Naming The Unnameable

Document Type

Book Review

Publication Date


Published In

Contemporary Psychology


Originally published in Contemporary Psychology: APA Review of Books, 1973, Vol 18(7), 305-307. Reviews the book, Relations in Public: Microstudies of the Public Order by Erving Goffman (1971). This volume is composed of seven loosely connected essays that extend the range of behavior treated in Goffman's previous volumes on face-to-face interaction in fresh and exciting ways. In the present volume the author plays both delightfully and sardonically with the structure of being "with" someone else, and expressing one's affiliation through such "tie signs" as holding hands. In the case of the "with," a social participation unit as basic as the single person, rules of social interaction are made explicit that heretofore have guided social behavior only at the implicit level. Similarly, the discussion of "tie signs" brings to light a variety of nonverbal means people use to inform each other of the name of their relationship and its stage of development. Two more penetrating essays enhance our understanding of personal space: first by explicating the patterns and problems inherent in social traffic (pedestrian and otherwise), and then in exploring various subtle means by which individuals lay claim to space or violate the space of others.

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