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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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... as Lost Cities. The living, merely described, attract little interest unless they happen to be ourselves. To be heard or read, the ethnographic description of out-of-the-way behaviours must imply. CliffordGeertz 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 ...

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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... the ‘text’ of what people say and do and constructing her work essentially as a translation of that text. No ‘ism’ attaches as a label to this enterprise, but it belongs to a trend in which CliffordGeertz, 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 ...

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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... and 1930 were born the modern – one might also say pre-Post-Modern – masters: Jack Goody (1919), Victor Turner (1920), Mary Douglas (1921), and Marshall Sahlins (1930). Right in the middle came CliffordGeertz, 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 ...

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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... fractured, but that at the same time there was precious little objective truth to be discovered beyond these accounts. Davis and Darnton both taught at Princeton, where they attended the seminars of CliffordGeertz, 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 ...
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 CliffordGeertz 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 ...

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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... a neolithic phase of disillusionment with the social sciences, tempered by an increasing interest in social anthropology, notably the symbolic anthropology practised by his Princeton neighbour CliffordGeertz. 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 ...

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 CliffordGeertz 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 ...

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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... so. Again adopting a narrative mode, he traces the continuity between Parsons’s notion of culture – as a symbolic system treated in isolation from social organisation – and that of the later CliffordGeertz, 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 ...

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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... in 19th-century Javanese poetry, conceptions of power and charismatic leadership, and the visual language of cartoons, films and public monuments in a country which, with the exception of work by CliffordGeertz 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 ...
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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... theoretical naivety and seemed to fear for my intellectual life at the Institute. Essentially he advised me to lash myself to the mast and stop up my ears to avoid being seduced by the siren song of CliffordGeertz 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 ...
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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... in one of the styles patented by Graham Greene, Paul Theroux, Bruce Chatwin and Robert Byron. The scholarly version of these explorations is called anthropology, as in Claude Lévi-Strauss, CliffordGeertz, 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 ...
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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... at least to the degree that they thought they were doing something other than seeking power. It relegates to the sidelines the panoply of cultural meanings and considerations that a Daniel Bell or CliffordGeertz 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 ...

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,’ CliffordGeertz 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 ...
18 April 1996
... very varied, psychologically, but the deepest psychological differences are those that can be found within a given culture. The cultural relativism of Emile Durkheim and others, elegantly renewed by CliffordGeertz 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 ...

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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... exaggeration, but I certainly found the whole exercise compulsive reading. All recent Anglophone anthropological discussions of Islam in modern Morocco have been indebted to the antithetical views of CliffordGeertz 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 ...

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