“As already suggested, when the individual first learns who it is that he must now accept a his own, he is likely, at the very least, to feel some ambivalence; for these others will not only be patently stigmatized, and thus not like the normal person he knows himself to be, but ma also have other attributes with which he finds it difficult to associate himself. What may end up as a freemasonry may begin with a shudder. A newly blind girl on a visit to The Lighthouse [probably the Chicago Lighthouse, one of the oldest social service agencies in Chicago serving the blind or visually impaired] directly from leaving the hospital provides an illustration:
„My questions about a guide dog were politely turned aside. Another sighted worker took me in tow to show me around. We visited the Braille library; the classrooms; the clubrooms where the blind members of the music and dramatic groups meet; the recreation hall where on festive occasion the blind play together; the cafeteria, where all the blind gather to eat together; the huge workshops where the blind earn a subsistence income by making mops and brooms, weaving rugs, caning chairs. As we moved from room to room, I could hear the shuffling of feet, the muted voices, the tap-tap-tapping of canes. Here was the safe, segregated world of the sightless — a completely different world, I was assured by the social worker, from the one I had just left….
I was expected to join this world. To give up my profession and to earn my living making mops. The Lighthouse would be happy to teach me how to make mops. I was to spend the rest of my life making mops with other blind people, eating with other blind people, dancing with other blind people. I became nauseated with fear, as the picture grew in my mind. Never had I come upon such destructive segregation.“ (p.37)”
― Erving Goffman, Stigma: Notes on the Management of Spoiled Identity
“All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players.” William Shakespeare may have written these words in As You Like It in 1600, but Erving Goffman truly defined the phrase with his dramaturgical theory. Dramaturgical analysis is the study of social interaction in terms of theatrical performance. Unlike actors though, who use a script telling them how to behave in every scene, real life human interactions change depending upon the social situation they are in. We may have an idea of how we want to be perceived, and may have the foundation to make that happen. But we cannot be sure of every interaction we will have throughout the day, having to ebb and flow with the conversations and situations as they happen.
Adopted into sociology by Erving Goffman, he developed most terms and the idea behind dramaturgical analysis in his 1959 book The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life. This book lays out the process of human social interaction, sometimes called "impression management". Goffman makes the distinction between "front stage" and "back stage" behavior. “Front stage" actions are visible to the audience and are part of the performance. We change our hair color, eye color, complextion. Wearing make-up, the way our hair is styled, the clothes we wear. The demeanor we present to the world to the. All of these things lead to an outward appearance of what we want others to think we are. People engage in "back stage" behaviors when no audience is present. We whine and moan about the customers we deal with. Hair goes un-styled, make is wiped off. Clothing is comfortable and unrestricting. When a person conducts themselves in certain way not consistent with social expectations, it is often done secretly if this behavior is satisfying to the individual. When “performing”, people are able to hide things about themselves that may not be consistent with the rituals of the audience. It would appear that many rehearse their performance, allowing themselves to correct any flaws in their performance before giving it.
The theory of dramaturgy is considered a micro theory, under the category of “interpretive”, which also includes interactionism, ethomethodology, and phenomolohy.
In The Presentation of Everyday Life, Goffman lays out the seven elements that create a performance: belief in the role that is being played, the front or ‘mask’, dramatic realization, idealization, maintenance of expressive control, misrepresentation, and deception/mystification. Using the simple description of someone interviewing for a job, we can see that “As he seeks to assume the role of an ideal employee (idealization), he tries (in his performance) to convey a certain image about himself through his dress, his speech, and his expressions (his front), emphasizing those things that he wants the interviewers to know (dramatic realization). He has to maintain control over these expressions throughout the interview (maintenance of expressive control). Any...
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