The phenomenology of self-presentation

describing the structures of intercorporeality with Erving Goffman

Luna Dolezal

pp. 237-254

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.

Publication details

DOI: 10.1007/s11097-015-9447-6

Full citation:

Dolezal, L. (2017). The phenomenology of self-presentation: describing the structures of intercorporeality with Erving Goffman. Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences 16 (2), pp. 237-254.

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