The Goffman interview
In 1980 Jef Verhoeven conducted a long interview with Goffman in his house, as part of a series of such interviews with leading symbolic inter- actionists in the USA. Goffman died in 1982, during his term as President of the ASA. In 1992 Verhoeven published the text of their conversation edited to remove some ‘infelicities’. The transcript runs to 29 pages, most of which are Goffman talking about his mentors, the ideas that influenced him, his contemporaries, and his approach to sociology. Many scholars are mentioned during the interview. Goffman claimed as positive intellectual influences (in alphabetical order): Gregory Bateson, Herbert Blumer, Ernest Burgess, Kenneth Burke, C. H. Cooley, John Dewey, Emile Durkheim, Everett Hughes, G. H. Mead, W. Ogburn, Robert Park, A. R. Radcliffe-Brown, A. Schutz, G. Simmel, Lloyd Warner, Max Weber and Louis Wirth. He also mentioned the importance of Parsons as a translator of Durkheim and Weber, and the negative value he placed on W. I. Thomas and Florian
Znaniecki. It is not surprising that these are all men, for reasons discussed in Chapter 6, although a reading of Deegan (1988) or McDonald (1994) produces women who could have been in Goffman’s list.
Goffman also provided a list of his contemporaries, sociologists and social psychologists, who could be seen as symbolic interactionists. This group included, again in alphabetical order: Howard Becker, Aaron Cicourel, Fred Davis, Nelson Foote, Elliot Freidson, Harold Garfinkel, Joseph Gusfield, Orin Klapp, Ed Lemert, Alfred Lindesmith, Bernard Meltzer, Tom Shibutani, Gregory Prentice Stone, Anselm Strauss and as an after-thought, Arlene Daniels. The latter is one of only two women mentioned in the 29 published pages. The other, referred to by Goffman only as ‘The woman I lived with’, was actually the anthropologist Elizabeth Bott. Within this list it is not entirely clear which men Goffman regarded as his friends, although at one point he says: ‘They are all my best friends: I know them all very well and I’ve known them all very well for thirty years. They are the only persons I eat with at meetings’ (Verhoeven, 1992: 335). What is abundantly clear is that Goffman is describing an all-male world. His friends and his intellectual colleagues from 1950 to 1980 are all men.