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Alkazi Theatre Archives

A Bibliographic Listing from the Archive

The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life

Book:The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life
Written by: Erving Goffman
Published by:University of Edinburgh, 1956

‘The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life’ by sociologist Erving Goffman employs the analogy between theatre and everyday life in order to study the detailed analysis of face-to face conversations or encounters between people. Goffman views “interactions” as “performance” shaped by environment and audience, constructed to provide others with “impressions” that are consistent with the desired goal of the actors.The author states that when an individual appears before others he will have many motives for trying to control the impression they receive of the situation (p.15).For Goffman, a “performance” may be defined as all the activities of a given participant on a given occasion, which serves to influence the other participants, in any possible way. Goffman calls the process of “impression management” a “dramatic realization” in his study. He also argues that the performance serves mainly to express the characteristics of the task that is performed and not the characteristics of the performer (p.77).
The author believes that when people act in everyday life, they put on a ‘front’ in order to project a certain image of themselves. Goffman derives this ‘front region’ and ‘back region’ from the stage where performers encounter their audience under controlled and often somewhat formal conditions, and the back region, or backstage, where performers relax, prepare and consult with their teammates. He employs this process of presentation in terms of regions, teams, and individuals. For example, a doctor, or a bureaucrat has to perform a certain role involving multiple people coordinating their efforts. Goffman calls such groups “teams”.

“…the dramaturgical approach may constitute a fifth perspective, to be added to the technical, political, structural, and cultural perspectives. The dramaturgical perspective, like each of the other four, can be employed as the end-point of analysis as a final way of ordering facts”(p. 240).

The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life