Remembering Erving Goffman

Laurel Richardson

January 4, 2014

Dear Dmitri,

What a wonderful introduction and what a wonderful project!  I like so much how the biographical and cultural converge in Goffman's writing (all of our writings.)

I have a few comments/questions.

I find myself confused about the Auerbachs and the Goffmans.  I am not sure until later when I figure it out (and maybe I figured it out wrong) that the Auerbachs must be Goffman’s mother's family.  It would really help if you clarify that early in the piece.
Second, as a child of a mother who came to America in 1908 from a shtetl outside Kiev when she was a child escaping the pogroms with her mother, her father being already in America . . . I am disgruntled when all I read is that EG’s family came in the “early 20th century.”  PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE fill in the details.  My Grandmother’s experience (and my mother’s and hence mine) were completely different from my step-maternal-grandfather who came from St. Petersburg, worked as a jeweler for the tzar, came through South America, and came EARLIER.  The specificity really does matter.

Now Who gave Goffman that "C" in Qual. Methods?  It is interesting to know.

Please also re-review the Simmel epigraph.

I really like how you have explored his life. I have no trouble with your interps or explanations.


Now, let me add my own little story.  Sometime after my presentation at ASA on “The Door Ceremony,” an empirical piece that depended on both Simmel and Goffman for its theoretical basis, and its coverage on the front-page of the editorial section of the Sunday New York Times, [] I had the opportunity to join a group of qualitative researchers, including Goffman, at a meeting.  I do not recall what meeting.  Sorry.  The conversation turned to being Jewish in America.  When I told the group that I was the daughter of a Jewish woman who emigrated from Russia, Goffman said (and I do quote him now I think correctly, “So that explains why you are so smart.”


I look forward to the special issue of SI!

My best,


January 4, 2014

Greetings Laurel:

Many thanks for your good word about the project and wonderful anecdote.  Would it be possible to add it to the Goffman Archives?  Your entire note would fit nicely in the comments and dialogues section of EGA (UR:  And it would be great to converse with you someday about your family roots, pathway to sociology, teachers who made an impression, and such. 

EG’s father was Max Goffman, his mother Anne Averbach-Goffman, and it is EG’s maternal side that had 4 brothers and for sisters.  Sorry, if this didn’t come through clearly in my paper.  You might want to check the materials from the Averbachs family reunion album posted on the EGA web site:

Erving Goffman's Ancestors

Anne Averbach Goffman's Family

I am attaching Sherri Cavan’s paper from the same issue where she tracks Goffman’s family roots and another one where I show the biographical dimension of Goffman’s writing about mental illness.

Don’t know who was EG’s teacher in methods class.  Do you have the NYT article about your ASA presentation?

Again, please consider adding your thoughts, comments, and remembrances of things past to EGA. 

Happy New Year, Dmitri

January 12, 2014

Hi Dmitri,

Another year, another opportunity for biocrit!

I look forward to reading Sherri’s article.

I have attached the NYT article that I mentioned in my last email.

Feel free to add my comment to the biocrit collection, or if there is some way that I am supposed to do it then please let me know how to do so.

November and December have been very difficult here...six deaths, including my ex-husband, the father of my children.

I trust that the New Year will be happier for me, and I hope for the world--and of course for the keepers of the Goffman world.

BTW, I mentioned to my novelist husband Ernest Lockridge that Goffman sealed his writings in file drawers in a locked room and requested that they stay there.  Ernest’s first response was, “That’s theatrical.”  Ernest did not know that the dramaturgical analogy is Goffman’s contribrution  to sociology.  He and I then had a long talk--Ernest mentioning the many different authors who set similar controls from the crypt in contrast to those who burnt their stuff up because they really did not want others to read it.   (You might add this to the biocrit.)

I really think/wish the files would be made available to the public.  Protecting the deceased seems less important to me than knowing about the deceased.  Perhaps a decade from now whoever is the executor of the estate will see the value of opening the files.  

My best,


Attached Open Door NYT.txt


* 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).