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James Peacock, 15 July 1982

Negara: The Theatre State in 19th-Century Bali 
by Clifford Geertz.
Princeton, 297 pp., £13.10, December 1980, 0 691 05316 2
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... To be heard or read, the ethnographic description of out-of-the-way behaviours must imply. Clifford Geertz once said, concerning the particularised, exotically localised microscopic reports of ethnographers: ‘small facts’ must be made to ‘speak to large issues’. The points to which Negara is made to speak are two. The first, which ...

Taking heads

Andrew Strathern, 18 June 1981

Knowledge and Passion: Ilongot Notions of Self and Social Life 
by Michelle Rosaldo.
Cambridge, 286 pp., £17.50, April 1980, 0 521 22582 5
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... that text. No ‘ism’ attaches as a label to this enterprise, but it belongs to a trend in which Clifford Geertz, editor of the series to which this book belongs, has been prominent, and which Paul Rabinow has summarised in the maxim: ‘All culture is interpretation.’ This is one of Rosaldo’s starting-points for discussion. The other is her own ...

Djojo on the Corner

Benedict Anderson, 24 August 1995

After the Fact: Two Countries, Four Decades, One Anthropologist 
by Clifford Geertz.
Harvard, 198 pp., £17.95, April 1995, 0 674 00871 5
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... Victor Turner (1920), Mary Douglas (1921), and Marshall Sahlins (1930). Right in the middle came Clifford Geertz, who was born in San Francisco in 1926. In the quarter-century between 1960, when he published his masterly The Religion of Java, and the middle Eighties, he was, after Lévi-Strauss, the most widely-known and influential anthropologist ...

Skipwith and Anktill

David Wootton: Tudor Microhistory, 10 August 2000

Travesties and Transgressions in Tudor and Stuart England 
by David Cressy.
Oxford, 351 pp., £25, November 1999, 0 19 820781 6
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A House in Gross Disorder: Sex, Law, and the Second Earl of Castlehaven 
by Cynthia Herrup.
Oxford, 216 pp., £18.99, December 1999, 0 19 512518 5
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... these accounts. Davis and Darnton both taught at Princeton, where they attended the seminars of Clifford Geertz, who encouraged the belief that the simplest events (his classic account was of a cock-fight in Bali) were invested with the preoccupations and styles of thought of the whole culture; that objects and actions could be interpreted as if they ...

Who can blame him?

Frank Kermode, 5 April 1990

Critical Terms for Literary Study 
edited by Frank Lentricchia and Thomas McLaughlin.
Chicago, 369 pp., £35.95, March 1990, 0 226 47201 9
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The Ideology of the Aesthetic 
by Terry Eagleton.
Blackwell, 426 pp., £35, February 1990, 0 631 16302 6
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... Something is happening to the way we think,’ said Clifford Geertz in 1980, and Stanley Fish is right to add that Geertz was partly responsible for the shift. But Fish, in a bold essay on rhetoric included in the Lentricchia-McLaughlin volume, qualifies Geertz’s remark: ‘something,’ he adds, ‘is always happening to the way we think ...

Rolling Stone

Peter Burke, 20 August 1981

The Past and the Present 
by Lawrence Stone.
Routledge, 274 pp., £8.75, June 1981, 0 7100 0628 4
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... in social anthropology, notably the symbolic anthropology practised by his Princeton neighbour Clifford Geertz. There is little doubt that some historians are feeling rather complacent as they view this development. Whether they can afford to be so is another matter. Many of us have moved along the same route over the last twenty years or so, and the ...

The Swaddling Thesis

Thomas Meaney: Margaret Mead, 6 March 2014

Return from the Natives: How Margaret Mead Won the Second World War and Lost the Cold War 
by Peter Mandler.
Yale, 366 pp., £30, March 2013, 978 0 300 18785 4
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... In​ 1957, in a remote village on the south coast of Bali, the young anthropologist Clifford Geertz was watching a cremation ceremony spill down a hillside when the crowd suddenly parted, ‘as in a DeMille movie’, and there, propped up on her walking stick, stood Margaret Mead. She was on her way to India for ‘a World Conference on some sort of World Problem’, and had tracked down Geertz and his wife on her ‘notoriously bad ankles ...

No Escape

Bruce Robbins: Culture, 1 November 2001

Culture Matters: How Values Shape Human Progress 
edited by Samuel Huntington and Lawrence Harrison.
Basic Books, 384 pp., £12.99, April 2001, 0 465 03176 5
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Culture/Metaculture 
by Francis Mulhern.
Routledge, 198 pp., £8.99, March 2000, 0 415 10230 8
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Culture: The Anthropologists’ Account 
by Adam Kuper.
Harvard, 299 pp., £12.50, November 2000, 0 674 00417 5
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... as a symbolic system treated in isolation from social organisation – and that of the later Clifford Geertz, who sees anthropology as a form of textual scholarship concerned not with people’s actions but with their interpretations of their actions. The limits of this view were exposed, Kuper argues, by the frightening abyss between ...

Van Diemonians

Inga Clendinnen: Convict Culture in Tasmania, 4 December 2008

Van Diemen’s Land: A History 
by James Boyce.
Black, 388 pp., £20.75, February 2008, 978 1 86395 413 6
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... One is that, lacking a global perspective, it displays a naive ‘exceptionalism’. As Clifford Geertz once said, ‘You can study different things in different places, and some things – for example, what colonial domination does to established frames of moral expectation – you can best study in confined localities.’ My own view is that ...

Gentlemen Travellers

Denis Donoghue, 18 December 1986

Between the Woods and the Water 
by Patrick Leigh Fermor et al.
Murray, 248 pp., £13.95, October 1986, 0 7195 4264 2
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Coasting 
by Jonathan Raban.
Collins, 301 pp., £10.95, September 1986, 0 00 272119 8
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The Grand Tour 
by Hunter Davies.
Hamish Hamilton, 224 pp., £14.95, September 1986, 0 241 11907 3
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... The scholarly version of these explorations is called anthropology, as in Claude Lévi-Strauss, Clifford Geertz, Margaret Mead, and many American scholars in receipt of sabbatical leave and Guggenheim fellowships. If you have a sufficiently resourceful mind, and a persuasive style, of course, you can stimulate them by going for a walk along the local ...

Many Causes, Many Cases

Peter Hall, 28 June 1990

Confessions of a Reluctant Theorist 
by W.G. Runciman.
Harvester, 253 pp., £30, April 1990, 0 7450 0484 9
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... to the sidelines the panoply of cultural meanings and considerations that a Daniel Bell or Clifford Geertz might employ to explain the direction of society. We see this reflected in Runciman’s masterful essay on the French Revolution. Taking up a number of themes in the recent historiography, he argues that the Revolution was literally ...

Who now cares about Malinowski?

Robert Ackerman, 23 May 1996

After Tylor: British Social Anthropology 1888-1951 
by George Stocking.
Athlone, 570 pp., £50, January 1996, 0 485 30072 9
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... me to lash myself to the mast and stop up my ears to avoid being seduced by the siren song of Clifford Geertz and his fellow ‘symbolic anthropologists’. In his eyes the danger of infection was so great that he suggested that I rethink the idea of going to the Institute at all. I already knew that the study of mythology had for centuries been ...

Homesick Everywhere

Lawrence Rosen: Misreading Muslim Extremism, 4 August 2005

Globalised Islam: The Search for a New Ummah 
by Olivier Roy.
Hurst, 349 pp., £16.95, November 2004, 1 85065 598 7
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The War for Muslim Minds: Islam and the West 
by Gilles Kepel, translated by Pascale Ghazaleh.
Harvard, 327 pp., £15.95, September 2004, 0 674 01575 4
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... about their situation’. Indeed, the question of belief in a changing world is, as Clifford Geertz once put it, less about what to believe than how to believe it – what rituals or words, what emotional expressions or shared sentiments, what collective enterprises or personal acts will suffice to give people a sense of the orderliness of ...

Hitler in Jakarta

Ira Katznelson, 7 November 1991

Language and Power: Exploring Political Cultures in Indonesia 
by Benedict Anderson.
305 pp., $44.95, January 1991, 0 8014 9758 2
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... language of cartoons, films and public monuments in a country which, with the exception of work by Clifford Geertz and by students of ethnicity in plural societies, has been peripheral to the development of Western social science, is an unexpected place to find inventive approaches to some of the most vexing problems in the social sciences. Language ...

Uninfatuated

Tessa Hadley: Dan Jacobson, 20 October 2005

All for Love 
by Dan Jacobson.
Hamish Hamilton, 262 pp., £16.99, February 2005, 0 241 14273 3
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... If anthropology is obsessed with anything,’ Clifford Geertz says, ‘it is with how much difference difference makes.’ The same could be said of the novel. And novelists’ curiosity, like anthropologists’, aims not to solve or explain the puzzle of lives lived, but to seize and transcribe it. In his new book, All for Love, Dan Jacobson captures a story from late 19th-century European history with an anthropologist’s eye for detail ...

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