True, trivial and yet still neglected in import

Go to More Parties? Social Occasions as Home to Unexpected Turning Points in Life Trajectories

Reviving classical attention to gathering times as sites of transformation and building on more recent microsociological work, this paper uses qualitative data to show how social occasions open up unexpected bursts of change in the lives of those attending. They do this by pulling people into a special realm apart from normal life, generating collective effervescence and emotional energy, bringing usually disparate people together, forcing public rankings, and requiring complex choreography, all of which combine to make occasions sites of inspiration and connection as well as sites of offense and violation. Rather than a time out from “real” life, social occasions hold an outsized potential to unexpectedly shift the course that real life takes. Implications for microsociology, social inequality, and the life course are considered.

That is from the excellent Alice Goffman.  And “from the credits,” here is the really big news:

Alice Goffman is assistant professor of sociology at the University of Wisconsin Madison and McConnell Visiting Assistant Professor at Pomona College. She is finishing a book titled Fateful: Where and When Life Changes Unexpectedly, with University of Chicago Press.

Via Kevin Lewis.


It's almost as if people move to New York City to get ahead because there are lots of important people there to socialize with.

So Alice Goffman's career wasn't hurt much by publishing a book in which she confessed to being an accessory to attempted murder?

Alice Goffman's dad, Erving Goffman, was a major player in getting lunatic asylums shut down and their poor inmates turned out to become homeless people.

The Goffmans don't much take an interest in heredity, but heredity takes an interest in them and their disastrous ideas.

It's not just that she claimed to have tried to help murder someone. Her whole book was full of episodes she claimed to have witnessed but which plainly did not happen. In some fields, people who make things up lose their jobs. Not ethnography, apparently. Here's a link:

Now that you mention it: Carlos Castaneda "began" as an anthropologist before or as he was transmogrifying into a fictionist.

What quality or qualities of ethnography, anthropology, and sociology might invite such temptations to leap straight from "scholarship" into works of scholarly imagination?

Fair question. Seems to me that anthropology/archeology are built around people interpreting artifacts through a process of story-telling and imagination.

I would suppose that a major risk in those fields is getting too attached to the stories you make up in your head, and start fudging when the evidence refuses to emerge or worse yet contradicts.

Everything Carlos wrote was true.

Alice Goffman needs to learn to write decent English.

Actually, given that commenters below establish beyond doubt that she's a serial liar, it might be just as well that her writing is maladroit.

Further: given her easy way with fictions, and her passion for clumsy writing, has she considered a career as an economist?

Or even better, a journalist!

The “Excellent” Alice Goffman? Tyler is trolling us again

A quiet -- and at times exhilarating -- field trio through the maelstroms of our age.

Was her unexpected life change when it came out that she'd almost certainly fabricated large parts of her first book?

The article in Slate I linked earlier this week about quitting Facebook ( included reasons why people won't quit. A reason repeated by many is that they would miss out on parties. When I read that my reaction was that's a reason to quit Facebook not to stay on Facebook. I suppose I was wrong: I thought parties were a waste of time, but now I learn parties provide "collective effervescence and emotional energy". Maybe the author an I attend different parties. Will she invite me to one of her parties?

Parties are an excuse to drink or else there wouldn't be parties. I drank for 10 years, though, and I wasn't invited to many parties. Partying is a way to cross a threshold, the crucible, whatever, but the same thing can be said of studying, perhaps also of hiking. One supposes the real product of partying are the memories, which are made indelible because people drink and do thinks they wouldn't ordinarily do. It is a type of superstition. It is impudent. That said, the best parties happen at informal or formal restaurants when there is live music, the musicians who do not tour formally but play formally in a pool hall type fashion.

Breakfast at Tiffany's was on TCM last night. Party scene illustrates value of more socializing. Or should I say MOAR Socializing.

The party in the book was much different from the party in the film. In the book, Holly has few friends and thus invites people she does not know to her party, so neither she nor the invitees know each other. She was "bringing usually disparate people together". Why the film changed the party I don't know but the book version seems more interesting.

Every decision made, every option taken, leads to an "unexpected turning point in life trajectory", not primarily parties. An individual is usually completely unaware of the significance of a mundane choice made with no forethought or planning, even after it has radically changed his life. Certainly social occasions present alternative futures but not any more than any of the other myriad events of daily life.

Wasn't this NNTaleb's advice from way back in The Black Swan?

Yes indeed. Good call.

And ski trips, as described in Hot Tub Time Machine.

Academic taxonomies and nomenclatures merit some degree of precision, a non-academic might think innocently.

Goffman's Wikipedia entry alone--to say nothing of highbrow academic assessments--puts her prior "accomplishment" in serious doubt, if her wholesale inventions were documented as thoroughly as they seem to've been (but if her wholesale inventions HAVE been thoroughly documented, how can she continue a career as a credible academic [discounting for one moment that she labors in the fruitful fields of sociology]?)

Does UW-M not have a title for a professor of "Creative Sociology"? "Fictional Sociology"? "Invented Sociology"? "Suspicious Sociology"? "Dubious Sociology"? "Frivolous Sociology"?

Whoops--left out "Fraudulent Sociology", my apologies.


Just how liberally does the Academy assess "intellectual fraud" these days? Have these criteria been standardized for the US context?

What might Goffman's fanciful sociological account of "collective effervescence, emotional energy, . . . and complex choreography" do for the reputation of University of Chicago Press (or does UCP have a new line of fiction imprints?)?

Obviously, I am so out of touch with academia that it may well have slipped past me that fictional narrative techniques common to contemporary journalism could by now have been appropriated as valid and sound methodology in a field otherwise as strictly scientific as sociology.

Sounds like one of those sesquipedalian faux articles meant to trick referees and editors into publishing.

This posting lead me to revise my understanding of the word 'excellent' when used by Tyler to describe a person.

My only hope is that he’s being Straussian.

Might shed some light on Tyler's travel Jones. Shake things up. New associations and connections.

Just got back from a rather splendid Christmas party at a country club, given by a legendary figure in the profession I serve, and attended by his peers, their families, and local luminaries from business, the arts and philanthropy.

I was seated at a table slightly below my actual status rank among the group, but was able to make up for it afterwards by approaching a number of higher ranked people with whom I'd been wanting to have conversations, and finding them quite welcoming.

I was also able to reconnect with some people I love dearly and had lost track of, got snubbed by a few people, and was publicly ignored by an important figure with whom I crossed paths in the middle of the room, but who later, in a less visible place, greeted me quite warmly.

It was indeed an effervescent occasion, from which I learned something of where I stood among people who were personally and professionally important to me. I definitely gained something from showing my face so liberally there -- and my wife, who was pursuing her own social agenda, did very well in cementing some relationships she cherished, and even making up with an old enemy.

It was only three hours, but a lot happened.

Are we in the life advice section now?
“Attend parties. Interact with people. Don't stay too long. Don’t get drunk.”

This is ancient networking advice...

The details may be negotiated and the papers may be signed in an office, but aren't the commitments made over dinner, on the golf course, or at a party?

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