A guide to training your own horses: The flaneur appproach and Erving Goffman's uninhibited research practices in sociology

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While Erving Goffman's sociology has enjoyed great popularity and is cited often, the career of his work has been largely confined to other scholars reaping, adapting, and utilizing his concepts. Goffman was opposed to science that just reproduces and orders concepts, and opposed to his students using his concepts as easy tools. Instead, he recommended they train their own horses: While there is much to use in Goffman's work, there is little scholarship that continues the genius of his practical approach. As valuable as Goffman's categories are, his collection practice and his analytical scheme may be even more valuable. On the one hand, they offer an intricate framework for research that is as open as it is directed; on the other hand, they allow researchers to argue freedom from the ever more imposing bad imitations of natural scientific method that threaten to overgrow the social sciences. Together, they allow Goffmanesque work without merely parroting his concepts. This article attempts to outline Goffman's eclectic way of collecting material and his technique for fashioning this material into analyses, reordering this material around different metaphors that make Goffman's contribution distinct. I call Goffman's practical research a flaneur approach, and outline it. The paper then makes an argument for its continuation.

Original languageEnglish
JournalSymbolic Interaction
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)126-142
Number of pages17
Publication statusPublished - 01.02.2016
Externally publishedYes

    Research areas

  • dramaturgy, Erving Goffman, ethnography, everyday life, metaphor
  • Sociology