1st Edition

Erving Manuel Goffman Biographical Sources of Sociological Imagination

By Dmitri N. Shalin Copyright 2025
    400 Pages 20 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    400 Pages 20 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    Erving Goffman is the most cited American sociologist. There is no shortage of studies exploring Goffman’s scholarship but no extant biography of Erving Goffman. The chief reason is that a man who looked behind the facades people erect to protect their private selves, zealously guarded his own backstage. This book, the first comprehensive biography of Goffman, shows how key turns in Goffman’s career reflected dramatic events in his family and personal history. It is based on the materials gathered in the Erving Goffman Archives, a repository curated by the author who has been collecting documents and conducting interviews with Goffman’s relatives, colleagues, and friends. The archival work turned up documents which improve our understanding of Goffman the scholar, the teacher, and the man. The approach adopted in this investigation sheds new light on Goffman’s scholarship which has had an enormous and continuous impact across the social sciences and humanities.


    1. Leaving the Tribe                                                                                                                

    2. Learning the Trade                                                                                              

    3. Waxing Academic                                                                                                

    4. Coping with Madness                                                                                                        

    5. Taking a Gamble                                                                                                                 

    6. Mastering the Game                                                                                                         

    7. Gendering Sex                                                                                                                    

    8. Breaking the Frame                                                                                                       

    9. Facing Death                                                                                                                       

    10. Conjuring a Legacy                                                                                                                        


    Appendix A.  Goffman Archives                                                                                                 

    Appendix B.  Immigration Records                                                                                                

    Appendix C.  Photo Gallery                                                                                                               

    Appendix D.  Biographical Timeline                                                                                          




    Dmitri N. Shalin is professor of sociology and director of the Center for Democratic Culture at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Dr. Shalin is coordinator of Justice & Democracy Forum series, editor of the Social Health of Nevada Report, director of the Erving Goffman Archives and International Biography Initiative, and organizer of international forums on Russian politics and culture. His research interests and publications are in the areas of biohermeneutics, pragmatism, democratic culture, emotional intelligence, and Russian culture and society.

    "Scholars have long waited for an extended account of the life and career of the important Canadian-American Sociologist Erving Goffman. It is truly said of Goffman that he was the most influential North American sociologist of the 20th Century. Such a volume will make an invaluable contribution to the history of the social sciences. Many works have examined Goffman’s theoretical contributions, but no full biography as this richly-sourced volume provides."

     -- Gary Alan Fine, James E. Johnson Professor of Sociology, Northwestern University


    "This book is ambitious, important, and a landmark work of biography.”

    -- Gary D. Jaworski, Professor of Sociology, Fairleigh Dickinson University


    "This is an important volume on one of the major 20th century social theorists, Erving Goffman. The author, Dmitri Shalin, and his knowledge of the content of the Goffman Archive makes him the most suited scholar to write this book. The book is an interesting and illuminating read and reveals some new sides to and insights about Goffman’s life and work heretofore unknown or uncovered. There continues to be a strong undercurrent in sociology that goes back to the work of Erving Goffman, and although it is now more than 40 years since his premature demise, this undercurrent is as strong and powerful as at any other point in time. This book shows us why!"

    -- Michael Hviid Jacobsen, Professor of Sociology, Aalborg University, co-editor of the Routledge International Handbook of Goffman Studies (2024) and editor of The Contemporary Goffman (2012)