Grahamstown, South Africa
Izvorni naučni članak
Clifford Geertz: Writing and interpretation*
ABSTRACT The paper examines the scope and influence of Clifford Geertz, one of the most influential social scientists in the 20th century. Geertz is associated with the “interpretative,” “postmodern” or “literary” turn in anthropology, although he would not necessarily put himself in any of these categories. The concepts of the “culture as text” and the “semiotic concept of culture” have influenced generations of scholars. They have also been criticized, but I point to inadequacies of some of these criticisms. The paper traces this “interpretative” thread of Geertz’s work, along with its methodological implications for the relativistic, plural perspectives, up to his writings in the 1990s, when he seems to adopt a position that there actually can be one interpretation, a specific “master narrative” according to which “the world” we live in can be understood. The conclusion is that this latest phase of Geertz’s work might be impossible to reconcile with a kind of methodological pluralism implied in his earlier works.
KEY WORDS Clifford Geertz, interpretative anthropology, contemporary anthropology — methodological aspects, culture — methodological aspects.
* Acknowledgements This paper has been many years in making, and in the process, I benefited greatly from the years I spent at the University of St. Andrews (October 1993 to September 1996), especially by intellectually stimulating encounters with my former supervisor and present friend, Professor Nigel Rapport. Professor Joanna Overing is responsible for my “discovery” of Feyerabend, and the late Dr. Sándor G. J. Hervey re-iterated my interest in Saussure (with wider implications for the problem of interpretation). Last but not least, Professor Geertz has over the years been kind to provide me with several copies of his papers (and one book), and not to discourage me in trying to sift through numerous interpretations. This, of course, does not imply that any one of them would agree with anything written here.
An earlier (and much shorter) version of this paper was published in Slovenian in 1996 (Bošković 1996).