Stigma is an illuminating excursion into the situation of persons who are unable to conform to standards that society calls normal. Disqualified from full social acceptance, they are stigmatized individuals. Physically deformed people, ex-mental patients, drug addicts, prostitutes, or those ostracized for other reasons must constantly strive to adjust to their precarious social identities. Their image of themselves must daily confront and be affronted by the image which others reflect back to them.
Drawing extensively on autobiographies and case studies, sociologist Erving Goffman analyzes the stigmatized person’s feelings about himself and his relationship to “normals” He explores the variety of strategies stigmatized individuals employ to deal with the rejection of others, and the complex sorts of information about themselves they project. In Stigma the interplay of alternatives the stigmatized individual must face every day is brilliantly examined by one of America’s leading social analysts.
A sociology of occasions is here advocated. Social organization is the central theme, but what is organized is the co-mingling of persons and the temporary interactional enterprises that can arise therefrom. A normatively stabilized structure is at issue, a "social gathering," but this is a shifting entity, necessarily evanescent, created by arrivals and killed by departures. The major section of the book is the essay "Where the Action Is," drawing on Goffman's last major ethnographic project observation of Nevada casinos.
Tom Burns says of Goffman's work "The eleven books form a singularly compact body of writing. All his published work was devoted to topics and themes which were closely connected, and the methodology, angles of approach and of course style of writing remained characteristically his own throughout. Interaction Ritual in particular is an interesting account of daily social interaction viewed with a new perspective for the logic of our behavior in such ordinary circumstances as entering a crowded elevator or bus." In his new introduction, Joel Best considers Goffman's work in toto and places Interaction Ritual in that total context as one of Goffman's pivotal works: "His subject matter was unique. In sharp contrast to the natural tendency of many scholars to tackle big, important topics, Goffman was a minimalist, working on a small scale, and concentrating on the most mundane, ordinary social contacts, on everyday life.'"
Erving Goffman was Benjamin Franklin Professor of Anthropology and Sociology at the University of Pennsylvania until his death in 1982. He is recognized as one of the world's foremost social theorists and much of his work still remains in print. AldineTransaction will reissue Asylums with a new introduction in 2006. Joel Best is chair and professor at the Department of Sociology and Criminal Justice, University of Delaware.
In Relations in Public, Erving Goff man provides a grammar of the unspoken language used in public places. He shows that the way strangers relate in public is part of a design by which friends and acquaintances manage their relationship in the presence of bystanders. He argues that, taken together, this forms part of a new domain of inquiry into the rules for co-mingling, or public order.
Most people give little thought to how elaborate and complex our everyday behavior in public actually is. For example, we adhere to the rules of pedestrian traffic on a busy thoroughfare, accept the usual ways of acting in a crowded elevator or subway car, grasp the delicate nuances of conversational behavior, and respond to the rich vocabulary of body gestures. We behave differently at weddings, at meals, in crowds, in couples, and when alone. Such everyday behavior, though generally below the level of awareness, embodies unspoken codes of social understandings necessary for the orderly conduct of society.