Goffman, Erving


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The Canadian social scientist Erving Goffman taught at universities in Scotland and the USA. His interest was in the detailed analysis of everyday behaviour in various settings. He examined the way in which the social context – for example, being in a prison or mental hospital – affects the roles we can adopt and the ways we can interact. His research is thus as much an analysis of social institutions as individual behaviour, and so it belongs to sociology or anthropology. However, he has influenced social psychology, because he stresses that an individual's behaviour is best seen as a manoeuvring process within the framework of roles and norms that the social setting makes available.
Goffman was the author of many books, most famously The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life (1959), and Asylums (1961), a book which was influential in the anti-psychiatry movement.