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Erving Goffman
The Presentation of Self In
Everyday Life
Erving Goffman
We are all actors within the Social World, a central
theme from Goffman work.
In a sense, we are call “Fakers” or engaged in a “Con
Job” on ourselves to effect other people.
Goffman argues that the self is simply nothing more than
“Self Presentations” and “Role Performances.”
Social life as a theatre, with social scripts, performances
and actors & roles that perform in the Front and Back
Regions of self.
The concept of depicting social life as a Theatre,
Goffman developed the term Dramaturgy.
What is Dramaturgy
Dramaturgy is Impression Management
Social interactions is like a stage, the self promotes scenery
Moreover, that scenery is divided into two regions, the Front and
Back Regions.
By definition regions may be defined as any place that is bounded to
some degree by barriers to perception
When we talk about the Dramaturgical Approach to the Social World
the self is divided by perception.
The perception of the “Front Stage” and “Back Stage,” also known
as the Front and Back Regions of Behavior
Front Region
This Refers to a place where the performance is given.
In this regions the actor engages in, and performs his/hers role for
the audience.
While the Self is in the Front Region of behavior the performance of
the individual embodies certain standards.
Standards of the “Matters of Politeness” and “Decorum.”
“Matters of Politeness”
 Relates to the way in which the performer treats the audience while
engaged in talk or gestural interactions.
Refers to a set of behaviors that have to do with the way the
performer conducts himself in the visual or audio range of the
Decorum has two sub-groupings referred too as the “Moral” and the
1) Moral
 Moral Requirements refers to rules regarding non-interference and
non-molestation of others.
Ex: Sexual Propriety, and rules regarding sacred places etc.
2) Instrumental Requirement
 Refers to duties that are task oriented and secular
Ex: An employer might demand his employees to care of property or
engage in maintenance within work areas.
Back Region
Def: A back region or backstage may be defined as a place, relative
to a given performance, where the impression fostered by the
performance is knowingly contradicted.
 This area is where the suppressed facts make an appearance.
 Here the performer can relax; he can drop his front, relinquish
speaking his lines, and step out of character.
 It is here where illusions and impressions are openly constructed.
 The back region is a place where the performer can reliably expect
that no member of the audience will intrude.
 The back region or back stage is kept closed from the audience, the
entire region is meant to be kept hidden.
Ex: Perfect examples of back stage regions are kitchens within
restaurants, this area is not meant for customers to enter.
In between the Front and Back Region, there is a phenomenon
called the “Zone of Transition”
Goffman argues that this is one of the most interesting times to
observe impression management
At these in between moments one can detect a interesting putting
on and taking off of character.
However there is a Third Region
Apart from Front and Back Stage there is a third region
within the ideas of Dramaturgy.
This Region is called “The Outside”
“The Outside”
The Outside region is a residual one, everything that is
not covered in the Front or Back Regions are in “The
 Those individuals who are on “The Outside” of the social
interactions we may call outsiders.
 If we shift our considerations from the front or back
region to the outside, we tend to shift our reference
from one performance to another.
Discussion Question
If we take the Dramaturgical approach in
an attempt to define “The Self” what
would we conclude? And can we relate our
conclusion with the ideas from Post
Impression Management
Impression Management implies that there are attributes that are
required of a performer in successfully staging a character.
The Performer must Act with “Expressive Responsibility”
Expressive Responsibility
 Illustrates the idea that actors must consciously choose the manner
in which they behave and interact with others
 It is Imperative that the audience understand that a performer is
“Acting” his part and that is does not necessarily reflect the
dispositions an individual may hold privately.
However, What happens when an
actor makes a mistake and
reveals true intentions of the
The Answer to the Question: Is that Unintentional Disruptions can
Unintentional Disruption are a source of embarrassment and
dissonance for the performer, these disruptions are seperated into
three catagories, unmeant Gestures, inopportune Intrusion and faux
Unmeant Gestures
These are inadvertent acts that convey an impression that is
inappropriate at the time.
 The individual held responsible for contributing an unmeant gesture
may chiefly discredit his own performance
Inopportune Intrusion
This Occurs when an outsider accidentally enters a region in which a
performance is being given or when a member of the audience
inadvertently enters the backstage.
Ex: An example of this, is when a student walk into the classroom
while the professor is giving a lecture. We have Inopportune
Intrusion (this coming from the outsider approach)
Ex: Another example is when a customer runs into the kitchen of a
restaurant where the chefs resides. We have another Inopportune
Intrusion (from an audience approach)
Faux Pas
Def: As Disruptions in projections of the self
These facts may involve well-kept dark secrets or negatively-valued
chacteristics that everyone can see but no one refers too.
When such facts are introduced, embarrassment is the usual feeling
Ex: An example is when Raphael Palmero was conducting an interview
and a journalist bought up his use of anabolic steroids.
Gaffes & Boners
Are types of Faux Pas where a performer unthinkingly makes an
intentional contribution which destroys his own team image
Here, a performer jeopardizes the image of self projected by the
other team.
Discussion Question
If we are nothing more than “Fakers”
within the social world, and assuming
impression management is how we
navigate through social interactions, then
one asks the question is society real?