WP181 From backstage to frontstage in interviews.

Collection: Key word


Taking inspiration from Goffman’s work on the presentation of self, from work on register formation and from critiques of interviews, this paper looks at how one bureaucrat, Ismail, presents himself as an exemplary bureaucrat and leader through the moving of backstage signs to a frontstage performance in my interview with him. Drawing on our interview, I point to how Ismail’s talk resonates with widely circulating and unflattering registers of bureaucratic personhood that were formed through the imitation of metasemiotic commentaries found in World Bank reports about good governance, and subsequent imitations of these within the Indonesian central bureaucracy and a local newspaper. Through my analysis of this data, I show how Ismail presents himself as someone who is an expert leader and mentor who is corruption-free. In doing so, I will be concerned with how he builds this persona via the use of represented talk which adds authenticity to his accounts of self, while ultimately blurring the boundary between front and back stages.