Erving Goffman has been called the most influential American sociologist of the 20th century (although he was born and did his early studies in Canada) thanks to his study and writing centered on the social interactions of everyday life. In books ranging from 1959′s The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life to the next decade’s Interaction Ritual to 1981′s Forms of Talk, the sociologist examined how the small things ultimately were writ large.
A quarter century after his death in 1982 of stomach cancer at age 60, Goffman came in sixth in The Times Higher Education Guide as the most-cited author in the social sciences and humanities, just ahead of the prolix Jürgen Habermas. As the title of Presentation suggests, the onetime president of the American Sociological Association and mid-century doyen of symbolic interaction noted the nexus of the performed with the enacted, and was the academic who brought the idea of dramaturgical analysis into sociology. (Goffman is also the subject of a four-volume collection of his work edited by Gary Alan Fine and Gregory W.H. Smith that SAGE published in 2000.)
In the latest Social Science Bites podcast, available at the Social Science Space website, social psychologist Peter Lunt, professor of media and communication at the University of Leicester, discusses his own inquiries into Goffman’s corpus, especially how Goffman approached many of his subjects with “an ethnographer’s eye.” Interviewer Nigel Warburton and Lunt discuss some of the more salient events in Goffman’s academic career, including how used the idea of “backstage” to interpret human actions and how he spent more than a year as a fly-on-the-wall observer at a psychiatric hospital.
Beyond Goffman, Lunt’s own research interests often center on the public and the presented, including his widely covered work on talk shows and reality TV.
The hear the podcast, click HERE.
Social Science Bites is made in association with SAGE. For a complete listing of past Social Science Bites podcasts, click here.