Name: Clifford Geertz
Nationality: US American
Date of birth: 23 August 1926 in San Francisco
Known for: Symbolic Anthropology
- The Religion of Java (1960). Chicago, IL: University Chicago Press
- The Interpretation of Cultures (1973). New York: Basic Books
- Negara: The Theatre State in 19th Century Bali (1980). Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press
- After the Fact: Two Countries, Four Decades, One Anthropologist (1995). Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press
- Available Light: Anthropological Reflections on Philosophical Topics (2000). Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press
After his service in the Second World War, Clifford Geertz completed his B.A. in Philosophy in 1950 at Antioch College in Yellow Springs and then his Ph.D. at Harvard University in 1956 on social anthropology.
Clifford Geertz was a renowned scholar within the field of symbolic anthropology. Drawing upon the work of linguist Ferdinand de Saussure, symbolic anthropology studies the ways in which signs govern cultural life. Geertz, in particular, focused on the ways in which symbols operate within a culture. Most of his studies were conducted in South Asia and North Africa.
Clifford Geertz is also famous for his Theory of Religion where he describes a religious cult as a cultural system that controls the social system which itself controls individuals. He defended the Thick Description theory which implies that human behaviour must be analysed within a context to be fully understood. This is one reason why all cross cultural awareness training programmes now underline the importance of studying all aspects of culture in order to have a full understanding of its key values and cultural practices and their impact on life in the target country.
Clifford Geertz’s ideas influenced anthropology throughout the 20th century as well as other fields of research like History and Political Sciences. His work can be summarised by this quote from Professor Daniel Pals: “His critics are few, his admirers are legion”.
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