chapter  8
18 Pages

Reading Goffman on interaction

WithRod Watson

My interest in Goffman’s analysis derives in part from a more generic interest in how sociologists describe the phenomena they observe and how these descriptions at the analytic level are related to society-members’ common-sense description of those ‘selfsame’ phenomena. Consequently, I intend in this chapter to examine the stylistic devices Goffman uses in the linguistic-textual presentation of his work and through which he attempts to render visible the mundane objects of everyday life. The observation that the commonplace phenomena of ordinary life unremittingly resist any attempt to render them visible is often made but seldom dealt with. Garfinkel usually refers to this difficulty as ‘getting the goldfish to become aware of the water’; that is, it is difficult to strip away the taken-forgrantedness which is an integral feature of such a phenomena and which all but buries them from view in the natural attitude-an attitude all too pervasively employed by very many sociologists. These phenomena are, to be sure, taken into account by lay society-members but are taken into account in a routine way, as part of the background of manifest action rather than as explicit matters.