Clifford Geertz was born in San Francisco in 1926. After receiving his undergraduate degree from Antioch College, he studied at Harvard University, where he earned his Ph.D. in 1956.
Geertz then traveled to Indonesia, where he worked as an anthropologist for the next two decades. In 1973, he published a book called The Interpretation of Cultures: Selected Essays. In it, he articulated his theory of “thick description,” which calls for anthropologists to provide detailed contextual information about the cultural phenomena they study. According to Geertz, such an approach is necessary for making sense of the complexities of human behavior.
His concept of “thick description” is still widely used, and his book The Interpretation of Cultures remains a classic text in the discipline. In addition to his theoretical contributions, Geertz also produced richly descriptive accounts of Indonesian culture that are still read and studied today, particularly his analysis of the Balinese cockfight.
Books by Clifford Geertz
Clifford Geertz published several other books throughout his career, including Local Knowledge (1983), The Uses of Diversity (1991), and Available Light: Anthropological Reflections on Philosophical Topics (2000). He also served as the president of the American Anthropological Association from 1980 to 1982.
Geertz was widely respected within the field of anthropology, and he received numerous awards and honours over the course of his career. In 2006, he passed away at the age of 79. Though he is no longer with us, Clifford Geertz’s contributions to anthropology will continue to be felt for many years to come.
For Further Reading
- Jane Goodall – a pioneering primatologist
- Marshall Sahlins (1930 – 2021) – Race is a Social Construct
- Saba Mahmood – a strong voice in the anthropology of religion and post-colonialism
- Claude Lévi-Strauss’s Structuralism and its Influence on Anthropological Thought
- Clifford Geertz – the man who pioneered “thick description” in anthropology
- Ruth Benedict: The anthropologist who believed that cultures have personalities
- Michael Taussig – Doctor and Anthropologist
- Bronislaw Malinowski: The Father of Field Research
- Margaret Mead: A Pioneering Anthropologist
- Franz Boas: The Father of American Anthropology
- Émile Durkheim: The Father of Sociology and His Contributions to Anthropology
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