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Goffman - lf that socral roles ltcfides of public:th two...

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Unformatted text preview: lf' . ' that socral roles ltcfides of public. :th two are now 6 PERFORMANCES Belief in the part one is playing Ewing Ggflman When an individual piays a part he implicitly requests his observers to take seriously the impression that is fostered before them. They are asked to believe that the character they see actually possesses the attributes he appears to possess, that the task he performs will have the consequences that are implicitly claimed for it, and that, in general, matters are what they appear to be. In line with this, there is the popuiar view that the individual offers his performance and puts on his show “for the benefit of other people.” It will he convenient to begin a consideration of performances by turning the question around and looking at the individual’s own belief in the impression of reality that he attempts to engender in those among whom he finds himself. At onecstienie one findsthaththgperformer can be fully taken in by his own act; he can he sincerely conv hat the impression of reaiity which he stages is the real reaiity. When his audience is also convinced in this way about the show he puts on -— and this seems to be the typical case ,. then, for the moment at least, only the sociologist or the socially disgruntled will have any doubts about the “realness” of what is presented. At the other extreme, we find that the performer may not ,be taken in at all by his own routine. Tlifsfpossilfilityflis understandable, since no one is in quite as good an observational position to see through the act as the person who puts it on. Coupled with this, the performer may be moved to guide the conviction of his audience only as a means to other ends, having no uitimate concern in the conception that they have of him or of the situation. When the individual has no belief in his own act and no ultimate concern with the beliefs of his audience, we may call him cynical, reserving the term “sincere” for individuals who believe in the impression fostered by their own performance. It should be understood that the cynic, with all his professional disinvolvement, may obtain unprofessional pleasures from his maSquerade, experiencing a kind of gleeful spiritual aggression from the fact that he can toy at will with something his audience must take scriousiy.l It is not assumed, of course, that all cynical performers are interested in deluding their audiences for purposes of what is called “self—interest” or private gain. A cynical individual may delude his audience for what he considers to he their own good, or for the good of the community, etc. For illustrations of this we need not appeal to sadly enlightened showmen 59 JERVING GOFFMAN such as Marcus Aurelius or Hsun Tzfi. ‘We know that in service occupations practitioners who may otherwise be sincere are sometimes forced to delude their customers because their customers show such a heartfelt demand for it. Doctors who are led into giving placebos, filling station attendants who resignedly check and recheck tire pressures for anxious women motorists, shoe clerks who sell a shoe that fits but tell the customers it is the size she wants to hear — these are cynical performers whose audiences will not allow them to be sineeie Similally, it seems that sympati 1etic patients. in mentai wards will sometimes feign bizarre symptoms so that student nurses will not be subjected to a disappomtingly sane pe1iormance.2 So also, when inle1i01s extend then most lavish leception l0} visiting superiors, the selfish desire to win favor may not be the chief motive; the igiiei'joiz.111ayi he tactfully attempting to put the superior at ease by simulating the kind of world the superior is thought to take for granted. _‘-mm 1 have suggested two extremes: an individual may be taken in by his own act or be cynicai about it. These extremes are something a little more than just the ends of a continuum. Each provides the individual with a position which has its own particular securities and defenses, so there will be a tendency for those who have traveled close to one of these poles to complete the voyage. Starting with lack of inward belief in one’s role, the individual may follow the natural movement described by Park: It is probably no mere historical accident that the word person in its first meaning, is a mask. It is rather a recognition of the fact that everyone is always and every— where, more or less consciously, playing a role . . . it is in these roles that we know each other; it is in these roles that we know ourselves.3 in a sense, and in so far as this mask represents the conception we have formed of 0111 selves — the iole we are striving to live up to m this mask Is our tr 11e1 sell, the self we would like to be.1u the end, our conception of 011i role becomes second natuie and an integral part of oui personality. We come into the woiid as individuals, achieve chaiacter, and become poisons. This may be illustrated from the community life of Shetland.S For the last Four or five years the island’s tourist hotei has heen owned and operated by a married couple of croi‘ter origins. From the beginning, the owners were forced to set aside their own conceptions as to how life ought to be led, displaying in the hotel a full round ofmiddleuciass services and amenities. Lateiy, however, it appears that the managers have become less cynical about the performance that they stage; they themselves are becoming middle class and more and more enamored of the selves their clients impute to them. Another iliustration may be found in the raw recruit who initially Follows army etiquette in order to avoid physical punishment and eventually comes to follow the rules so that his organization wili not be shamed and his Officers and fellow soldiers will respect him. As suggested, the cycle of dishelie{:t_oy__b,eiief 94D...,l?.§'3.,,__f9_l_1Q}€V§3d in. the other ditt.ection_,... starting with conviction or insecure aspiration and ending in cynicism. Professions which the public holds in reiigious awe often allow their recruits to foliow the cycle in this ‘ 60 1 1 direct they a he on: selves faith, requii befor: Thus, schoo years all th: years are df medi since the s audit as ar value Anot i h: whi obs as " and the biz: dist gl'C if; ractitioners ers because into giving ressures for ers it is the Irities and se poles PERFORMANCES: BELilEF 1]“! THIS PART ONE 18 PLAYING direction, and often recruits follow it in this direction not because of a slow realization that they are deluding their audienca ._. for by ordinary social standards the claims they make may be quite valid -— but because they can use this cynicism as a means of insulating their inner selves from contact with the audience. And we may even expect to find typical careers of faith, with the individual starting out with one kind ofinvolveinent in the performance he is required to give, then moving back and forth several times hetween sincerity and cynicism before completing all the phases and turningvpoints of self-beiief for a person of his station. Thus, students of medical schools suggest that ideaiistically oriented beginners in medical school typically lay aside their hoiy aspirations for a period of time. During the first two years the students find that their interest in medicine must be dropped so that they may give all their time to the task of learning how to get through examinations. During the next two years they are too busy learning about diseases to show much concern for the persons who are diseased. it is only after their inedicai schooling has ended that their original ideals about medical service may he reasserted.6 While we can expect to find natural movement back and forth hetween cynicism and sincerity, still we must not rule out the kind of transitional point that can be sustained on the strength of a little self-illusion. We find that the individual may attempt to induce the . audience to judge him and the situation in a particular way, and he may seek this judgment as an ultimate end in itself, and yet he may not completely believe that he deserves the valuation of self which he asks for or that the impression of reality which he fosters is valid. '. Another mixture of cynicism and belief is suggested in Kroeher’s discussion of sliama Next, there is the old question of deception. Probably most shamans or medicine men, the world over, help along with sleight-of—hand in curing and especially in exhibitions of power. This sleight—of—hand is sometimes deliberate; in many cases awareness is perhaps not deeper than the for-econscious. The attitude, whether there has been repression or not, seems to be as toward a pious fraud. Field ethnographers seem quite generally convinced that even shamans who know that they add fraud nevertheless aiso believe in their powers, and especially in those of . . . 7 other shamans: they consult them when they themselves or their children are ill. Front 1 have been using the term “performance” to refer to all the activity of an individual which occurs during a period marked by his continuous presence before a particular set of observers and which has some influence on the observers. it will be convenient to label as <‘front” that part of the individual’s performance which regularly functions in a general and fixed fashion to define the situation for those who observe the performance. lirgnt, then, is the eggpge ' SlllllZlIlCnt f ' dartlhincl intentionally oi__'_unwittiiigly employed by _ e. il‘idlfifidllal,..Cl.uJ:li1g.lllS—IJQilforlmn e. For preliminary purposes, it will be convenient to distinguish and label what seem to be the standard parts of front. First, there is the “setting,” involving furniture, décor, physical layout, and other back- ground items which suppiy the scenery and stage props for the spate of human action played \ 61 ERVING GOFFMAN out before, within, or upon it. A setting tends to stay put, geographically speaking, so that those who would use a particular setting as part of their performance cannot begin then act untilt they have blought themselves to the WPPI 01311ate__13hace and must terminate thei1 pe1f011n1nce when they leave it. it is only in exceptional C11 cumstmces that the setting foilows a} (mg with the pe1fo1me1s we see this in the fune1ai co1tege the civic pa1‘,ade and the d1 eam like p1ocessions that kings and queens ale made of. In the main, these exceptions seem to offer some kind of extra protection for performers who are, or who have momentarily become, highly sacred. These worthies are to be distinguished, of course, from quite profane performers of the peddler class who move their place of work between performances, often being forced to do so. In the matter of having one fixed place for one’s setting, a ruler may be too sacred, a peddler too profane. In thinking about the scenic aspects of front, we tend to think of the living room in a particular house and the small number of performers who can thoroughly identify them- selves with it. \Ne have given insufficient attention to assemblages of _5i_g.11:9§1si19ms13.t...1t1 ' ‘13 large numbers of performers can call their own for short periods of time. It is characteristic of Western European countries, and no doubt a source of stability for them, that a large number of luxurious settings are available for hire to anyone of the right kind who can afford them. One illustration of this may be cited from a study of the higher civil servant in Britain: The question how far the men who rise to the top in the Civil Service take on the “tone" or “color” of a class other that to which they belong by birth is delicate and difficult. The only definite information bearing on the question is the figures relating to the membership of the great London clubs. More than three-quarters of our high administrative officials belong to one or more clubs of high status and considerable luxury, where the entrance fee might be twenty guineas or more, and the annual subscription from twelve to twenty guineas. These institutions are of the upper class (not even of the upper middle) in their premises, their equipment, the style of living practiced there, their whoie atmosphere. Though many of the members would not be described as wealthy, only a wealthy man would unaided provide for himself and his family space, food and drink, service, and other amenities of iife to the same standard as he will find at the Union, the "fravellers’, or the Reform.8 Another example can be found in the recent development of the medical profession where we find that it is increasingly important for a doctor to have access to the elaborate scientific stage provided by large hospitals, so that fewer and fewer doctors are able to feel that their setting is a place that they can lock up at night.9 If we take the term "setting” to refer to the scenic parts of expressive equipment, one may take the term pe1sonal ham” to 1efe1 to the other items of expiessive equipment, the items that we most intimately identify with the pe1f01rne1 himself and that we naturall y expect will follow the pol f01 1ne1 whereve1 he goes As pait of peisonal ham; we may" include: insignia of high office 01 rank, clothing; sex, age, and 1acial charac ‘61 151,16 size and ing, so that begin their iinater their the setting vie parade, nain, these re, or who , of course, rk between :e for one's room in a itify them- 39,111.} *1 19h, aracteristic hat a large d who can servant in on the elicate igures iarters status more, are of 'ment, of the raided other llers’, lion where r. scientific ithat their tilent, one gui )ment, E'naturally size and 9 We may-«m PERFORMANCES: BELIEF EN THIS PART ONE 13 PLAYiNG looks; posture, speech, patterns, facial expressions; bodily gestures; and the like. Some of these vehicles for conveying signs, such as racial characteristics, are relatively fixed and over a span of time do not vary for the individual from one situation to another. On the other hand, some of these sign vehicles are relatively mobile or transitory, such as facial expression, and can vary during a performance from one moment to the next. NOTES 1 Perhaps the real crime of the confidence man is not that he takes money from victims hut that he robs all of us of the belief that middle-class manners and appearance can be sustained only by middle—class people. A disabused professional can be cynicain hostile to the service relation his clients expect him to extend to them; the confidence man is in a position to hold the whole “legit" world in this contempt. 2 See 'i‘axel, op. cit. [Harold Taxel, “Authority structure in a mental hospital ward" (unpublished master's thesis, Department of Sociology, University of Chicago, 195 3)], 4. Harry Stack Sullivan has suggested that the tact of institutionalized performers can operate in the other direction, resulting in a kind of noblcssc-obligc sanity. See his “Socio~psychiatric research,” American journal offlycliiatiy, x, 987—8: A study of“social recoveries” in one ofour large mental hospitals some years ago taught me that patients were often released from care because they had learned not to manifest symptoms to the environing persons; in other words, had integrated enough of the personal environment to realize the prejudice opposed to their delusions. it seemed almost as if they grew wise enough to be tolerant of the ilnhecility surrounding them, having finally discovered that it was stupidity and not malice. They could then secure satisfaction from contact with others, while discharging a part of their cravings by psychotic means. 3 Robert Ezra Park, Race and Culture (Glencoe, 111.: Free Press, 1950), 249. 4 Ibici., 250. 5 Shetland Isle study [research conducted by Goffman in a Shetland Island farming community. Reported in part in Goflinan, "Communication conduct in on island community” (unpublished PhD dissertation, Department of Sociology, University of Chicago, 1953)]. 6 HS. Becker and Bianehe Greer, “The fate of idealism in medical school,” Amcriam Sociological Review, 23, 50-"6. 7 A3... Kroeber, The Nature qf'CuItm-e (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 195 2), 31 l. 1-1.1;3. Dale, The Higher Civil Service ngreat Britain (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1941), SO. 9 David Solomon, “Career contingencies of Chicago physicians” (unpublished PhD dissertation, Department of Sociology, University of Chicago, 1952), 74-. 00 READER CROSS—REFERENCES Kirshenblatt-Gimhlett, Gabler -—- subsequent takes on the performance of everyday life Kaprow the blurring of art and life from the artist’s point of view Faber, l'iart‘iing —- the presentation of self in ritual contexts Butler 7 gender as part of the presentation of self 63 ...
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