Pub. Date:
Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Interaction Ritual / Edition 1

Interaction Ritual / Edition 1

by Erving GoffmanErving Goffman
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In a brilliant series of books about social behavior, including The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life, Asylums, and Stigma, Erving Goffman has exposed all that is at stake when people meet face to face. Goffman’s work, once of the great intellectual achievements of our time, is an endlessly fascinating commentary on how we enact ourselves by our responses to and our readings of other people.
From the exemplary opening essay of Interaction Ritual, “On Face-Work,” —a full account of the extraordinary repertoire of maneuvers we employ in social encounters in order to “save face”—to the final, and classic, essay “Where the Action Is,”—an examination of people in risky occupations and situations: gamblers, criminals, coal miners, stock speculators—Goffman astounds us with the unexpected richness and complexity of brief encounters between people. For Goffman, as for Freud, the extreme cases are of interest because of the light they shed on the normal: The study of the trapeze artist is worthwhile because each of us is on the wire from time to time.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780394706313
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date: 02/01/1982
Edition description: 1st Pantheon Books ed
Pages: 288
Product dimensions: 4.28(w) x 7.20(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

ERVING GOFFMAN is the author of, among other works, Interaction Ritual, The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life, Asylums, and Stigma. He is Benjamin Franklin Professor of Anthropology and Sociology at the University of Pennsylvania.

Read an Excerpt

The study of face-to-face interaction in natural settings doesn’t yet have an adequate name. Moreover, the analytical boundaries of the field remain unclear. Somehow, but only somehow, a brief time span is involved, a limited extension in space, and a restriction to those events that must go on to completion once they have begun. There is a close meshing with the ritual properties of persons and with the egocentric forms of territoriality.
The subject matter, however, can be identified. It is that class of events which occurs during co-presence and by virtue of co-presence. The ultimate behavioral materials are the glances, gestures, positionings, and verbal statements that people continuously feed into the situation, whether intended or not. These are the external signs of orientation and involvement—states of mind and body not ordinarily examined with respect to their social organization.
The close, systematic examination of these “small behaviors” has begun to develop, stimulated by impressive current studies of animals and of language, and supported by the resources available for the study of interaction in “small group” and the psychotherapies.
One objective in dealing with these data is to describe the natural units of interaction built up from them, beginning with the littlest—for example, the fleeting facial move an individual can make in the game of expressing his alignment to what is happening—and ending with affairs such as week-long conferences, these being the interactional mastodons that push to the limit what can be called a social occasion. A second objective is to uncover the normative order prevailing within and between these units, that is, the behavioral order found in all peopled places, whether public, semi-public, or private, and whether under the auspices of an organized social occasion or the flatter constraints of merely a routinized social setting. Both of these objectives can be advanced through serious ethnography: we need to identify the countless patterns and natural sequences of behavior occurring whenever persons come into one another’s immediate presence. And we need to see these events as a subject matter in their own right, analytically distinguished from neighboring areas, for example, social relationships, little social groups, communication systems, and strategic interaction.
A sociology of occasions is here advocated. Social organization is the central theme, but that is organized is the co-mingling of persons and the temporary interactional enterprises that can arise therefrom. A normatively stabilized structure is at issue, a “social gathering,” but this is a shifting entity, necessarily evanescent, created by arrivals and killed by departures.
The first vie papers in this book appear in the order of their original publication with only a few editorial changes; the sixth, comprising almost half of the volume, is published here for the first time. I’m afraid there is not much that is botanical about them. But they do focus on one general issue that remains of interest to the ethnographer and will always have to receive some consideration.
I assume that the proper study of interaction is not the individual and his psychology, but rather the syntactical relations among the acts of different persons mutually present to another. None the less, since it is individual actors who contribute the ultimate materials, it will always be reasonable to ask what general properties they must have if this sort of contribution is to be expected of them. What minimal model of the actor is needed if we are to wind him up, stick him in amongst his fellows, and have an orderly traffic of behavior emerge? What minimal model is required if the student is to anticipate the lines along which an individual, qua interactant, can be effective or break down? That is what these papers are about. A psychology is necessarily involved, but one stripped and cramped to suit the sociological study of conversation, track meets, banquets, jury trials, and street loitering.
Not, then, men and their moments. Rather moments and their men.

Table of Contents

Introduction • 1

On Face-Work • 5

The Nature of Deference and Demeanor • 47

Embarrassment and Social Organization • 97

Alienation from Interaction • 113

Mental Symptoms and Public Order • 137

Where the Action Is • 149

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