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Interaction in public places

Smith, Robin James ORCID: 2022. Interaction in public places. Hviid Jacobsen, Michael and Smith, Greg, eds. The Routledge International Handbook of Goffman Studies, Abingdon and New York: Routledge, pp. 97-107. (10.4324/9781003160861-10)

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In this chapter I introduce, review, and reconsider Erving Goffman’s seminal writings on interaction in public places. As is well known, Goffman’s sociology was primarily concerned with the fundamentally public character of social life and the demands that social settings and co-presence placed upon the self. Indeed, across his work, Goffman attempted to draw sociological attention to how interaction and communication was not to be straightforwardly understood or reduced to the performances of individuals but, rather, the settings and places in and through which those performances were brought off. At the same time, Goffman was also a fierce critique of then contemporary commentaries on public spaces that, as he characteristically put it, treated urban public life as a ‘convenience’ rather than an arena of serious study. And Goffman certainly did take the arena seriously, arming the social sciences with an array of concepts through which to better apprehend a life lived in public among strangers. Moreover, whilst Goffman is rightly best remembered for advancing philosophical treatments of the social self through an attention to everyday life, it is, I suggest, his writings on public spaces that provide for a thoroughgoing engagement with his theory of interaction order and his unique treatment of sociology’s stock-in-trade categories of structure and agency. In this chapter, then, I review Goffman’s key concepts and bring them and his somewhat static view of social settings into dialogue with more recent developments in interactionism and studies of public space more generally.

Item Type: Book Section
Date Type: Published Online
Status: Published
Schools: Social Sciences (Includes Criminology and Education)
Publisher: Routledge
ISBN: 9781003160861
Last Modified: 11 Nov 2022 12:45

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