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Coastal Scholars Showcase 2021: Non-Personhood in Pandemic U


Presentation Details

Presenter: Dr. Roscoe Scarborough 

Title: Assistant Professor of Sociology

Department: Social Sciences



This paper applies Erving Goffman’s concept of the “non-person treatment” to interpret the experiences of college faculty amid the COVID-19 pandemic. According to Goffman, “non-persons” are support personnel who are treated as though they are not really present and are considered to be of insufficient ritual status to be extended instrumental and social courtesies, often foregoing all acknowledgement of a person’s humanity beyond transactional civilities. Faculty experience the non-person treatment in Pandemic U, including in (1) transactional, alienating dealings with administrators, (2) impersonal, disembodied interactions with students in online instruction, and (3) high-risk face-to-face instruction in socially-distanced classrooms with masked students. The paper discusses how institutional responses to the COVID-19 pandemic impact faculty, students, and higher education.