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Erving Goffman (1922–1982) was one of the most important sociologists in the twentieth century. The focus of his work was the organization of observable, everyday behavior, usually but not always among the unacquainted in urban settings. Using a variety of qualitative methods, Goffman developed classifications of the different elements of social interaction. The hallmark of his approach was the assumption that these classifications were heuristic, simplifying tools for sociological analysis that did not capture the complexity of lived experience. In addition to the study of everyday social interaction, Goffman retained a strong interest in the sociology of mental illness. This began in the 1950s when he conducted ethnographic research at a large hospital in Washington, D.C. He considered the study of everyday interaction and the ...

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