Clifford Geertz

by Henry Farrell on October 31, 2006

Via David Greenberg at “Open University”:, I see that Clifford Geertz, whom I admired greatly, has died. Obituary “here”:

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Boîte noire » Archive du blog » Les petites choses utiles du mardi, vol. 32
11.07.06 at 11:33 am



Colin Danby 11.01.06 at 2:25 am

Not only have I greatly enjoyed teaching some of his writings, but I return to his work time and again in my own reading. It’s a particularly strong model of interdisciplinary engagement.


astrongmaybe 11.01.06 at 4:18 am

A sentence of his that struck me once:

“[in his/the hermeneutics of culture]… theoretical formulations hover so low over the interpretations they govern that they don’t make much sense or hold much interest apart from them. This is so, not because they are not general (if they are not general, they are not theoretical), but because stated independently of their applications, they seem either commonplace or vacant.” (From “Thick Description”)

I think Robert Musil (the greatest interpreter of early C20 W. European culture, imo) would have liked that “hover so low”, as well as Geertz’s invocation of the “delicacy of distinction, not the sweep of abstraction”.


dr ngo 11.02.06 at 12:07 am

My own recollection of Geertz’s work on Southeast Asia – I never met the man, alas – was that he wrote so damn well that even when he was wrong about something, he was more convincing than others, less eloquent, who got it right. (E.g., in particular, Agricultural Involution, almost a throwaway monograph on the “Cultivation System” in Java that dominated the discourse for a generation, just because it was so elegant.)


ChrisTheRed 11.02.06 at 7:01 am

I’ll second what each of you has said above. The text I both most enjoyed teaching and most noodled over in my idle hours was his application of Bentham’s deep play in “Notes on the Balinese cockfight”. Mostly, he wrote beautifully, and thought broadly, and is almost unique in the degree to which he did each.


GESUINA LECLERC 11.04.06 at 3:53 pm

Next Friday I will present some results of my doctoral thesis in which I apply some Geertz’s ideas, here in João Pessoa, Brazil. I will keep him in my heart. I learned a lot from interpretativism.

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