Foreword to Special Issue on Erving Goffman


Symbolic Interaction does not make a habit of publishing special issues. However, when Dmitri Shalin approached us with the proposal for this issue, the editorial team recognized the unique nature of the material that he was proposing to make available. This issue showcases the increasing richness of the online Erving Goffman Archives, curated from the University of Nevada at Las Vegas, a leading centre for symbolic interactionist scholarship, and guided by an advisory board that includes Sherri Cavan, Ruth Horowitz, Peter Manning, Gary Marx, Tom Scheff, and Jacqueline Wiseman.

In particular, it brings out the archive's growing resources, both documentary and visual, on Goffman's early life and career and draws on its expanding collection of personal remembrances of a man who provoked strong reactions in many of those who encountered him. There are still important gaps in understanding the biography of someone who went to considerable lengths to separate the public and the personal in his own encounters, just as he was exploring their interdependence in so much of his writing. However, the papers presented here contribute to filling some of those blanks, even if others, such as his experience of working as a casino employee, seem unlikely to be resolved. Similarly, the contradictions in his relationships with students and junior colleagues, which emerge here, are worthy of much fuller exploration to understand the balance between a desire to educate through provocation and a willingness to support, encourage, and even learn from, the new ideas and directions taken by a different generation. For all of these tasks, however, the material included here will be an essential foundation.

The editorial team would like to thank Dmitri Shalin for giving us the opportunity to publish these papers and to acknowledge the contribution of the editorial board and publications committee members who supported us with expedited refereeing.

Robert Dingwall for the Editorial Team