Geertz

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Geertz

  1. 1. <ul><li>(On line) Reading: Geertz, C. (1973). &quot;Thick Description,&quot; The Interpretation of Cultures. New York: Basic Books, p. 3-30. </li></ul>
  2. 2. Clifford Geertz <ul><li>Clifford Geertz, “Description: Toward and Interpretive Theory of Culture ,” The Interpretation of Culture , (NY: Basic Books, 1973), Chapter 1 </li></ul><ul><ul><li>What defines it is the kind of intellectual effort it is: an elaborate venture in, to borrow a notion from Gilbert Ryle, &quot;thick description.&quot; </li></ul></ul>
  3. 3. Background on Geertz <ul><li>Clifford Geertz (1926-present) began his academic career at Antioch College in Ohio as an English major and went on to study anthropology at Harvard. </li></ul><ul><li>After being given the opportunity to do research in Indonesia, Geertz wrote Agricultural Involution which surveyed two types of Indonesian agriculture, their geographic location, and their historical development. </li></ul><ul><li>His most influential work has been in the area of ethnographic studies, specifically research conducted on Javanese culture (an Indonesian island). </li></ul><ul><li>Geertz is best known for his attention to systems of meaning—the symbolic—in anthropological analysis of culture, how cultures change, and the study of culture at large. </li></ul><ul><li>http://academic.csuohio.edu/as227/spring2003/geertz.htm </li></ul>
  4. 4. Thick Description 1 <ul><li>Thick Description is a term borrowed by Geertz from Gilbert Ryle to describe and define the aim of interpretive anthropology. </li></ul><ul><li>It can be broken down as follows: </li></ul>
  5. 5. Thick Description 2 <ul><li>Social Anthropology is based on ethnography , or the study of culture. </li></ul><ul><li>Culture, in turn, is based on the symbols that guide community behavior. </li></ul><ul><li>Symbols obtain meaning from the role which they play in the patterned behavior of social life. </li></ul>
  6. 6. Thick Description 3 <ul><li>Because of the intertwined nature of culture and behavior, they cannot be studied separately. </li></ul><ul><li>By analyzing culture, one develops a &quot;thick description&quot; of a culture which details &quot;what the natives think they are up to.&quot; </li></ul><ul><li>This thick description is developed by looking at both the whole culture and the parts of the culture (such as laws). </li></ul>
  7. 7. Thick Description 4 <ul><li>Thick description is an interpretation of what the natives are thinking made by an outsider who cannot think like a native. </li></ul><ul><li>Thick description is made possible by anthropological theory (Geertz 1973d; see also Tongs 1993). </li></ul><ul><li>Adapted From http://www.as.ua.edu/ant/Faculty/murphy/436/symbolic.htm </li></ul>
  8. 8. Illustrating Thick Description 1 <ul><li>Geertz uses an example taken from Ryle which discusses the difference between a &quot;blink&quot; and a &quot;wink.&quot; </li></ul><ul><li>One, a blink, is an involuntary twitch (the thin description ) and </li></ul><ul><li>the other, a wink, is a conspiratorial signal to a friend (the thick description ). </li></ul>
  9. 9. Illustrating Thick Description 2 <ul><li>While the physical movements involved in each are identical, each has a distinct meaning </li></ul><ul><li>&quot;as anyone unfortunate enough to have had the first taken for the second knows&quot; (Geertz 1973d:6). </li></ul>
  10. 10. Illustrating Thick Description 3 <ul><li>This, Geertz argues, is the object of ethnography: to decipher this hierarchy of cultural categories. The thick description, therefore, is a description of the particular form of communication used, e.g., a parody of someone else's wink or a &quot;normal&quot; conspiratorial wink. </li></ul><ul><li>Adapted From http://www.as.ua.edu/ant/Faculty/murphy/436/symbolic.htm </li></ul>
  11. 11. Thick Questions to Discuss 1 <ul><li>3. Why does Geertz mention E. B. Tylor (p. 4)? Who was he? What did Tylor mean when he defined culture as the “most complex whole”? </li></ul><ul><li>4. In one sentence can you explain the question Geertz raises in his description of Clyde Kluckhohn’s Mirror for Man (pp. 4-5)? That too many definitions of culture make it analytically useless. </li></ul><ul><li>7. Who was Max Weber? Why is he remembered? </li></ul>
  12. 12. Thick Questions to Discuss 2 <ul><li>9. Can you think of examples from your own experience that demonstrate that culture consists of “webs of significance”? </li></ul><ul><li>12. What is the point of Geertz’s long example, adapted from the work of Gilbert Ryle, of “twitches, winks, fake-winks, parodies, [and] rehearsals of parodies” (pp. 6-7)? </li></ul>
  13. 13. Thick Questions to Discuss 3 <ul><li>13. How might these twitches, winks, and so on be analyzed if we understand the study of culture as an “experimental science”? How does our analysis change if we believe that the study of culture is “interpretive”? </li></ul><ul><li>15. What does Geertz mean when he says that “what we call our data are really our own constructions of other people’s constructions of what they and their compatriots are up to”? </li></ul><ul><li>Adapted from: Clifford Geertz, “Thick Description: Toward an Interpretive Theory of Culture,” questions for discussion (adapted from: http://themargins.net/fps/worksheets/geertzinterpretive1.html ) </li></ul>

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