Facework theory: Performing familial roles in everyday interactions

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Abstract

The concept of face is of Chinese origin (see Ho, 1975), however, sociologist Erving Goffman (1955, 1967) was among the first in Western culture to articulate the theoretical perspective of facework. Goffman is perhaps best known for his foundational and award-winning book The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life (1959), where he proposed a dramaturgical model of interactions in public. He argued that public interactions are a performance, much like that of actors on a stage. These public performances are in reaction to how others might perceive us in a given situation and have the primary goal of impression management, noting that people adapt their performances to a given audience or context. He furthered his dramaturgical metaphor by acknowledging that social actors also had a back stage area where they set aside their public role, could be private, and/or prepared for their next public performance. Additionally, Goffman acknowledged that these public performances are often done in a team. Just like actors in a stage production, people may work together to complete a performance as a group. For example, wait staff may support one other while serving customers in the front stage of a restaurant’s dining room and also complain about customers together back stage in the kitchen. Similarly, a family may put on a performance in a public setting such as church or a community event but let their guard down while at home by themselves. Although he laid out this metaphor for public interactions in The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life (and the dramaturgical metaphor presented in this volume is arguably related to his ideas on facework theory), his treatise “On Facework” was where he specifically used the language most tied to facework theory that scholars use today. This article first appeared in 1955 and was republished as part of his volume called Interaction Ritual in 1967.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationEngaging Theories in Family Communication
Subtitle of host publicationMultiple Perspectives
PublisherTaylor and Francis
Pages132-141
Number of pages10
ISBN (Electronic)9781351790680
ISBN (Print)9781138700932
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Arts and Humanities(all)
  • Social Sciences(all)
  • Psychology(all)

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