Goffman, E. 1967. Interaction Ritual: Essays in Face-to-Face Behavior.

Goffman, Erving. 1967. Interaction Ritual: Essays in Face-to-Face Behavior. Chicago: Aldine.

Subject of study: “The ultimate behavioral materials are the glances, gestures, positionings, and verbal statements that people continuously feed in to the situation, whether intended or not” (1).

On Face-Work

Lines mediate interpersonal contact – “a pattern of verbal and nonverbal acts by which he expresses his view of the situation and through this his evaluation of the participants, especially himself” (5). Happens un/intentionally, will result in impression on others.  Face as “the positive social value a person effectively claims for himself by the line others assume he has taken during a particular contact” (5) – done through self-delineation in terms of socially-acceptable attributes, in desire of approval.  Interactions of face construct norms and rules of a group, of interaction – structures definition of the situation, and (emotional) work that is to be shared amongst the group. Though one must manage face in particular situations, one must be conscientious of social world that structures other relations, simultaneously. Face, and control of it, is necessary for maintaining expressive (social) order, which is often built around sustaining (illusion of) face for all interactional members (unless, as noted in subscripts, there is a competition, even so, there are “rules” of court and “gentlemanly” order).  Types of face work – avoidance, corrective (amending the state of “ritual disequilibrium” through compensation of offended, punishment of self). “The human tendency to use signs and symbols means that evidence of social worth and of mutual evaluations will be conveyed by very minor things, and these things will be witnessed, as will the fact that they have been witnessed” (33). These symbols and gestures legitimize participation in interaction, define conversation. “The general capacity to be bound by moral rules may well belong to the individual, but the particular set of rules which transforms him into a human being derives from requirements established in the ritual organization of social encounters” (45).

The Nature of Deference and Demeanor

Durkheimian and students of Radcliffe-Brown understand symbolic meaning as it is given toward constructing the solidarity of the group that uses said meaning. Rules may be given because of economic, moral, or social rules, but also upon appropriateness and with notions of justice (kx^ who deems these ideas or rules as such?)  Rules demand individuals’ obligations through direct obligations, or how a person is constrained to conduct self, and through indirect expectations, which form how people are, morally, supposed to act toward that person. These may be un/consciously met. In breaking these, both actor and respondent are threatened. Division in substantive rules and expressions (law, morality, ethics) and ceremonial rules and expressions (etiquette). Deference as “that component of the activity which functions as a symbolic means by which appreciation is regularly conveyed to a recipient of the recipient, or of something of which this recipient is taken as a symbol, extension, or agent” (56).  Established through rituals – as a means to construct ideal interactions, future interaction? Deference demonstrated in avoidance (of bodies, of taboo topics, of physical places) and presentation (where actors deliberately appreciate recipients). Demeanor as “that element of the individual’s ceremonial behavior typically conveyed through deportment, dress, and bearing, which serves to express to those in his immediate presence that he is a person of certain desirable or undesirable qualities” (77). Good demeanor suggests desire to maintain social order, interactions, and offer/receive proper deference. Individuals cannot suggest themselves into qualities of demeanor. Sometimes, expected deference interferes with notions of demeanor. Ceremonial profanations – a type of purposeful interactional vandalism takes place upon others, or as actions/comments on self. To be able to offer full deference and demeanor, there may be material needs necessary for this performance.


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