A Critical Introduction to Media and Communication Theory
2. Goffman’s Ideas
c h a p t e r t w o Goffman’s Ideas We have spent quite some time trying to understand who Goﬀman was. The ef- fort has paid oﬀ, because we discovered several patterns running throughout his life. This chapter is divided into three sections according to the major themes in his work. First, Goﬀman systematically attempted to unravel the complexities of face-to- face interaction. Whether he was in the Shetlands, at St. Elizabeth’s, or in Las Vegas, he wanted to use his fieldwork site as a natural laboratory to study the “grammar” of interaction. He successively used several conceptual frames, but the essential object under scrutiny remained the same: the moments (and their men, as he once said, but not men and their moments). In other words, interaction comes first, with emphasis on individuals participating in that interaction playing a sec- ondary role. Second, no matter how cynical he may have appeared, he was a staunch de- fender of the weakest: “faulty persons” in the Shetlands, “inmates” at St. Elizabeth’s, and more generally, “stigmatized” people, especially women. This recurring theme seems to be at odds with the first, but actually it provides a sense of balance to the entire work: it shows that Goﬀman had a deep sense of social justice—although he certainly had no care for political correctness. Third, Goﬀman was a communication scholar, in spite of his repeated denials. No matter what issue he tackled, he used a dynamic angle of...
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