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Clifford Geertz

Page history last edited by runningafterantelope@... 15 years, 9 months ago


Clifford Geertz

August 23, 1926, San FranciscoOctober 30, 2006, Philadelphia.



Photograph of C. Geertz

Strenths:  Champion of Symbolic Anth, developed "thick description"


Weaknesses:  disappointed some by not producing over-arching theories; lived over 30 years in NJ


Special features:  sweet facial hair

sign: Virgo


"Believing with Max Weber that man is an animal suspended in webs of significance he himself has spun, I take culture to be those webs and the analysis of it to be therefore not an experimental science in search of law but an interpretive one in search of meaning,” ~Geertz

Clifford Geertz received his undergraduate degree in Philosophy from Antioch College and his PHD from Harvard in 1956.  He conducted extensive research in South East Asia and North Africa. The major focus of his research was a search for meaning, especially through symbols. In his book The Interpretation of Cultures, he argued that through symbols, people express and examine their perspectives on life and thus, define their culture. He also developed "thick description;" an enthnographic method of fieldwork through which anthropologists try to describe both events and their contexts so that their meaning is clear to outsiders. His work was never grounded in a single ideological school because he constantly found fault in their limitations. He died in 2006 at the age of 80 from complications to heart surgery.


·       The Religion of Java (1960)

·       The Interpretation of Cultures (1973)

·       Agricultural Involution: the process of ecological change in Indonesia (1964)

·       Thick Description: Toward an Interpretive Theory of Culture (1973)


·       Anti-Anti-Relativism (1984)


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