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- Social Structures
- How statuses and Roles Constrain Social Interaction
Social Interaction: The Basis for Social Life
- Theoretical Perspectives
- Symbolic Interactionism
- The dramaturgical perspective
- Social Exchange
- Nonverbal behavior
- Forms of Social Interaction
Social interaction as:
- Rule-governed interaction
- What are the “rules of engagement” in our interactions with people?
Shooting an elephant
As a young man, George Orwell was an English police officer in what was then the English colony of Burma. One day an elephant got loose from its owner and killed a Burmese man.
As the only policeman nearby, Orwell acquired an elephant rifle and began to walk toward him. As he did so, virtually the entire population of the little village came out of their huts to follow him. When he found the elephant it was grazing in a field eating peacefully.
I ought not to shoot him
As soon as I saw the elephant I knew with perfect certainty that I ought not to shoot him. It is a serious matter to shoot a working elephant—it is comparable to destroying a huge and costly piece of machinery—and obviously one ought not to do it if it can possibly be avoided....I decided that I would watch him for a little while to make sure that he did not turn savage again, and then go home.
I was only an absurd puppet
“But at that moment, I glanced around at the crowd that had followed me. . . . And suddenly I realized that I should have to shoot the elephant after all. The people expected it of me and I had got to do it; I could feel their two thousand wills pressing me forward, irresistibly. And it was at this moment, as I stood there with the rifle in my hands, that I first grasped the hollowness, the futility of the white man’s dominion in the East. Here was I, the white man with his gun, standing in front of the unarmed native crowd—seemingly the leading actor of the piece; but in reality I was only an absurd puppet pushed to and fro by the will of those yellow faces behind.
He wears a mask & his face grows to fit in it
I perceived in this moment that when the white man turns tyrant it is his own freedom that he destroys. . . . For it is the condition of his rule that he shall spend his life in trying to impress the “natives,” and so in every crisis he has got do what the “natives” expect of him. He wears a mask, and his face grows to fit it. . . . To come all that way, rifle in hand, with two thousand people marching at my heels, and then to trail feebly away, having done nothing—no, that was impossible. The crowd would laugh at me. And my whole life, every white man’s life in the East, was one long struggle not to be laughed at. . . .
To avoid looking a fool
When I pulled the trigger I did not hear the bang or feel the kick…but I heard the devilish roar of glee that went up from the crowd. . . . And afterward I was very glad that the coolie had been killed;…it gave me sufficient pretext for shooting the elephant. I often wondered whether any of the others grasped that I had done it solely to avoid looking a fool.
Social interaction Issues
- What is the Right Thing to Do?
- What is fair? Conventions governing interaction.
- What is the situation?
- What is the shared “reality” that defines the interaction? Who decides this reality?
- Who are these people?
- How do their social statuses and roles influence the interaction?
- Who am I?