I'm rereading this and am amazed at how much I missed the last time I picked it up. Rather than attempt to break down why Geertz is so great or what h...moreI'm rereading this and am amazed at how much I missed the last time I picked it up. Rather than attempt to break down why Geertz is so great or what he covers in this book, I'm just gonna include a couple of my favorite quotations:
"Believing, with Max Weber, that man is an animal suspended in webs of significance he himself has spun, I take culture to be those webs, and the analysis of it to be therefore not an experimental science in search of laws, but an interpretive one in search of meaning." (5)
"...where an interpretation comes from does not determine where it can be impelled to go." (23)
"it may be in the cultural particularities of people - in their oddities - that some of the most instructive revelations of what it is to be generically human are to be found." (43)
In particular his essay "The Impact of the Concept of Culture on the Concept of Man" gave me an entirely new perspective relative to the doctrine of the psychic unity of mankind.
There's no doubt this is academic reading, but if there were ever a book that deserved to be read by everyone interested in culture, this is it.(less)
Like other greats (Clifford Geertz, for example), her writing is specific in scope but should be required reading for all humans. It "overflows our an...moreLike other greats (Clifford Geertz, for example), her writing is specific in scope but should be required reading for all humans. It "overflows our analytical categories," to take her words.
Anyone remotely interested in cultural anthropology should read this. If you haven't really read anthro, this is a great place to start. She is very intentional about writing a book that is accessible to most Western audiences, and that CLOSES THE DISTANCE that is too often created not only by scientific texts but by any experience beyond the familiar.
To quote a line I particularly love, "Telling stories, it has seemed to me, could be a powerful tool for unsettling the culture concept and subverting the process of "othering" it entails."
That's from the introduction, which is amazing, but if that feels too academic-y for you, I have no doubt she would suggest you skip it altogether and go onto the stories - the chapters - themselves. I think that she would say that for the same reason she purports to omit a conclusion, because "although [she:] wanted the tales to be able to speak to a set of intellectual debates in various fields in the United States and Europe in the 1990's, I also wanted to let them be more."
This is my favorite academic text ever. Awesome.(less)
Loved this book. It is a very accessible read, so you should certainly read it if you're interested in the subject matter, regardless of your training...moreLoved this book. It is a very accessible read, so you should certainly read it if you're interested in the subject matter, regardless of your training. There were a couple of things that made this a particularly wonderful book for me: 1) the way she includes herself in the narrative and 2) the normalization of her "subjects." These are not unrelated, obviously.
In "Beginning Fieldwork," the author tells about the girls she's working with dressing and making her up and then dropping into her home grocery store. She mentions, "I was dying for [the security guard:] to ask me for my ID card." Her account has an integrity to it that shows through in statements like this that so clearly position her - and make her more vulnerable than most of us would feel comfortable with. As an anthropologist, writing vulnerability into her own character seems incredibly important, given the power that she has in presentation. It means you have a clear understanding of the lens through which the young women are being seen and interpreted. All this, I should say, without ever making the book about her, which it most certainly isn't.
The normalization of her subjects is equally exciting. It is, it seems to me, one of the most important goals of anthropology, and it requires acknowledging the position of the audience. We are - my words, not her's - voyeurs and the subjects are exotic. Normally in anthropology, we the audience are kept safely, superiorly, away from them the subjects. But in her interactions, we can participate. We can communicate. And, in fact, the author challenges us to do so. In a description of eyeliner in "Muy Macha," she suggests, "Try this at home." No matter whether woman or man, the audience is brought into the conversation and allowed to participate without ever challenging the safe spaces or boundaries of the group being discussed. It breaks down the walls of the AUDIENCE but leaves the protective measures of the subjects in tact.
When I write, this is what I want to do.
I realize I haven't talked about the subject of the book. It's interesting. Fascinating. But I've read lots of interesting subjects, I'm more excited about the awesome ways that she approaches it. There's a lot more to talk about, but maybe you can write it here when you've read it!(less)
Got to read the intro and first chapter for History of Anthro Theory class and thought it was very well written and super interesting. This is totally...moreGot to read the intro and first chapter for History of Anthro Theory class and thought it was very well written and super interesting. This is totally not my area of interest, but I may have to go read the whole thing anyway.(less)
"It is the best description yet of what we are looking for in propo...moreI look forward to reading this because of the Savage Minds review. Here's a chunk:
"It is the best description yet of what we are looking for in proposals for funding dissertation research. For those of us who went to elite school, we have heard this sort of talk about what good proposals look like—it is part of the oral lore that is passed down from one old boy to the next. There are even a few pieces floating out there—Sydel Silverman’s and Adam Przeworski’s—on what funders look for. But this is the longest, most detailed, and most empirical account of what judges in grant competitions look for when they fund grants. You should do yourself a favor and read the whole book, but if nothing else you’d be a fool not to check out chapter five."(less)