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erving goffman - 14 Erving Goffman GARY ALAN FINE AND...

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14 , , Erving Goffman GARY ALAN FINE AND PHILIP MANNING Erving Goffman has a hold on the sociological imagination. While he was perhaps not as broad or subtle a theorist as Durkheim, Simmel, Marx, or Weber, the images and slogans of this scholar have become an integral part of the discipline. The dramaturgical metaphor has become sociology's second skin. As a consequence, Erving GoHman is arguably the most influential American l sociologist of the twentieth century. While this bald statement would be accepted by many, two additional features are also widely accepted. First, GoHman himself can hardly be considered a conventional social theorist. In his thirty-year academic career GoHman did not attempt to develop an overarching theory of society; nor did he raise issues that speak to transhistorical concerns of social order. While on occasion GoHman referred to other social theorists, such references were typically included in passing, and his work does not contain a systematic confrontation with other sociological theorists. GoHman's work can be characterized equally by those central sociological issues that he did not discuss (or did so only briefly), and those that he explored so brilliantly. Second, Goffman does not easily fit within a specific school of sociological thought. Although he was often linked to the symbolic interactionist perspective, he did not readily accept this label (see Goffman (1969, pp. 136-45) for his account of the limitations of this approach). Further, Goffman did not produce a close-knit school of younger scholars who saw themselves as following his agenda (Grimshaw, 1983, p. 147). GoHman embraced and transformed the ideas of certain important social theorists (Dur- kheim, Simmel, Blumer, and Hughes, and Schutz), and the work of others, who might be labeled his "students," was profoundly influenced by contact with Goffman (John Lofland, Gary Marx, Harvey Sacks, Eviatar Zerubavel, Carol Brooks Gardner, Emmanuel Schegloff, David Sudnow, and Charles and Marjorie Goodwin). However, it is odd, given Goffman's influence, that there are
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459 458 GARY ALAN FINE AND PHILIP MANNING remarkably few scholars who are continuing his work. In part, this is because GoHman has a signature style, but it is also because Goffman's stylistic approach is not broadly valued in the discipline (Abbott, 1997). This paradox must be at the heart of any analysis of Erving Goffman's theoretical legacy. GOFFMAN'S LIFE Erving Manual Goffman was born in Mannville, Alberta, on June 11, 1922, to Ukrainian Jewish parents. His parents, Max and Ann, were among the 200,000 Ukrainians who migrated to Canada between 1897 and 1914 (Winkin, 1988, p. 16). Along with his sister, Frances, he was brought up in Dauphin, near Winnipeg, where later, in 1937, he attended St John's Technical High School. Winkin (1988) reports that, for unknown reasons, his friends called him "Pookie." GoHman showed an initial interest in chemistry, which he pursued at the University of Manitoba in 1939.
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