Remembering Erving Goffman

David Dickens:
A Small Unassuming Man Walked up to Me, Shook My Hand
and Told Me, “I Really Enjoyed Your Paper”

Dr. David Dickens, Professor of Sociology at the University of Nevada Las Vegas, wrote this memoir at the invitation of Dmitri Shalin and gave his approval for posting the present version in the Erving Goffman Archives.

[Posted 09-12-07]

September 12, 2007

During my last year of graduate school, in 1977 or 1978, I presented a paper on phenomenological sociology at a conference in Boston. The session was chaired by Larry Wieder, a prominent ethnomethodologist. Once the presentations concluded, a small unassuming man walked up to me, shook my hand and told me “I really enjoyed your paper. It was very clear.” I thanked him and he then turned toward Larry, whom he seemed to know, and said “Larry, I didn’t understand a word you said.” Wieder, being the kind fellow that he was, simply chuckled and said, “Well, Erving, I’m sorry to hear that.” I still had no idea who the stranger was but, as he turned and walked away, Larry looked at me and said, “you should be very proud, that was Erving Goffman.”

* The Erving Goffman Archives (EGA) is the web-based, open-source project that serves as a clearing house for those interested in the dramaturgical tradition in sociology and biographical methods of research.  The EGA is located in the Intercyberlibrary of the UNLV Center of Democratic Culture,  Postings on the website are divided into four partially overlapping sections:  “Documents and Papers,” “Biographical Materials,” “Critical Assessments,” and “Comments and Dialogues.”  For inquiries regarding the EGA projects, please contact Dr. Dmitri Shalin,  When you cite the materials collected for the EGA, please use the following reference:  Bios Sociologicus: The Erving Goffman Archives, ed. by Dmitri N. Shalin (UNLV: CDC Publications, 2009).