Works and Lives: The Anthropologist as Author

Front Cover
Stanford University Press, 1988 - Social Science - 157 pages
2 Reviews
The illusion that ethnography is a matter of sorting strange and irregular facts into familiar and orderly categories—this is magic, that is technology—has long since been exploded. What it is instead, however, is less clear. That it might be a kind of writing, putting things to paper, has now and then occurred to those engaged in producing it, consuming it, or both. But the examination of it as such has been impeded by several considerations, none of them very reasonable. One of these, especially weighty among the producers, has been simply that it is an unanthropological sort of thing to do. What a proper ethnographer ought properly to be doing is going out to places, coming back with information about how people live there, and making that information available to the professional community in practical form, not lounging about in libraries reflecting on literary questions. Excessive concern, which in practice usually means any concern at all, with how ethnographic texts are constructed seems like an unhealthy self-absorption—time wasting at best, hypochondriacal at worst. The advantage of shifting at least part of our attention from the fascinations of field work, which have held us so long in thrall, to those of writing is not only that this difficulty will become more clearly understood, but also that we shall learn to read with a more percipient eye. A hundred and fifteen years (if we date our profession, as conventionally, from Tylor) of asseverational prose and literary innocence is long enough.
  

What people are saying - Write a review

Works and lives: the anthropologist as author

User Review  - Not Available - Book Verdict

In this groundbreaking study, noted anthropologist Geertz focuses on the writing of anthropologists, specifically enthnographers. He argues that what makes readers take an account of field work ... Read full review

Review: Works and Lives: The Anthropologist as Author

User Review  - Cleiton - Goodreads

The best author! Read full review

Contents

Anthropology and the Scene of Writing
1
How to Read Tristes Tropiques
25
EvansPritchards African Transparencies
49
Malinowskis Children
73
Benedicts Travels
102
Whose Life Is It Anyway?
129
Index
153
Copyright

Common terms and phrases

References to this book

All Book Search results »

About the author (1988)

Clifford Geertz, an American anthropologist, is known for his studies of Islam in Indonesia and Morocco and of the peasant economy of Java. But he is also the leading exponent of an orientation in the social sciences called "interpretation". Social life, according to this view, is organized in terms of symbols whose meaning we must grasp if we are to understand that organization and formulate its principles. Interpretative explanations focus on what institutions, actions, customs, and so on mean to the people involved. What emerges from studies of this kind are not laws of society, and certainly not statistical relationships, but rather interpretations, that is to say, understanding. Geertz taught for 10 years at the University of Chicago and has been the Harold F. Linder professor of social science at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey.

Bibliographic information