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Erving Goffman

A Critical Introduction to Media and Communication Theory


Yves Winkin and Wendy Leeds-Hurwitz

Although Erving Goffman never claimed to be a media or communication scholar, his work is definitely relevant to, and has already served as a substantial resource for, those who are. This is the first detailed presentation and analysis of his life and work intended specifically for a communication audience. While primarily an introduction to Goffman’s work, those already familiar with his ideas will also learn something new. In addition to summarizing Goffman’s major concepts and his influence on other scholars, the book includes an intellectual biography, explication of his methods, and an example of how to extend his ideas. Readers are invited to consider Goffman as a lens through which to view much of the pattern evident in the social world. Goffman’s work always appealed to the general public (several of his books became bestsellers), and so this book has implications for those who are interested in the role of media or communication in their own lives as well as those who study it professionally.


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1. Who Was Goffman?


c h a p t e r o n e Who Was Goffman? This book is not a biography of Erving Goffman, yet a few key elements of his bi- ography are worth knowing in order to understand his work better, especially when we try to understand his choices of fieldwork sites and his successive changes of conceptual frames. Thus, chapter 1 of this book provides a rapid overview of Goff- man’s life and the gradual development of his ideas.1 Both authors had interactions with him at different points, and we discuss them, one at the start and one at the end of this biographical section. Writing Intellectual Biography We were a dozen students waiting in the hallway of the Anthropology Museum of the University of Pennsylvania where Goffman used to teach. We did not know each other and we did not speak to each other. I (YW) had no idea what he looked like. Suddenly, a short, stocky guy in khakis pulling a bike showed up. Was that the Erving Goffman, one of the best-known sociologists in the world? Yes, it was. I could not believe it. He noticed my presence (I had talked to him by phone, and came with an introduction from Pierre Bourdieu; I must have looked European enough for him to recognize) and came up to me. His head barely reached my shoulder, and I am only 5' 7". “Hi, buddy, come and see me after class.” Winkin Final_Winkin...

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