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In essays covering everything from art and common sense to charisma and constructions of the self, the eminent cultural anthropologist and author of The Interpretation of Cultures deepens our understanding of human societies through the intimacies of "local knowledge." A companion volume to The Interpretation of Cultures, this book continues Geertz's exploration of the meaning of culture and the importance of shared cultural symbolism. With a new introduction by the author.

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Book Details

ISBN: 9780465041626
ISBN-10: 0465041620
Format: Paperback
(204mm x 127mm x 19mm)
Pages: 256
Imprint: Basic Books
Publisher: The Perseus Books Group
Publish Date: 18-Feb-1985
Country of Publication: United States

Other Editions


US Kirkus Review » Prof. Geertz (Institute of Advanced Study, Princeton) regards the anthropologist as one who uncovers layers of meaning in one culture and translates them into the terms of another culture - in the mode of his classic analysis of a Balinese cockfight, in The Interpretation of Cultures. Here, less convincingly, he is exploring theories and the tension between various forms of "local knowledge" (art, common sense, custom) and "generalized knowledge." What emerges is a glass bead game of intellectual fashions (semiotics, hermeneutics) and chronic namedropping - as when Geertz writes of social scientists, disenchantment with scientific methods and metaphors: "The penetration of the social sciences by the views of such philosophers as Heidegger, Wittgenstein, Gadamer, or Ricoeur, such critics as Burke, Frye, Jameson, or Fish, and such all-purpose subversives as Foucault, Habermas, Barthes, or Kuhn makes any simple return to a technological conception of those sciences highly improbable." It is also improbable that anyone but the players will know what is going on. Geertz delights to think, for example, that what he and Lionel Trilling do is essentially the same thing. Literary criticism and interpretive anthropology are "not just cognate activities. They are the same activity differently pursued." This leads to "meta-commentary" ("what Trilling thinks about what Geertz thinks about what the Balinese think, and what Geertz thinks about that") - though there is more worry about under-interpretation than overinterpretation. If all this talk led to dramatic new insights in the empirical essays (the one, for instance, on charisma in Tudor England, Hindu Java, and Muslim Morocco), we would eagerly follow the new path out of the theoretical maze. But it leads simply to more talk. In the lengthy essay on "Fact and Law in Comparative Perspective," Geertz reminds his Yale Law School audience that "Law may not be a brooding omnipresence in the sky. . . but it is not, as the down-home rhetoric of legal realism would have it, a collection of ingenious devices to avoid disputes. . . . An Anschauung in the marketplace would be more like it." After highflying mecta-commentaries and Anschauungs, the final recommendation is a down-to-earth, peace-making plea. "If there is any message. . . . It is that the world is a various place. . . and much is to be gained, scientifically and otherwise, by confronting the grand actuality rather than wishing it away in a haze of forceless generalities and false comforts." Did most anthropologists ever believe otherwise? Does the anthropologist really have a new set of clothes? Given Geertz's eminence, some may think so. (Kirkus Reviews)

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Author Biography - Clifford Geertz

Clifford Geertz, the author of many books, is Harold F. Linder Professor of Social Science at the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, New Jersey.

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