International Encyclopaedia
of the Histories of Anthropology

Erving Goffman (1922-1982) was born in Alberta, Canada, to Ukrainian Jewish parents. He was one of the most influential American sociologists of the second half of the 20th century. He began his sociology studies in Toronto before moving to Chicago, where he studied with William Lloyd Warner and Everett Hughes. Ethnographic observation occupies a privileged and decisive place in the conduct of his work and the construction of his theoretical tools. As part of his doctoral research, he made a field trip to the Shetland Islands in 1952. He built a theory of interactionism that he called “dramaturgical”, willingly using theatrical vocabulary to describe his observations of interactions in everyday life. In 1955-1956, he moved to a psychiatric hospital in Washington. He produced a masterpiece, Asylums, published in 1961, which describes the workings of a totalitarian institution from the point of view of internees. He taught at the Universities of Berkeley (1957-1968) and Pennsylvania (1968-1982). He is the author of a major work, focusing on rites of interaction and the construction of social identity through ritual, stigma and individual relationship.

Keywords: Sociology | Ethnography | United States of America | Social theory | Rites of interaction | Power

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