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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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

Wolf, Turtle, Bear

Francis Gooding: ‘Wild Thought’, 26 May 2022

Wild Thought: A New Translation of ‘La Pensée sauvage’ 
by Claude Lévi-Strauss, translated by Jeffrey Mehlman and John Leavitt.
Chicago, 357 pp., £16, January 2021, 978 0 226 41308 2
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... of the translators would put their name to it, and it was left unattributed, a notorious disaster. Clifford Geertz declared it ‘execrable’. The arrival of Mehlman and Leavitt’s new translation is, then, an event. Finally, there is a fresh, agile English rendering of one of the 20th century’s greatest, strangest and most challenging works. Working ...

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 ...

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 ...

The Sense of the Self

Galen Strawson, 18 April 1996

... within a given culture. The cultural relativism of Emile Durkheim and others, elegantly renewed by Clifford Geertz and orthodox in large parts of the academic community is based on a serious underestimation of the genetic determinants of human nature, and a false view of mental development. It’s partly for this reason, and partly because I have a ...

Anthropologies

Edmund Leach, 2 August 1984

Nomads and the Outside World 
by A.M. Khazanov, translated by Julia Crookenden.
Cambridge, 369 pp., £37.50, February 1984, 0 521 23813 7
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The House of Si Abd Allah: The Oral History of a Moroccan Family 
edited by Henry Munson.
Yale, 320 pp., £17.95, April 1984, 0 300 03084 3
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Ruth Benedict: Patterns of a Life 
by Judith Modell.
Chatto, 255 pp., £15, February 1984, 0 7011 2771 6
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... discussions of Islam in modern Morocco have been indebted to the antithetical views of Clifford Geertz in Islam Observed (1968) and Ernest Gellner in Saints of the Atlas (1969). Geertz perceives Islam as a system of cultural symbols and is concerned to show us how individual Muslims think and feel about ...

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 ...

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 ...

Devouring the pangolin

John Sutherland, 25 October 1990

The Kiss of Lamourette: Reflections in Cultural History 
by Robert Darnton.
Faber, 393 pp., £25, September 1990, 0 571 14423 3
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... Darnton found the solution in the classroom. At Princeton for six years he co-taught a course with Clifford Geertz, ‘Anthropology and History’. Out of this experience came his next book, The Great Cat Massacre (1984). This, too, was a collection of essays, less coherent in content than its predecessor, but more confident in tone and method. Darnton ...

Touches of the Real

David Simpson: Stephen Greenblatt, 24 May 2001

Practising New Historicism 
by Catherine Gallagher and Stephen Greenblatt.
Chicago, 249 pp., £17.50, June 2000, 0 226 27934 0
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... of origins is rehearsed, and debts acknowledged to some of the familiar fellow spirits, like Clifford Geertz and Michel Foucault. There is also Raymond Williams, to be heard most obviously in Greenblatt’s predilection for ‘lived experience’, and E.P. Thompson, whose determination to remember the overlooked figures of the past is affirmed ...

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