Available Light: Anthropological Reflections on Philosophical Topics

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Princeton University Press, Jul 22, 2001 - Social Science - 271 pages
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Clifford Geertz, one of the most influential thinkers of our time, here discusses some of the most urgent issues facing intellectuals today. In this collection of personal and revealing essays, he explores the nature of his anthropological work in relation to a broader public, serving as the foremost spokesperson of his generation of scholars, those who came of age after World War II. His reflections are written in a style that both entertains and disconcerts, as they engage us in topics ranging from moral relativism to the relationship between cultural and psychological differences, from the diversity and tension among activist faiths to "ethnic conflict" in today's politics.

Geertz, who once considered a career in philosophy, begins by explaining how he got swept into the revolutionary movement of symbolic anthropology. At that point, his work began to encompass not only the ethnography of groups in Southeast Asia and North Africa, but also the study of how meaning is made in all cultures--or, to use his phrase, to explore the "frames of meaning" in which people everywhere live out their lives. His philosophical orientation helped him to establish the role of anthropology within broader intellectual circles and led him to address the work of such leading thinkers as Charles Taylor, Thomas Kuhn, William James, and Jerome Bruner. In this volume, Geertz comments on their work as he explores questions in political philosophy, psychology, and religion that have intrigued him throughout his career but that now hold particular relevance in light of postmodernist thinking and multiculturalism. Available Light offers insightful discussions of concepts such as nation, identity, country, and self, with a reminder that like symbols in general, their meanings are not categorically fixed but grow and change through time and place.

This book treats the reader to an analysis of the American intellectual climate by someone who did much to shape it. One can read Available Light both for its revelation of public culture in its dynamic, evolving forms and for the story it tells about the remarkable adventures of an innovator during the "golden years" of American academia.


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Review: Available Light: Anthropological Reflections on Philosophical Topics

User Review  - Yang - Goodreads

This time when I read Geertz, I find him deeply Weberian also in another way (Meanings as public, as sociologically identifiable, which of course, is recognized by all). It suddenly occurs to me that ... Read full review

Review: Available Light: Anthropological Reflections on Philosophical Topics

User Review  - Cărăşălu - Goodreads

The key word from title is ”reflections”. As to their quality of being ”anthropological”, well, I think that a title like ”an anthropologist's reflections" would be more fitting. The topics aren't ... Read full review


Passage and Accident A Life of Learning
Changing the Subject
Waiting Time
Thinking as a Moral Act Ethical Dimensions of Anthropological Fieldwork in the New States
Anti AntiRelativism
The Uses of Diversity
The State of the Art
Culture War
The Strange Estrangement Charles Taylor and the Natural Sciences
The Legacy of Thomas Kuhn The Right Text at the Right Time
The Pinch of Destiny Religion as Experience Meaning Identity Power
Imbalancing Act Jerome Bruners Cultural Psychology
Culture Mind BrainBrain Mind Culture
The World in Pieces Culture and Politics at the End of of the Century
What Is a Country if It Is Not a Nation?
What Is a Culture if It Is Not a Consensus?

Deep Hanging Out
History and Anthropology
Local Knowledge and Its Limits

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About the author (2001)

Clifford Geertz (1926-2006) was a cultural anthopologist. At the time of his death he was professor emeritus at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton. He was professor of anthropology at the University of Chicago from 1960 to 1970. He carried out fieldwork in Indonesia and North Africa, which forms the basis of his books published by the University of Chiocago Press.

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