Erving Goffman was known as a bright, acerbic sociologist who enjoyed gambling, the theatre, and Monty Python

Years ago, I thought about writing a post at this website about Erving Goffman, but thought better of it. I thought, “Yes, I find Goffman’s work of much interest, but he wrote ages ago. Who would be interested in Goffman now, these many years later?”

I was wrong. Site visitors proved me wrong. A post that I eventually wrote about how Goffman launched his career with his studies at the University of Chicago turned out to be among the most widely read posts at this website.

As it happened, over a decade ago I began reading about the history of police services in Toronto and around the world. Once I’d read all about police services around the world, I realized they were connected to world military history so I began to read all about that topic as well.

Meanwhile, I was also reading about the history of the British empire. At first, I didn’t have a clue what the British empire was about and I still don’t know much but I have a little more sanguine picture of the enterprise now, than I did when I first began to read.

British history is a little more violent than I had imagined, when I was memorizing history lectures in high school, the better to regurgitate facts and figures when it came time to write history exams.

So, where am I going with this? As I was reading, taking out enormous numbers of books from the Toronto Public Library, reading through them day and night, day after day (I was retired by then and had some free time), I began to see that references to Erving Goffman kept on cropping up in the most unlikely places, as I was reading. That’s what convinced me to start writing posts about his work.

When Erving Goffman was a boy

Goffman preferred that his private life be kept private. As things have turned out, some archives about his younger days are available, so we can in fact learn a few things about who he was, as a private individual.

Volume 37, Issue 1 February 2014) of Social Interaction is a Special Issue devoted to Erving Goffman.

I refer you to When Erving Goffman Was a Boy: The Formative Years of a Sociological Giant. The article, by Sherri Cavan, was first published on Nov. 6, 2013.

Great article. I read it with much interest.

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