The phenomenology of self-presentation: describing the structures of intercorporeality with Erving Goffman

Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences 16 (2):237-254 (2017)
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Self-presentation is a term that indicates conscious and unconscious strategies for controlling or managing how one is perceived by others in terms of both appearance and comportment. In this article, I will discuss the phenomenology of self-presentation with respect to the phenomenological insights of Edmund Husserl and Merleau-Ponty regarding the visibility of the body within intercorporeal relations through ‘behaviour’ and ‘expression.’ In doing so, I will turn to the work of the Canadian sociologist and social theorist Erving Goffman. Goffman’s account of self-presentation suggests why embodied subjects adopt certain styles of ordered bodily behaviour as determined by the broader social order, giving existential and social significance to the ontological structures of intercorporeal bodily communication. Following Goffman, I will suggest that the embodied subject is continuously—and constitutionally—engaged in implicit and explicit strategies to manage how the body is presented to others. In articulating self-presentation as a feature of intercorporeality, my aim in this article is to use Goffman’s insights to extend Husserl’s and Merleau-Ponty’s accounts of bodily communication by demonstrating that bodily communication that is instantiated at the level of intercorporeality is always expressed through social life with its various historical, cultural and linguistic dimensions.



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Luna Dolezal
University of Exeter

References found in this work

Phenomenology of perception.Maurice Merleau-Ponty - 1945 - Atlantic Highlands, New Jersey: The Humanities Press. Edited by Donald A. Landes.
Phenomenology of Perception.Maurice Merleau-Ponty - 1945 - New York: Routledge. Edited by Donald A. Landes.
Phenomenology of Perception.Maurice Merleau-Ponty - 1962 - New York: Routledge. Edited by Donald A. Landes.
The Visible and the Invisible: Followed by Working Notes.Maurice Merleau-Ponty - 1968 - Evanston [Ill.]: Northwestern University Press. Edited by Claude Lefort.

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