Jump to Content Jump to Main Navigation

Anthropology Clifford Geertz
by
Matthew D. Thompson

Introduction

Clifford Geertz (b. 1926–d. 2006) has had a tremendous impact on cultural anthropology and, more generally, all of the social sciences and humanities. In particular, Geertz is associated with heralding the “interpretive turn” in anthropology and steering the discipline, or the sociocultural part of it at least, away from research designs patterned on the natural sciences. This amounted to nothing less than the re-imagining of anthropology as engaged in the study of meaning rather than in pursuit of predictive laws. However, many have met this approach with skepticism and questions persist as to how Geertz’s legacy should be evaluated. To his critics Geertz seems only to offer fine-gauge descriptions in the absence of a rigorous methodology, decontextualizing cultural expression by “reading” it as if a text. This debate between interpretive and scientific approaches continues to animate anthropology from the recent outcry over proposed changes to the mission statement of the American Anthropological Association to factionalism among the subdisciplines and questions about the place of applied anthropology in the academy. While some anthropologists have proven ambivalent concerning Geertz’s contributions, those working in disciplines outside of anthropology have engaged his work and have been transformed by it. His landmark publication, The Interpretation of Cultures (1977), is widely regarded as one of the most influential works of social science in the second half of the 20th century. Geertz is distinguished not only by his interpretive method with its focus on the study of symbolic action and meaning, but also by his verbose, witty, and hyper-literate writing style, best represented in the essay form of which he was a master. In sum, his efforts contributed significantly to legitimating the incorporation of humanities research into the social sciences, especially in anthropology. No single thinker or text spawned the postmodern, poststructural anthropology of the contemporary scene, but Geertz is doubtless a key figure.

Academic Overview

As an eminent scholar, Geertz generated quite a bit of attention in his lifetime, particularly late in life when he obtained a kind of Founding Father–like status not only in anthropology, but also in the humanities and social sciences generally. Geertz’s published work is rife with allusions to world literature and his theoretical work drew on a wide range of influences. A partial list of some his most important influences are listed here. In histories of the discipline he is often lumped together with “symbolic anthropology” and the association is not inappropriate. Examples of that school are provided. To illustrate the far-ranging influence of his work, examples of his impact outside of anthropology appear here too. This section offers overviews on Autobiographies, Biographies, and Interviews and Tributes and Appreciations.

Autobiographies, Biographies, and Interviews

The most thorough analysis of Geertz’s oeuvre is Inglis 2000, which starts with his youth in California and enlistment in the U.S. Navy, moves on to his college days at Antioch, and covers his trajectory from graduate school at Harvard to his career at Berkeley, Chicago, and, ultimately, Princeton. Geertz 2002 is the most compact summary of his work situated in broader developments in the social sciences. In the online video interview MacFarlane 2004 and in Geertz 2001 he tells many of the same personal stories without dwelling too much on their professional significance. Handler 1991 explores in greater depth how specific figures influenced his scholarship or helped his professional development.

  • Geertz, Clifford. 2001. Passage and accident: A life of learning. In Available light: Anthropological reflections on philosophical topics. By Clifford Geertz, 3–20. Princeton, NJ: Princeton Univ. Press.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    An autobiographical account of his college years at Antioch, graduate school at Harvard, early fieldwork in Java, and some of the important thinkers he met along the way.

    Find this resource:

  • Geertz, Clifford. 2002. An inconstant profession: The anthropological life in interesting times. Annual Review of Anthropology 31:1–19.

    DOI: 10.1146/annurev.anthro.31.040402.085449Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Contextualizes his career relative to broad developments in anthropology and how those dovetailed with world historical events. A synopsis of Geertz’s professional output and his influences; records which works of social science from the second half of the 20th century he deems to have been most significant.

    Find this resource:

  • Handler, Richard. 1991. An interview with Clifford Geertz. Current Anthropology 32.5: 603–613.

    DOI: 10.1086/204008Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Focuses on the narrative of Geertz’s career: graduate training at Harvard, early publications, and posts at Berkeley, Chicago, and Princeton. He speaks in detail about the figures who influenced his thinking and contributed to his professional success—all of them titans of anthropology.

    Find this resource:

  • Inglis, Fred. 2000. Clifford Geertz: Culture, custom and ethics. Malden, MA: Polity Press.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A full-length intellectual biography of Geertz with a substantial portion dedicated to his early career. Attention is paid to Geertz’s interpretive method and how critics and other interlocutors engaged it. There is also a chapter-length treatment of Negara, which Inglis evaluates as Geertz’s finest book.

    Find this resource:

  • Macfarlane, Alan. 2004. Video interview with Clifford Geertz.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Video interview of Clifford Geertz, mostly autobiographical in its topics. In the course of the interview he describes himself as “profoundly Weberian.” Further information is available online.

    Find this resource:

Tributes and Appreciations

For a very brief overview of Geertz’s life and the role he has played in making contemporary anthropology what it is today, Ortner 2007 and Rosaldo 2007 make for outstanding summaries of his life and scholarship. Likewise Tiger 2006, which though written as an obituary, sharply criticizes Geertz’s impact on anthropology, summarizing the opinions of his detractors. Shweder and Good 2005 is a collection of conference papers hailing Geertz’s contributions to the discipline and it provides a wide-ranging case for his defense. For an in-depth look at Geertz’s theoretical impact, see Ortner 1999 and Panourgiá and Marcus 2008. Links to all of Geertz’s written works, including translations, can be found at the HyperGeertz©World Catalog website. PhilWeb Bibliographical Archive is another handy web resource.

Scholarship

The work of Clifford Geertz constitutes a considerable body of scholarship. Of course, it was not produced in a vacuum but rather in conversation with debates in anthropology and other disciplines. This section includes a discussion of some of the works that had an especially pronounced influence on Geertz, with the caveat that many significant thinkers are not represented (Influences). In the section on Symbolic Anthropology I note some of Geertz’s peers who were interested in similar topics and explored them using similar methods. In acknowledgment of Geertz’s widespread popularity outside of anthropology, some of the areas of study—some of them unanticipated—where one can find his influence apparent are noted (Outside Impact).

Influences

Geertz himself often remarked that his first loves were literature and philosophy. It was not until graduate school that he discovered anthropology. As anyone who reads his work can attest, the man was very well versed in world literature and diverse schools of thought. However, some works do stand out as having been especially influential on Geertz’s own thinking. Above all, Burke 1969, the author of which coined the term “symbolic action,” and Wittgenstein 1953, with its emphasis on ordinary language, encouraged Geertz to focus on the study of meaning. In sociology, Weber 1950 is the most significant, followed—distantly it should be said—by Parsons and Shils 1951, the former a mentor of Geertz at Harvard. A colleague at the University of Chicago, Paul Ricoeur, also advocated the interpretive method and worked toward bridging the social sciences and humanities (see Ricoeur 1981). In the discipline of anthropology, Geertz often acknowledged Benedict 1946 and Sapir 1985, the former a subject of one of his essays in Geertz 1988, as having influenced his own notion of how the individual relates to the collective.

  • Benedict, Ruth. 1946. The chrysanthemum and the sword. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Influenced by Gestalt theory, Benedict was interested in explaining why members of a society tend to behave in a certain way. In this work, she emphasized the primacy of culture in understanding differences between cultures, here Japanese and American.

    Find this resource:

  • Burke, Kenneth. 1969. A rhetoric of motives. Berkeley: Univ. of California Press.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Through a consideration of literary persuasion, Burke comes to theorize about what he terms “symbolic action.” As much a work of literary criticism as it is a philosophy of the nature of language in human relations.

    Find this resource:

  • Geertz, Clifford. 1988. Works and lives: The anthropologist as author. Stanford, CA: Stanford Univ. Press.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Applies the tools of literary criticism to Levi-Strauss, Evans-Pritchard, Malinowski, and Benedict, situating their scholarly output relative to their biographies and sociohistorical period. These are four anthropologists to whom Geertz returns again and again in his oeuvre.

    Find this resource:

  • Parsons, Talcott, and Edward Shils, eds. 1951. Toward a general theory of action. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Univ. Press.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Parsons viewed his theory as the starting point for a truly scientific social science that would explain all social action via general laws. He prominently featured the role of symbols and meaning in his all-encompassing sociology.

    Find this resource:

  • Ricoeur, Paul. 1981. Hermeneutics and the human sciences. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A collection of essays in which Ricoeur formulates the concept of text as the basis for a theory of language; also offers a history of hermeneutics in philosophy and its implications for sociology, psychoanalysis, and history.

    Find this resource:

  • Sapir, Edward. 1985. Selected writings in language, culture, and personality. Berkeley: Univ. of California Press.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Sapir revolutionized linguistics and the study of American Indian languages. Of particular interest to Geertz is his notion that the relationship between the individual and culture is mediated by language.

    Find this resource:

  • Weber, Max. 1950. The Protestant ethic and the spirit of capitalism. New York: Scribner.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The beginning of Weber’s monumental study of religion, in which the author examines the role played by Calvinist ethics in the development of modern capitalism.

    Find this resource:

  • Wittgenstein, Ludwig. 1953. Philosophical investigations. New York: Wiley-Blackwell.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Regarded by some, especially scholars of the mind and its relationship to language, as the most important work of 20th-century philosophy. Includes the key notion of “language-games” to stand for the many ways people use language according to collectively agreed upon rules for understanding.

    Find this resource:

Symbolic Anthropology

In disciplinary histories Geertz is often lumped together with the burst of “symbolic anthropology” studies in the 1960s and 1970s, and rightfully so. Many of the authors represented in this list were his friends and colleagues and they all pursued, in their own ways, the study of meaning. One of the earliest works in this vein is Van Gennep 1960, which heralded a new kind of anthropology focused on the symbolic, and was especially influential in Turner 1967. Some of these books, such as Douglas 1966 and Turner 1974, are regarded as modern classics. Others, such as Schneider 1968 and Geertz 1971, have seen their prestige diminish but are still representative of the milieu at the time. Fernandez 1986 and Turner and Bruner 1986 are secret successes—wonderful resources that should be more widely read than they are.

  • Douglas, Mary. 1966. Purity and danger: An analysis of the concepts of pollution and taboo. New York: Routledge.

    DOI: 10.4324/9780203361832Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Examines the meaning of dirt, which the author terms “matter out of place,” in a variety of different cultural contexts. Famously proposed that Jewish kosher laws amounted to a kind of symbolic boundary maintenance as prohibited foods were from those animals that resisted easy categorization in the Hebrew culture.

    Find this resource:

  • Fernandez, James A. 1986. Persuasions and performance: The play of tropes in culture. Bloomington: Indiana Univ. Press.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Particularly interested in the role of metaphor in expressive culture, the author forwards the notion that all humans “argue” so that others can recognize their rightful place in the world.

    Find this resource:

  • Geertz, Clifford, ed. 1971. Myth, symbol, and culture. New York: W.W. Norton.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This volume of essays is representative of the “symbolic anthropology” movement. Geertz includes a very brief introduction, written in part with Paul de Man, on “The Systematic Study of Meaningful Forms.”

    Find this resource:

  • Schneider, David. 1968. American kinship: A cultural account. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A study of kinship that privileges meaning and symbols over a functional account of social relationships.

    Find this resource:

  • Turner, Victor. 1967. The forest of symbols: Aspects of Ndembu ritual. Ithaca, NY: Cornell Univ. Press.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A classic study of ritual alternately general, theoretical, and specifically descriptive of the rites of the Ndembu people of Zambia. Turner is principally concerned with life-crisis rituals, such as coming of age and funerary proceedings, and rituals of affliction, which seek to cure cursed hunters and infertile women.

    Find this resource:

  • Turner, Victor. 1974. Dramas, fields, and metaphors. Ithaca, NY: Cornell Univ. Press.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Forwards the anthropological study of “social dramas” or symbolic conflicts among groups in the public realm.

    Find this resource:

  • Turner, Victor, and Edward Bruner. 1986. The anthropology of experience. Urbana: Univ. of Illinois Press.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A collection of essays in the symbolic anthropology tradition focusing on how people actually experience culture and how those experiences are expressed in various forms. Geertz provided the afterword for this volume.

    Find this resource:

  • Van Gennep, Arnold. 1960. The rites of passage. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The author describes a common symbolic structure of separation, liminality, and reincorporation found in rites marking changes of status in cultures around the world.

    Find this resource:

Outside Impact

This section is included to illustrate the wide-ranging impact, perhaps greater than that of any other anthropologist, that Geertz has had outside the discipline: From the performing arts represented by Blumenfield-Jones 1995 and Balme 1994 to translation studies (Hermans 2003) to medicine (Chambers 2009) to education (Gordon 1988). Geertz is probably the anthropologist with whom sociologists are most familiar (see Mukerji and Schudson 1986). He has even had an effect on business (Redding 2005) and public policy (Thompson 2001).

Study of Religion

Religion was the topic of Geertz’s dissertation and arguably this is the field, outside of his programmatic work, that altered the very nature of ethnography, in which his influence has been the most seismic. His work in Javanese religion, which he described as a synthesis of Hindi, Buddhist, Islamic, and indigenous traditions, went on to color his work on Islam in Morocco. He also penned a number of essays that addressed the topic of religion more broadly and it is here that his critics rallied. This section includes Religion in Java and Anthropology of Islam and Anthropology of Religion.

Religion in Java and Anthropology of Islam

Some of Geertz’s earliest publications are on the topic of religion in Java. In Geertz 1956 and Geertz 1957 he stakes out his territory as being fundamentally different from the dominant theory of religion in anthropology at the time, namely, functionalism. As in all his works, Geertz emphasizes that religion is not to be understood as an autonomous and independent variable, but as an element of life that is reflected in, and overlaps with, all other aspects of culture, including politics (Geertz 1960a). Geertz 1960b, on the complexity of Javanese religion, exemplifies this doctrine. Coming much later in his career, Geertz 1978 is a comparative study between Java and Morocco that seeks to explore connections between Islam and postcolonial nationalism. This argument was updated in Geertz 2001. Where essays have earlier original publication dates I have noted this in the annotations.

  • Geertz, Clifford. 1956. Religious belief and economic behavior in a central Javanese town: Some preliminary considerations. Economic Development and Social Change 3:134–158.

    DOI: 10.1086/449708Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    One of Geertz’s earliest publications and already his inimitable writing style is apparent. Describes the town marketplace and the ritual slametan as representative of a wider social order, and characterizes peasant agriculture as one of “shared poverty.”

    Find this resource:

  • Geertz, Clifford. 1957. Ritual and social change: A Javanese example. American Anthropologist 59.1: 32–54.

    DOI: 10.1525/aa.1957.59.1.02a00040Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Using the occasion of a funeral ritual gone awry, Geertz argues against a strictly functionalist theory of religion. Instead of integrating society, in this instance religious ritual seems to be tearing it apart.

    Find this resource:

  • Geertz, Clifford. 1960a. The Javanese kijaji: The changing role of a cultural broker. Comparative Studies in Society & History 2.2: 228–249.

    DOI: 10.1017/S0010417500000670Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Posits that in Java the local Muslim teacher, or kijaji, is well positioned to act as a culture broker joining the state to the peasantry. Since national independence the role of the kijaji has changed, enhancing his credentials as a legitimate political player.

    Find this resource:

  • Geertz, Clifford. 1960b. The religion of Java. Glencoe, IL: Free Press.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Based on his doctoral dissertation, Geertz examines the interplay of Islamic, Hindu-Buddhist, and indigenous elements in the spiritual lives of Javanese people.

    Find this resource:

  • Geertz, Clifford. 1978. Islam observed: Religious development in Morocco and Indonesia. New Haven, CT: Yale Univ. Press.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    In the new nation-states, such as Morocco and Indonesia, formerly stable connections between faith and social institutions are in flux. Here Geertz has the two nations comment on each other’s religious lives. He writes, “They both incline toward Mecca, but, the antipodes of the Muslim world, they bow in opposite directions.”

    Find this resource:

  • Geertz, Clifford. 2001. The pinch of destiny: Religion as experience, meaning, identity, power. In Available light: Anthropological reflections on philosophical topics. By Clifford Geertz, 167–186. Princeton, NJ: Princeton Univ. Press.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    In considering contemporary global social movements, as well as domestic and international political developments, Geertz argues for the primacy of religion as a driving force to such events rather than as a symptom of underlying causes. Originally published in 1999.

    Find this resource:

Anthropology of Religion

Geertz’s program for the study of religion through the lens of semiotics was revolutionary. The essays Geertz 1977a and Geertz 1977b have been cited by hundreds of academic publications. These legions of citations include those by his critics, such as Asad 1983, which argues for a view of religion that includes power; Berger 1974, which thinks Geertz diminishes the experience of religion for its believers; and Frankenberry and Penner 1999, which finds that Geertz’s definitions are too vague. Less polemic readings can be found too, such as Springs 2008, which seeks to redeem Geertz from Asad’s critique. To the consternation of his critics, Geertz seldom engaged these debates head-on. He does address some of these issues in the interview with Arun Micheelsen (Micheelsen 2002) and in his reflections late in life (Geertz 2005). When essays have earlier original publication dates I have noted this in the annotations.

  • Asad, Talal. 1983. Anthropological conceptions of religion: Reflections on Geertz. Man 18.2: 237–259.

    DOI: 10.2307/2801433Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Argues that Geertz’s definition of religion as centered on meaning overlooks the crucial dimension of power.

    Find this resource:

  • Berger, Peter L. 1974. Some second thoughts on substantive versus functional definitions of religion. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 13.2: 125–133.

    DOI: 10.2307/1384374Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Claims that Geertz loses site of the transcendental experience of religion for its believers in his overreliance on its social significance.

    Find this resource:

  • Frankenberry, Nancy K., and Hans H. Penner. 1999. Clifford Geertz’s long-lasting moods, motivations, and metaphysical conceptions. Journal of Religion 79.4: 617.

    DOI: 10.1086/490503Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    An article critical of the impact “Religion as a Cultural System” has had on the study of religion. The authors challenge Geertz on every level, including his definition of symbol.

    Find this resource:

  • Geertz, Clifford. 1977a. Ethos, world view, and the analysis of sacred symbols. In The interpretation of cultures. By Clifford Geertz, 126–141. New York: Basic Books.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Posits that sacred symbols serve believers as a way to “sum up” a whole way of life, including ethics, aesthetics, and ontology. Whether the cross, the crescent, or a feathered serpent, the power of such symbols lies in their comprehensiveness.

    Find this resource:

  • Geertz, Clifford. 1977b. Religion as a cultural system. In The interpretation of cultures. By Clifford Geertz, 87–125. New York: Basic Books.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Argues that religion is best understood as a symbolic system situated within a historical and cultural perspective. Originally published in 1966.

    Find this resource:

  • Geertz, Clifford. 2005. Shifting aims, moving targets: On the anthropology of religion. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 11.1: 1–15.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9655.2005.00223.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Late in life Geertz reflects on his contribution to the field of religious studies and how the anthropology of religion has changed over time. Originally a talk delivered as the 2004 Sir James Frazer Lecture to the Royal Anthropological Institute, the article is filled with self-deprecation and humorous asides.

    Find this resource:

  • Micheelsen, Arun. 2002. “I don’t do systems”: An interview with Clifford Geertz. Method & Theory in the Study of Religion 14.1: 2.

    DOI: 10.1163/157006802760198749Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    In this interview, Geertz defends himself against the criticism of Talal Asad and elaborates on his notion of religion as a cultural system. Special attention is paid to hermeneutics, phenomenology, semiotics, and the study of symbols.

    Find this resource:

  • Springs, Jason A. 2008. What cultural theorists of religion have to learn from Wittgenstein; Or, how to read Geertz as a practice theorist. Journal of the American Academy of Religion 76.4: 934–969.

    DOI: 10.1093/jaarel/lfn087Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Argues that to read Wittgenstein as an intellectual ancestor of practice theory illuminates Geertz’s notion of religion in a way that reduces the apparent opposition between studies of meaning and studies of power.

    Find this resource:

Semiotics in Ecology, Economy, and Politics

This section illustrates the great breadth of Geertz’s ethnographic work, touching on topics of political anthropology, economic anthropology, and cultural ecology. Always aware of the policy implications of anthropology in the so-called Third World, Geertz also produced a limited body of work global in scope and focused on the prospects of what he called the “New States,” which we might today term postcolonial nations, for political stability and economic development. This section includes Bali Studies and the Theater State, Economics and Cultural Ecology—Java and Bali, Morocco Studies and the Bazaar Economy, and Global Perspectives and Economic Development.

Bali Studies and the Theater State

Still early in his career but after his dissertation fieldwork in Java, Geertz and his wife, Hildred, also an anthropologist, expanded their work from Java to include Bali. They collaborated on Geertz and Geertz 1975 but usually worked alone, pursuing their own interests. It seems that his experience in Bali inspired him to buck a number of trends in anthropology. In Geertz 1959, he challenged the very notion that a community could be representative or typical of a people as a whole. In Geertz 1977, he sought to establish a connection between the Balinese sense of personhood and how they perceive the passage of time. His masterpiece though was Geertz 1980, in which he upended the idea that state-level political organizations are best understood through their exertion of power, arguing instead that ritual and statecraft were more important. This idea produced a number of imitators, who sought to apply the notion of the “theater state” to a variety of other settings. It also had many critics, such as Hauser-Schaublin 2003, which attacks Geertz’s reading of the available data as incomplete, and Howe 1991, which affirms that Geertz had overlooked other complicating religious variables. A more qualified criticism can be found in MacRae 2005, which views Geertz as fundamentally wrong about the theater state in Bali’s past, but, ironically, correct when applied to the present.

  • Geertz, Clifford. 1959. Form and variation in Balinese village structure. American Anthropologist 61.6: 991–1012.

    DOI: 10.1525/aa.1959.61.6.02a00060Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The high degree of variation in Balinese villages poses a challenge to the very assumptions that underlie anthropological typologies, whether attempting to find a common denominator or a representative typical example.

    Find this resource:

  • Geertz, Clifford. 1977. Person, time and conduct in Bali. In The interpretation of cultures. By Clifford Geertz, 360–411. New York: Basic Books.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    In examining the Balinese concept of personhood, Geertz claims a deep connection to their particular sense of time and what constitutes appropriate ordinary social behavior. He argues that it is the point of empirical cultural analysis to show the interdependencies and connections among such variables. Originally published in 1966.

    Find this resource:

  • Geertz, Clifford. 1980. Negara: The theatre state in nineteenth-century Bali. Princeton, NJ: Princeton Univ. Press.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Focuses on the spectacle of statecraft in Balinese political culture. Here Geertz deliberately upends the commonly held view that the state as political organization consists primarily of practical applications of power, dressed in ritual and symbolism. In fact, Geertz claims, it is the other way around.

    Find this resource:

  • Geertz, Hildred, and Clifford Geertz. 1975. Kinship in Bali. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A nuanced description of the complexities of Balinese notions of kinship. The very notion of a “kinship system” as anthropologists ordinarily conceive of it, a more or less independent variable isolated from other aspects of social organization, is critiqued.

    Find this resource:

  • Hauser-Schaublin, Brigitta. 2003. The precolonial Balinese state reconsidered: A critical evaluation of theory construction on the relationship between irrigation, the state, and ritual. Current Anthropology 44.2: 153–181.

    DOI: 10.1086/345824Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    In this survey of theories of the relationship between the social organization of irrigation and state formation the author finds that Geertz’s conclusions regarding the Balinese theater state are based on only a selective reading of available data.

    Find this resource:

  • Howe, Leo. 1991. Rice, ideology, and the legitimation of hierarchy in Bali. Man 26.3: 445–467.

    DOI: 10.2307/2803877Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Argues against the thesis of the theater state’s relationship with rice agriculture on the basis that Geertz has overlooked the significance of the Balinese notion of the human soul and its concatenation with the rice cycle.

    Find this resource:

  • MacRae, Graeme. 2005. Negara Ubud: The theatre state in twenty-first-century Bali. History & Anthropology 16.4: 393–413.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Makes the case that Geertz may very well have been wrong about the theater state in precolonial Bali, but that ironically his conclusion does fit contemporary Balinese politics.

    Find this resource:

Economics and Cultural Ecology—Java and Bali

Today Geertz is not as well known for his cultural ecology or economics, but the impact of Geertz 1963a, later refined in Geertz 1965, has been wide reaching in Indonesian and East Asia studies as well as in archaeological studies of the role of hydraulics in complex states (Scarborough 2003). The notion of agricultural involution is that population expansion in Indonesia, rooted in Dutch colonialism which introduced sugar as an export commodity, was accommodated in part by making rice cultivation more labor intensive so as to absorb the massive peasant labor pool. This argument was expanded into a comparative perspective in Geertz 1963b. Some of Geertz’s most persistent criticisms on this front are Alexander and Alexander 1978, which critiques his assessment of agricultural labor, and Alexander and Alexander 1982, which claims that his explanations resonate more with local oral traditions but do not match the historical record. Much to the consternation of his critics, Geertz seldom engaged these debates head-on, but in Geertz 1984 he does return to the defense of the involution thesis.

  • Alexander, Jennifer, and Paul Alexander. 1978. Sugar, rice, and irrigation in colonial Java. Ethnohistory 25.3: 207–223.

    DOI: 10.2307/481196Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Argues that some of Geertz’s claims in Agricultural Involution are misleading because of an error in assessing labor and the relationship between sugar and rice cultivation.

    Find this resource:

  • Alexander, Jennifer, and Paul Alexander. 1982. Shared poverty as ideology: Agrarian relationships in colonial Java. Man 17.4: 597–619.

    DOI: 10.2307/2802036Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Claims that Geertz’s “shared poverty” thesis hews more closely to local Javanese ideology than to the historical record.

    Find this resource:

  • Geertz, Clifford. 1963a. Agricultural involution: The process of ecological change in Indonesia. Monographs and papers, Association for Asian Studies, 11. Berkeley: Univ. of California Press.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A study of geography and cultural ecology that cuts against the grain of traditional approaches. Focuses on the role of 19th-century Dutch colonialism in creating a massively overpopulated and impoverished 20th-century Indonesia.

    Find this resource:

  • Geertz, Clifford. 1963b. Peddlers and princes: Social development and economic change in two Indonesian towns. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    By comparing towns in Bali and Java, Geertz makes the case that economic development ought to be measured not as a rise in per capita income, but as the result of broader, historically rooted social changes.

    Find this resource:

  • Geertz, Clifford. 1965. The social history of an Indonesia town. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    More specific in its scope than Agricultural Involution, this book examines the Javanese economy and class structure from the time of Dutch colonialism to national independence. The argument is organized around contrasting an urban center with its rural hinterlands.

    Find this resource:

  • Geertz, Clifford. 1984. Culture and social change: The Indonesia case. Man 19.4: 511–532.

    DOI: 10.2307/2802324Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Intended to serve as a follow-up to Agricultural Involution, commenting on its critics and the role it has played in Indonesia studies.

    Find this resource:

  • Scarborough, Vernon. 2003. The flow of power: Ancient water systems and landscapes. Santa Fe, NM: SAR Press.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A cross-cultural examination of the role of hydraulics in supporting various ancient civilizations and the relationships among the management of that resource and symbolism, ideology, religion, and politics.

    Find this resource:

Morocco Studies and the Bazaar Economy

Geertz did a great deal of fieldwork in the Moroccan town of Sefrou in the 1970s and 1980s, which culminated in Geertz, et al. 1979, a work that remains influential in the field of Middle Eastern studies. However, it would be Paul Rabinow, one of his team members on the expedition to Morocco, who would write the work a majority of anthropologists consider most enduring (Rabinow 1977). His first publication on this subject (Geertz 1972) takes a comparative perspective with his earlier work on the cultural ecology of Indonesia. The bulk of Geertz’s work on Morocco focuses on the local market bazaar as a social institution. A very detailed discussion of this is available in Geertz 1979, but a summary can be found in Geertz 1978. Updating the Sefrou work is the later piece Geertz 1989, a fascinating example of semiotic analysis in the urban landscape.

  • Geertz, Clifford. 1972. The wet and the dry: Traditional irrigation in Bali and Morocco. Human Ecology 1.1: 23–39.

    DOI: 10.1007/BF01791279Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Compares the Balinese system of irrigation, which is collectivist, with the Moroccan one, which is based on individual property rights, and argues for the legitimacy of applying semiotic analysis to human transactions with the environment.

    Find this resource:

  • Geertz, Clifford. 1978. The bazaar economy: Information and search in peasant marketing. American Economic Review 68.2: 28–32.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The defining activities of the bazaar include cultivating a client relationship among merchants and customers, and acquiring or withholding information in order to most profitably direct one’s bargaining technique. It is like Meaning and Order in Moroccan Society in abstract form.

    Find this resource:

  • Geertz, Clifford. 1979. Suq: The bazaar economy in Sefrou. In Meaning and order in Moroccan society: Three essays in cultural analysis. Edited by Clifford Geertz, Hildred Geertz, and Lawrence Rosen, 123–314. New York: Cambridge Univ. Press.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Describes the market goer in the Sefrou marketplace as one who, despite the apparent chaos and hubbub, navigates a highly organized social system. For Geertz the bazaar is a mosaic, “a constellation of embodied ideas.”

    Find this resource:

  • Geertz, Clifford. 1989. “Toutes directions”: Reading the signs in an urban sprawl. International Journal of Middle East Studies 21.3: 291–306.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Details the conflict between Sefrou’s long-time residents and those newly arrived, mostly peasants from the hinterlands, and how this has played out as a social drama especially in reference to idealized notions of what an Islamic city should be.

    Find this resource:

  • Geertz, Clifford, Hildred Geertz, and Lawrence Rosen. 1979. Meaning and order in Moroccan society: Three essays in cultural analysis. New York: Cambridge Univ. Press.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The essays focus on Sefrou social organization generally, the institution of the local bazaar, and family ties in everyday life. Also includes sixty-four plates of gorgeous photography by Paul Hyman.

    Find this resource:

  • Rabinow, Paul. 1977. Reflections on fieldwork in Morocco. Berkeley: Univ. of California Press.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Although Rabinow did not contribute an essay to Meaning and Order in Moroccan Society he was a member of that field team. This highly personal book has endured as an intimate portrayal of the field experience.

    Find this resource:

Global Perspectives on Economic Development

Aware that anthropologists’ work in so-called Third World nations would have policy implications, Geertz wrote a limited number of pieces, global in scope, on the topic of economic development. Geertz 1961 provides a snapshot of the state of peasant studies in anthropology at the time. Thinking of ways to get peasants to change their economic behavior, Geertz 1962 advances the notion of encouraging local practices that could serve as a step toward modernization. The interdisciplinary analysis in Geertz 1963b represents an early attempt at what today might be termed postcolonial political science. His own contribution to that volume, Geertz 1963a, which was republished in The Interpretation of Cultures (1977), concerns itself with the persistence of long-standing sociocultural divisions into the era of national independence.

  • Geertz, Clifford. 1961. Studies in peasant life: Community and society. Biennial Review of Anthropology 2:1–41.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A global literature review in which Geertz surveys definitions of “peasant” and discusses methods and problems of studying peasant life.

    Find this resource:

  • Geertz, Clifford. 1962. The rotating credit association: A “middle rung” in development. Economic Development and Cultural Change 10.3: 241–263.

    DOI: 10.1086/449960Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Written from an economic development perspective, Geertz concerns himself with the task of how to get people in underdeveloped countries to create capital. The rotating credit association, surveyed here in myriad settings, is offered as a way to socialize traditional people into modern, rational economic activity.

    Find this resource:

  • Geertz, Clifford, ed. 1963a. Integrative Revolutions: Primordial sentiments and civil politics in the new states. In Old societies and new states. Edited by Clifford Geertz, 105–157. New York: Free Press.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The concern here is how “primordial” divisions, which predated national independence, and which include kinship connections, religion, language, or custom, find expression in the contemporary political realm. Cases considered include Indonesia, Malaya, Burma (present-day Myanmar), India, Lebanon, Morocco, and Nigeria.

    Find this resource:

  • Geertz, Clifford, ed. 1963b. Old societies and new states. New York: Free Press.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A comparative analysis of the social and political development of newly independent nations (since 1945). Nation-building and material development are seen as a response to colonialism with special attention paid to problems of social discontinuity and the difficulties of sustaining tradition in an era of modernity.

    Find this resource:

Culture Theory and Method

It is for his collections of essays on theory, method, and writing that Geertz is best remembered. The interpretive method was in its time and still today a subject of some controversy. For its proponents it signifies the arrival of a sophisticated anthropology infused with the best of literary and philosophical traditions. For its detractors it is a symbolic turning point that led anthropology down a regrettable path culminating in a postmodern dead end. In addition to Geertz 1977a, Geertz wrote three more “cultural systems” essays on ideology, common sense, and art. His work on the craft of writing and the rhetoric of ethnography is exemplified in the book Works and Lives (1988), which won the National Book Prize for literary criticism.

Interpretive Anthropology

The opening (Geertz 1977b) and closing (Geertz 1977a) arguments to The Interpretation of Cultures are required reading for all anthropologists, as is Geertz 1983. Indeed, they are recommended for anyone interested in research in the humanities or social sciences. In sum, Geertz argued that cultural anthropology could no longer pattern its research methods on those of the natural sciences. The interpretive method had many critics. Authors of some works, such as Harris 1994, sought to retain the basis of cultural anthropology in the natural sciences, while others, such as Shankman 1984, questioned whether the interpretive method was as innovative and original as others thought it might be. Nevertheless, Geertz maintained that the interpretive method was empirical and amounted to a “science,” although some of his critics, such as in Crapanzano 1986, felt that the consequences of his theory precluded this possibility. Typically these were debates Geertz himself did not participate in. However, in Panourgiá and Kavouras 2008, Geertz does try to clarify some of the more vague aspects of his approach. When essays have earlier original publication dates I have noted this in the annotation.

  • Crapanzano, Vincent. 1986. Hermes’ dilemma: The masking of subversion in ethnographic description. In Writing culture. Edited by James Clifford and George E. Marcus, 51–76. Berkeley: Univ. of California Press.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    In this essay on the provisional nature of ethnographic knowledge, the author provides a critical reading of, among other things, “Deep Play,” an essay for which he has little sympathy.

    Find this resource:

  • Geertz, Clifford. 1977a. Deep play: Notes on the Balinese cockfight. In The interpretation of cultures. By Clifford Geertz, 412–454. New York: Basic Books.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Perhaps Geertz’s most widely read essay and a fitting example of thick description in action. Frames creative cultural expressions as a story people tell about themselves. Originally published in 1971.

    Find this resource:

  • Geertz, Clifford. 1977b. Thick description: Toward an interpretive theory of culture. In The interpretation of cultures. By Clifford Geertz, 3–32. New York: Basic Books.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    In the introduction to Interpretation of Cultures, Geertz comes as close as he ever did to laying out a foundational statement for a theory of culture, famously described as “webs of significance,” and what an anthropologist can hope to know about it through empirical observation.

    Find this resource:

  • Geertz, Clifford. 1983. “From the native’s point of view”: On the nature of anthropological understanding. In Local knowledge. By Clifford Geertz, 55–72. New York: Basic Books.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Questions how anthropological knowledge of what other people think is possible without wrongly claiming psychological closeness between anthropologist and informant. Using examples from Java, Bali, and Morocco, Geertz argues for tacking between experience-near and experience-distant concepts. Originally published in 1975.

    Find this resource:

  • Harris, Marvin. 1994. Cultural materialism is alive and well and won’t go away until something better comes along. In Assessing cultural anthropology. Edited by Robert Borofsky, 62–74. New York: McGraw Hill.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Cultural materialism, as exemplified in the work of Harris, is often presented as a foil to Geertz’s interpretive anthropology. Here is Harris, typically irascible, defending his platform.

    Find this resource:

  • Panourgiá, Neni, and Pavlos Kavouras. 2008. Interview with Clifford Geertz. In Ethnographica moralia: Experiments in interpretive anthropology. Edited by Neni Panourgiá and George E. Marcus, 15–28. New York: Fordham Univ. Press.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Geertz situates interpretive anthropology relative to his influences, discusses hermeneutics and reflexivity, and considers how the study of meaning can conceptualize issues of power. This interview was produced for an educated lay audience and benefits from the clarity afforded by ordinary language. Originally published in 2002.

    Find this resource:

  • Shankman, Paul, et al. 1984. The thick and the thin: On the interpretive theoretical program of Clifford Geertz [and comments and reply]. Current Anthropology 25.3: 261–280.

    DOI: 10.1086/203135Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Concludes that Geertz’s strengths lie mostly in his descriptive powers while his theory and method are underdeveloped. Charges that Geertz ignores the consequences of hewing closer to the humanities at the expense of science.

    Find this resource:

Cultural Systems

Geertz wrote four essays with “cultural systems” in the title. Though they make a compact group and are representative of his approach, one should not make too much of the heading, which is merely a literary device. Geertz is not claiming that culture is systematic. The essay on religion (Geertz 1977b) is the most influential among them, while the political themes developed in Geertz 1977a and Geertz 1983b resonate well with one another. The essay on art (Geertz 1983a) has had some impact outside of anthropology. Geertz 1989 and Geertz 1990 can be read has exemplary of this cultural systems approach in which conflicts among competing groups are expressed in the semiotic realm through social dramas. To summarize this approach: What anthropologists perceive as culture—compartmentalized by Westerners as religion, art, or whatever—are themselves symbolic of a total way of life, a way of being in the world. Hence, the compartmentalization itself is somewhat arbitrary and illusory because these topics, upon closer inspection, blur into one another. When essays have earlier original publication dates I have noted this in the annotation.

  • Geertz, Clifford. 1977a. Ideology as a cultural system. In The interpretation of cultures. By Clifford Geertz, 193–233. New York: Basic Books.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Geertz dismantles definitions of ideology as a pejorative, a mask for power struggles, or a kind of Freudian symptom. He calls for a view of ideology as symbolic action constantly at work on and being worked on by other kinds of cultural patterns.

    Find this resource:

  • Geertz, Clifford. 1977b. Religion as a cultural system. In The interpretation of cultures. By Clifford Geertz, 87–125. New York: Basic Books.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Argues that religion is best understood as a symbolic system situated within a historical and cultural perspective. Originally published in 1966.

    Find this resource:

  • Geertz, Clifford. 1983a. Art as a cultural system. In Local knowledge. By Clifford Geertz, 94–120. New York: Basic Books.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Using examples from 15th-century Italian painting, Islamic poetry, and African body art, Geertz advocates a study of art rooted in cultural semiotics in which the artwork is understood in relation to other modes of social activity and as part of a particular pattern of life in a given society. Originally published in 1976.

    Find this resource:

  • Geertz, Clifford. 1983b. Common sense as a cultural system. In Local knowledge. By Clifford Geertz, 73–93. New York: Basic Books.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    In this piece Geertz argues that what is considered obvious, apparent, or patently the case is too much in the eye of the beholder. Common sense is like the distilled, practical implications of an entire worldview. Draws on Evans-Pritchard’s work among the Zande and perceptions of intersexed individuals in three cultures. Originally published in 1975.

    Find this resource:

  • Geertz, Clifford. 1989. “Toutes directions”: Reading the signs in an urban sprawl. International Journal of Middle East Studies 21.3: 291–306.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A social drama plays out between long-time residents and new arrivals in Sefrou, Morocco, where the arena for debate is defined by idealized notions of what an Islamic city should be.

    Find this resource:

  • Geertz, Clifford. 1990. “Popular art” and the Javanese tradition. Indonesia 50:77–94.

    DOI: 10.2307/3351231Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Geertz seeks to show that genres of art, which appear to Westerners as high or low art, are in Java best understood in terms of a variety of social factors, especially Islam and nationalism.

    Find this resource:

Writing as Anthropological Practice

Geertz is renowned in anthropology not only for his substantial contributions to the discipline, but also for his baroque and enchanting prose (see Olson 1991). As a young man, he has admitted, he wanted to be a novelist, and, as an anthropologist, he sought to bring the discipline into closer alignment with literature and the humanities (see Geertz 1983a). Of course, this proved to be of great consequence for the humanities, especially history (Geertz 1990 and Rosaldo 1990) as well as literature (Geertz 2003). A primary strategy for this project was to examine the role of rhetoric in ethnography (Geertz 1988) and to recognize the culture of academia (Geertz 1983b) as influential in the production of anthropological knowledge. Complementing this approach were a string of articles written for the educated public in The New York Review of Books, collected in Inglis 2010. Geertz also wrote a number of essays for The New Republic. When essays have earlier original publication dates I have noted this in the annotation.

  • Geertz, Clifford. 1983a. Blurred genres: The refiguration of social thought. In Local knowledge. By Clifford Geertz, 19–35. New York: Basic Books.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    In this major work, Geertz hails the age of genre mixing, especially social science and philosophical inquiry, dressed as literary criticism. This he reads as the arrival of interpretive method in a wide range of scholarly discourses with its focus on the symbolic. Originally published in 1980.

    Find this resource:

  • Geertz, Clifford. 1983b. The way we think now: Toward an ethnography of modern thought. In Local knowledge. By Clifford Geertz, 147–166. New York: Basic Books.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Geertz means to focus his lens upon academe and how disciplinary ways of being in the world influence scholarly production and vice versa. He suggests viewing departments as communities, closely examining specialized language use, and looking at career patterns as akin to life histories. Originally published in 1982.

    Find this resource:

  • Geertz, Clifford. 1988. Works and lives: The anthropologist as author. Stanford, CA: Stanford Univ. Press.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This prize-winning work offers a very close reading of Lévi-Strauss, Evans-Pritchard, Malinowski, and Benedict. Can also be read as a rejoinder to the critiques of Writing Culture (Crapanzano 1996, cited under Interpretive Anthropology).

    Find this resource:

  • Geertz, Clifford. 1990. History and anthropology. New Literary History 21.2: 321–335.

    DOI: 10.2307/469255Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Explores the long-standing tradition of rivalry between the disciplines and the contemporary melding of the two in social history and historical anthropology.

    Find this resource:

  • Geertz, Clifford. 2003. A strange romance: Anthropology and literature. Profession 1:28–36.

    DOI: 10.1632/074069503X85553Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Originally a talk delivered at the MLA, references “Deep Play” and “Found in Translation.” Geertz explores the necessity, especially post-9/11, for Westerners to engage the Other in a way that rattles our complacency by implicating the non-Western in our moral lives.

    Find this resource:

  • Inglis, Fred, ed. 2010. Life among the anthros. Princeton, NJ: Princeton Univ. Press.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A selection of Geertz’s essays for the New York Review of Books. Works discussed include, among others, Discipline and Punish, Primate Visions, Darkness in El Dorado, and “The Battle of Algiers.” Also includes five post–Available Light essays.

    Find this resource:

  • Olson, Gary A. 1991. The social scientist as author: Clifford Geertz on ethnography and social construction. Journal of Advanced Composition 11.2: 245–268.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    In this extended interview, Geertz discusses his peculiar writing technique, sharing as he does his thoughts on the lack of rhetorical analysis in anthropology.

    Find this resource:

  • Rosaldo, Renato. 1990. Response to history and anthropology. New Literary History 21.2: 337–341.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Draws attention to one lesson to be learned, namely, that blending history and anthropology is not likely to produce an easy synthesis but rather to be only one element of a broader trend, including the demands of newly emergent voices from formerly disenfranchised subjects of history.

    Find this resource:

Ethics and Politics

Geertz’s thinking on ethics and politics is two-pronged. On the one hand, he is interested in what anthropology can tell us about how ethico-political formations develop and are used by people in their everyday lives (see Geertz 1977 and Geertz 1996). On the other hand, he wants to explore the ethico-political ramifications of anthropology in the world, both as a kind of cultural encounter in itself (see Geertz 1983 with commentary from Gunn 1979)—this argument is updated in Geertz 2001c—and as a way of understanding conflict (see Geertz 2001b and Geertz 2010). This section also includes Geertz 2001a, a spirited defense of the value of the interpretive method in addressing such concerns. When essays have earlier original publications dates I have noted this in the annotation.

  • Geertz, Clifford. 1977. The politics of meaning. In The interpretation of cultures. By Clifford Geertz, 311–326. New York: Basic Books.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    By a politics of meaning Geertz means a “struggle for the real,” an attempt to specify the terms under which, in the context of post-independence Indonesia, political debate shall proceed. Divergent political parties compete not only for power, but also for this “power above power.” Originally published in 1971.

    Find this resource:

  • Geertz, Clifford. 1983. Found in translation: On the social history of the moral imagination. In Local knowledge. By Clifford Geertz, 36–54. New York: Basic Books.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    In this commemoration of Trilling, Geertz ponders how it is that the imaginative products of others, whether separated by time or by cultural difference, come to serve our moral lives. Discusses a 19th-century account of suttee in Bali and the emergence of irony in Western literature after World War II. Originally published in 1977.

    Find this resource:

  • Geertz, Clifford. 1996. Off echoes: Some comments on anthropology and law. PoLAR 19.2: 33–37.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Geertz notes how the anthropology of law began with a (Westernized) focus on the function of law as a mechanism for dispute resolution. This quickly evolved into a broader anthropological study of the role of law in defining the possible. Could be read alongside “The Politics of Meaning.”

    Find this resource:

  • Geertz, Clifford. 2001a. Anti-anti-relativism. In Available light: Anthropological reflections on philosophical topics. By Clifford Geertz, 42–67. Princeton, NJ: Princeton Univ. Press.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Here Geertz defends contemporary anthropology from its critics who see it as a wishy-washy, anything goes, everything is equal, relativism. At the same time, Geertz does not seek to redeem relativism, which he too sees as flawed, but to wholeheartedly reject its detractors. Originally published in 1984.

    Find this resource:

  • Geertz, Clifford. 2001b. The world in pieces: Culture and politics at the end of the century. In Available light: Anthropological reflections on philosophical topics. By Clifford Geertz, 218–264. Princeton, NJ: Princeton Univ. Press.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    In characterizing the contemporary world as “disassembled,” Geertz argues for a new role for theory now that the categories of nation and culture are increasingly difficult to define. In effect, he asks: Where does connectedness come from in an era of deep diversity? Originally published in 1998.

    Find this resource:

  • Geertz, Clifford. 2001c. Thinking as a moral act: Ethical dimensions of anthropological fieldwork in the new states. In Available light: Anthropolical reflections on philosophical topics. By Clifford Geertz, 21–41. Princeton, NJ: Princeton Univ. Press.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    He writes here to inspect “social scientific research as a variety of moral experience,” ruminating as he does so upon the effectiveness of anthropology at diagnosing problems even while it seldom proposes solutions, and the pervasiveness of irony in the fieldwork experience. Originally published in 1968.

    Find this resource:

  • Geertz, Clifford. 2010. What was the third world revolution? In Life among the anthros. By Clifford Geertz, 236–252. Princeton, NJ: Princeton Univ. Press.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Contemplates the rise of revolutionary new nations after the end of colonialism, which, a few short years later, became dictatorships, spawning runaway urbanization and far-flung migrations. The lesson to be learned is that the notion of consolidated peoples living in discrete territories and nonporous states is obsolete. Originally published in 2005.

    Find this resource:

  • Gunn, Giles. 1979. The semiotics of culture and the interpretation of literature: Clifford Geertz and the moral imagination. Studies in the Literary Imagination 12.1: 109.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Unpacks “Found in Translation” by providing details of the back and forth between Geertz and Trilling. Stresses the ethical considerations at the heart of this conversation and the personal transformative potential inherent in the act of interpretation.

    Find this resource:

LAST MODIFIED: 01/11/2012

DOI: 10.1093/OBO/9780199766567-0035

back to top

Article

Up

Down