs’ (a party of more than one), such parties being treated as self-contained units for the purpose of participation in the flow of pedestrian social life. A few larger ambulatory units can also be men-

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tioned—for example, fi les and processions, and, as a limiting case, the queue, this being by way of a stationary ambulatory unit. (Goffman 1983:6) In a longer essay termed “Remedial Interchanges”, also from the book Relations in Public, Goffman explicitly acknowledges the ‘mobile sensemaking’ that takes place when everyday life mobility is being practiced: When the individual is in a public place, he is not merely moving from point to point silently and mechanically managing traffic problems; he is also involved in taking constant care to sustain a viable position relative to what has come to happen around him, and he will initiate gestural interchanges with acquainted and unacquainted others in order to establish what this position is! (Goffman 1972:154) From this short exploration into a few of Goffman’s ideas we shall now briefly look into some Goffman-inspired research projects that all centre on mobility before we turn towards the redevelopment of two central concepts.

THE SOCIOLOGY OF THE FAMILIAR AND OTHER GOFFMAN-INSPIRED RESEARCH A collection of articles all inspired by the work of Goffman appeared in the publication People in Places: The Sociology of the Familiar (Birenbaum and Sagarin 1973). Amongst the many contributions to this publication, two chapters are of particular interest here. These are the chapter on the behaviour of pedestrians by Michael Wolff (1973) and the chapter on subway behaviour by Janey Levine, Ann Vinson and Deborah Wood (1973). Both contributions deal with elements of urban mobility seen through Goffman-inspired frameworks. In accordance with the aforementioned notion of the ‘mobile with’ to be developed in the next section of this chapter, the research of Wolff found that people in public transit constitute a co-acting group or a ‘team’ (Wolff 1973:35). The second contribution to the publication made by Levine, Vinson and Wood (1973) deals with field observations made on the subways of Boston and New York. One of the crucial elements in the informal regulation of subway behaviour seems to be the way one enters and fi nds a place in the compartments. The process of selecting a seat is governed by a principal need to sit alone only dispensed with in cases of shortage of free seats. The newcomer thus performs on a ‘stage’ already inhabited and symbolically inscribed by the passengers already there. Both the pedestrian study and the subway study indicate that Goffman’s concepts are empirically very relevant to studies of urban mobility practices.


Ole B. Jensen

More recently, from field studies in Vienna, Hong Kong, Beijing, Washington DC, and Paris, Ron Scollon and Sue Scollon map how we shape our ‘interaction order’ by means of reading discourses in place. For example, on the corner of Tat Chee Avenue and To Yuen Street in Hong Kong’s Kowloon District, there is a major crossing point. Pedestrians mix with vehicular traffic in a complex setting termed a ‘semiotic aggregate’. What is typical of semiotic aggregates is that they are full of signs and symbols within (at least) four general categories: regulatory discourses (e.g. municipal orders), infrastructural discourses (e.g. municipal signs), commercial discourses (e.g. street commercials or billboards) and transgressive discourses (e.g. graffiti) (Scollon and Scollon 2003:181). The regulatory discourse is formally present in all cases in the form of traffic lights, but the informal ‘mobility culture’ differs immensely as people wait for the green light in an empty street of Vienna, whereas they walk as they please in Hong Kong. Furthermore, the way the mobile urban dwellers are integrated in the ‘interaction order’ means that there is a link between the way we move through the city and the way we perceive ourselves (and want others to perceive us). Thus, when we cross the street there is an intimate and important relationship between mobility, social order and identity: The fi rst consideration is the habitus of the social actor himself or herself. Am I the sort of person who waits for the walk light or do I cross when the road is free of traffic? Am I the sort of person who worries about whether others are watching me? Do I even notice? (Scollon and Scollon 2003:199) Arguably, everyday life mobility is more than merely moving from location A to B as we produce understandings of self and other whilst on the move. The time has now come to put this insight to the test in terms of further development of central concepts from Goffman’s vocabulary. In other words, time has come to ‘think mobilities’.

THINKING MOBILITIES WITH GOFFMAN AS INSPIRATION In this section, we will develop the concepts of the ‘mobile with’ and the ‘networked self’. We cannot claim that these concepts are completely new, as Goffman for example in his essay “The Individual as a Unit” came very close to the ideas behind the notion of the ‘mobile with’. Having said this, however, Goffman obviously could not foresee the technological developments that have produced mobility within the last three decades in a very different way than in his lifetime. Equally the notions discussed here are much more explicit in relation to mobility which for Goffman was more an example than an important analytical focal point in itself.

Erving Goffman and Everyday Life Mobility


The ‘Mobile With’ As we have seen, the interaction order of the social situation is the pivotal focus of Goffman’s writings. Despite mentioning a number of examples related to mobility and traffic, Goffman did not, however, take his point of departure in the fact that much of what defi nes social situations and interactions is the dynamics of physical meetings and departures, or in other words: mobility. Here we shall explore the potential for including the mobile dynamics of the situation by focusing on how many social encounters develop by the simple fact that social agents move towards, pass by or come to stop due to their physical movement in space. Still we remain, however, at the level of the individual. We saw Goffman’s well developed sensitivity to the ‘individual as a unit’ and needless to say much of our engagement with others must be seen from the vantage point of the personal embodied experience. Having said this though, there is an under-theorised dimension in understanding how mobility with others makes an equally important feature of urban everyday life. So next to the ‘mobile self’ we may argue that the ‘mobile with’ becomes an important analytical category. On the street amongst our fellow moving consociates we saw in Goffman the rich vocabulary of how individuals navigate and interact on their way through the city. However, rarely do we move about on our own in the sense that we meet no one (which may be the explanation to why a latenight stroll or walking across town very early in the morning carries its own strange magic). Think of the way we walk down a pedestrian area— minding our own business using all the civilised techniques Goffman so vividly explored. However, facing a stop light we pause and even though this might be for only a very short spell of time we become ‘the group of pedestrians waiting for the green light’. Needless to say, this rarely leads to any deep interaction of shared destinies, unless we include the marginal experiences of something very dramatic happening like a car that tracks off road and hits the group (often we hear about total strangers meeting under dramatic circumstances like an air crash or a ship wreck who later become intimately bonded by this common existential experience). However, in the mundane and ordinary everyday life we make multiple ‘temporary congregations’ as we are slipping in and out of different ‘mobile withs’. So the ‘mobile with’ comes into being very quickly and can be dissolved equally swiftly. The everyday life experience with ‘mobile withs’ thus carries a certain ephemeral quality to it. ‘Mobile withs’ might be exemplified by groups of recreational runners or cyclists (who might also be illustrative of the notion of the ‘networked self’ if they carry GPS transmitters and mobile phones to orchestrate their activities). ‘Mobile withs’ could be thought of as roving groups of football supporters in cars cruising after the victory (or car-cruising youth in general). We also fi nd ‘mobile withs’ engaged in much closer proximity doing ‘body-work’, as for example people walking arm-in-arm. Such collective body mobility may be in the form of the ‘escort’, which again could be divided into helping less mobile persons,

342 Ole B. Jensen police arrests, bouncing practices of the pub bouncer ‘performing mobility’ on an unwanted customer or the loving couple strolling along. Hand-inhand ‘mobile withs’ equally illustrate the collective body work as either in the ‘parent-child with’ or the couple performing mobility. Obviously, we may sustain the ‘mobile with’ over longer periods of time, as when Goffman illustrates the bus journey or the subway trip, or when we struggle to fi nd our place and role within a ‘mobile with’ of, for example, the train compartment. This is similar when we engage in long distance travel by train or plane where the complexity and requirements for presenting oneself and sustaining the order of the ‘mobile with’ becomes an even more delicate matter. For example, Goffman mentions the fact that there is a subtle balance to strike in opening a conversation to one’s seatmate in a long distance flight. Having opened up the conversation may imply a certain obligation to continue for the rest of the trip. Here we might pause to think about how many more ‘mobile withs’ we can think of: the bus waiting line, pedestrians and bicyclists waiting for green light at the traffic light, fellow travellers (in public transportation like planes, busses, trains, boats), fellow travellers in private means of transportation cruising down the highway (predominantly cars), fellow travellers not in the same vehicle (bikes on a bike path), groups strolling the city shopping, drinking or socialising, or the Sunday drive. All these examples of ‘mobile withs’ have to do with what we want to term ‘temporary congregations’. They may take place on escalators, in lifts, on sidewalks, bike lanes, freeway lanes, in fl ight waiting lines and all other places where we meet and move alongside one another for a short period of time. However, these examples are thought of mostly as examples of the non-acquainted. But many times the ‘mobile with’ is composed of individuals very familiar with each other. We may arrange a trip together with friends and family members where the movement in itself becomes very central (as in the coast-to-coast U.S. car vacation or the family holiday to distant and sunny places). But also coincidental meetings with people we know can turn into ‘mobile withs’ as when we meet an old friend we have not seen for a long time and decide to keep each other company on the road. Somewhere in between the fully-planned and very mobility-conscious set of practices (e.g. the family holiday) and the coincidental meeting we may for example fi nd the night out on the town ‘pub crawling’ as the English would term it. Or the shopping trip with a friend or family. Here the ‘mobile with’ might have a prior established route (particular bars and pubs or specific shops) or the ‘mobile with’ may have no other rationale other than to drift about aiming for either a drink or an unplanned shopping experience. We may stop here to pause and rethink the relation to Goffman’s concepts. In fact, Goffman did develop