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The Interpretation of Cultures

4.11  ·  Rating details ·  3,464 ratings  ·  78 reviews
In The Interpretation of Cultures, the most original anthropologist of his generation moved far beyond the traditional confines of his discipline to develop an important new concept of culture. This groundbreaking book, winner of the 1974 Sorokin Award of the American Sociological Association, helped define for an entire generation of anthropologists what their field is ul ...more
Paperback, 480 pages
Published May 19th 1977 by Basic Books (first published 1973)
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Atif Bougamza كتاب سوسيولوجي أنتروبولوجي قيم، وهو عصارة مجموعة أبحاث ميدانية قام بها كيلفيرد كيرتز بإعتماد تقنيات حفريات البحث السوسيولوجية في الثقافة والتراث المغر…moreكتاب سوسيولوجي أنتروبولوجي قيم، وهو عصارة مجموعة أبحاث ميدانية قام بها كيلفيرد كيرتز بإعتماد تقنيات حفريات البحث السوسيولوجية في الثقافة والتراث المغربي بالأخص، ويعتبر الكتاب من الجذور الفكرية التأسيسية للنظرية الجديدة في علم الإجتماع Framing theory، والتي تتوجه إلى الاعتماد على التأطير في تأويل الفعل الثقافي، ودراسات إطار التراث كمؤثر في الفعل الاجتماعي والثقافي ... ويتناول الكتاب مفهوم الثقافة انطلاقا من مقاربات الانتروبولوجيا، ويقول في كتابه “تأويل الثقافات” إن أصل الكلمة الإنجليزية للثقافة Culture يعود إلى اللاتينية Cultura التي تعني التربية. وقد شاع استعمال الكلمة بدءاً من منتصف القرن التاسع عشر بمعنى تلك القدرة الإنسانية الشاملة على التعلّم ونقل المعارف واستخدامها في الحياة. وأصبح مفهوم الثقافة من المفهومات المركزية التي تعالجها الأنثروبولوجيا في القرن العشرين، وكان هو في ذلك يشمل كل ظواهر حياة الإنسان خارج نطاق الوراثة البيولوجية.
وتكتسب الثقافة حياة واستمرارية خاصتين بها، وهي تتطوّر على نحو ليس بالمستطاع تفسيره بشكل مرض، بحيث يصبح وجوده ، بما يحمل من لغة ومعتقدات وأدوات وأعراف.. إلخ، خارجاً عن نطاق إرادة الفرد بذاته. وهو بذلك يخدم في حماية حياة المرء وتحسين حياته. ثم إن كل مجموعة من الناس، أكانت قبيلة أو أمة، تطور أنظمتها الخاصة من ضمن ما يمكن تسميته بـ”ثقافتها الخاصة” التي تشترك فيها مع مجموعات أخرى ببعض الخصائص وتنفرد فيها بخصائص أخرى. ومن وجهة نظر بنيوية يمكن أن ندعو الثقافة العامة بالـ”Langue” )الخصائص العامة التي تميز التراث بشكل عام(، بينما تكون الثقافة الفردية للمجموعات بمثابة الـParole)الخصائص الخاصة التي تميز كل ثقافة بذاتها (
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Timothy
Sep 17, 2009 rated it really liked it
The Interpretation of Cultures is an academic classic. The late Clifford Geertz was lauded for his 1973 anthropological volume, and I do not find this to be hype. The book is structured around anthropological description, with Geertz relying on field data he gathered mostly in the 1950’s and 1960’s. Yet, it is certain that, if The Interpretation of Cultures were mere anthropological description, the book probably would not have survived. How many Westerners are truly fascinated enough by the det ...more
Ashley
Dec 17, 2007 rated it it was amazing
"Man is an animal suspended in webs of significance he himself has spun, I take culture to be those webs..."

These cultural "webs of significance" Clifford Geertz speaks of are constructed of religious beliefs and practices, cultural customs, social interactions, attitudes and behavior -- everything around us that we have constructed as rational beings capable of thought and imagination. According to Geertz, the role of the anthropologist is, in a sense, to 'decode' the symbolic meanings of thes
...more
Sam Grace
Dec 04, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone who can handle academic stuff
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 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.
...more
Tessa
May 02, 2007 rated it really liked it
Everyone at the LSE may hate him but what do they know ;-) Geertz really introduced the culture as texts idea which has played a huge role in shaping modern anthropology. Even if you're not into anthro, he's just a wonderfully talented writer and fascinating thinker ...more
Richard
May 11, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Possibly the most influential book of my college years.
m
May 21, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Geertz said he grew up wanting to be a writer but failed. This is one result of that failure: a very good book of close observation & philosophy masquerading as social science.
Marie Østvold
I read it. And re-read it. It's brilliant work. If you understand it. ...more
Dan Call
Sep 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Geertz threw down the gauntlet at social science, defining a generation of anthropologists in the process. When I first read this text back in college, I was enticed by the logic and liberation of his “thick description.”
Only later would I realize how big a threat Geertz posed to the inter generational project of legitimizing anthropology to the scientific community. Several of my mentors regarded him with at least a little scorn.
Like all the great ethnographers, he emerged from his fieldwork
...more
Marsha Altman
Oct 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
Another classic of sociology. That doesn't mean that it's not really hard to get through, and you should definitely read Durkheim, and Weber, and Freud first, since he responds to them. ...more
Mindy McAdams
Jul 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I came back from Indonesia in 2012 all ready to read Geertz, but I never got around to it until now. This collection of essays around the concept of culture — what is it, and how can/should we study it? — is a classic that holds up very well. (Caveat emptor: I'm not an anthropologist.)

I especially liked "Ritual and Social Change: A Javanese Example." It describes how a funeral in a village became an event of confusion and unhappiness because of changing times — not so much modernization per se
...more
Carl
Aug 20, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I've read a couple of essays in this book before, and figured that I should reread them, considering how seminal Geertz has been in my own field, and how influential at my university (for example, his influence on the early New Historicists). The most important sections would be (I believe) his introductory essay, "Thick Description: Toward and Interpretive Theory of Culture" and "Notes on a Balinese Cockfight". I believe the latter is one of his best known examples of his "Thick Description" in ...more
Chris
May 14, 2007 rated it really liked it
Okay, I acknowledge your reservations about Clifford Geertz. Lots of people have reservations about Clifford Geertz. Benedict Anderson, for example, has reservations about Clifford Geertz, as do I. I acknowledge your concern that Geertz's "semiotic approach to the study of culture" may be inherently--irredeemably--slippery, woolly-headed flimflam papered over with a raft of highbrow references and a better than average prose style

But whatever, I defy anyone to read "Deep Play: Notes on the Balin
...more
Jake Barnett
Jun 01, 2019 rated it really liked it
This book can be a bit dense.

However, if you re-read certain essays you can take away some very important messages from Geertz that have proven to be foundations social anthropology today. His analyses of religion, ideology and the politics of meaning break down the subjects into their respective elements, tracing each one to its sociopolitical roots as a construct of culture. He paints the caveats of biological development in conjunction with the development of culture excellently, presenting t
...more
Kent
Jan 07, 2014 rated it really liked it
While it is beginning to show its age, partially because many of his ideas became a part of the way anthropology, sociology, and history now operate, Geertz's work is still a worthwhile read. Of most importance are his broader chapters (especially chapters 1 and 2) that lay out his views on how to study culture(s). While his chapters based on his own fieldwork are good case studies, they may not be as useful to the general scholar. Geertz does spend a lot of time referencing and arguing against ...more
Policythinkshop Blogger
Apr 20, 2012 rated it it was amazing
"Wow! In a world where most people think culture is something you eat or gawk at, Geertz empowers the mind by making it the lens through which culture is seen and understood as a complex web that is dynamic and embedded with aesthetic, meaning and very human narrative." ...more
Myeashea Alexander
Oct 21, 2012 rated it really liked it
It's a bit dense, but a must read. ...more
Miguel Angel
Feb 13, 2014 rated it really liked it
Symbolic Anthropology at the highest expression. One of the creators. One of the best Anthropologists of all time.
Rtrred
Aug 19, 2020 rated it liked it
This is something that I should definitely re-read. The first reading of this book got over my head and that's an understatement. ...more
Josh
An absolute powerhouse of a book. Some of the writing can be hard to take in (slog through) given Geertz' extended prose and scholarly prowess, but ultimately his ability to elucidate concrete events and circumstances grounds the book in powerful ethnography. The most captivating of the essays are those which focus on the ground truth of culture in Bali, where Geertz' ethnographies exemplify the notion of thick description. More than that, though, Geertz' clear genius is in proposing (and perhap ...more
Neil
We read excerpts of this book for an online course I was taking in college; I enjoyed the excerpts enough that I decided to finish the book. It took me quite a bit longer to finish than I expected, but there is a lot to digest in this book. It is not a quick 'done and gone' book; it has a lot of depth and humor to it. I also thought it was interesting how he kept pointing out that people who study other cultures and then right about what they observe tend to be blinded by their own . . . "prejud ...more
Adam James
Jun 19, 2020 rated it liked it
Roughly equal parts interesting and exhausting, sometimes skewing more towards the latter. As a collection of essays written at different times, the book repeats many points and circles back to discussions, and the overall themes and messages are rendered vague - helped only slightly by the introduction intended to tie the essays together.

Some essays do stand out: 'Religion as a cultural system' offers interesting analysis of the function that sacred symbols play in "synthesiz[ing] a people’s e
...more
Dolf Haven
Apr 25, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I mostly wanted to read this book because of its Indonesian case studies. However, the amount of theory is quite large and a lot of it was quite over my head. Plus he is a fan of using as many dependent clauses in a sentence as possible, as if he is paid by the comma, which, usually, makes reading a sentence, let alone a whole, or partial, paragraph, tiring, if not exhausting. What is interesting in the theory, though, is that Geertz has a first inkling of a more integral view of humanity, where ...more
James Millikan SJ
Feb 02, 2020 rated it really liked it
Truth be told, I found the middle sections of this text to be rather underwhelming. The pages and pages of ethnographical investigations were so awash in detail that the notable contributions to social theory were obscured. Geertz states up front that this book is based off a collection of scholarly articles, and I suspect that therein lies the problem: what in journal articles constitutes scholarship and rigor makes for overly-technical and disjointed book-length chapters.

Still, when The Interp
...more
Annie
Aug 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: meantos
Useful definition of religion but he seems unclear on how to differentiate culture from it. I like how he discusses culture as the ultimate reality and how the human cannot be disconnected from it as Enlightenment thinkers like to assume.
Amanda
Sep 11, 2018 rated it it was ok
My cultural anthropology processor had our class read exerts out of this novel. It was quite interesting learning about the way of life and acceptance among Balinese culture but at some points I found the text a bit dense and difficult to understand until we went over it in class.
Aaron
This book was sometimes tedious, but Geertz's writing style is very clear and engaging, and "Deep Play: Notes on the Balinese Cockfight" is an absolute classic. ...more
Khawaja Hamad
Apr 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
Amazing book !!
Erika
May 06, 2018 rated it liked it
academic, aged ... hard going but mostly worthwhile
Timothy Frasca
Dense but worth the effort especially the description and analysis of Balinese culture.
Sezim Askarbekova
Now I know where Harari took most of the information)
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Clifford James Geertz was an American anthropologist and served until his death as professor emeritus at the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, New Jersey.

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28 likes · 6 comments
“There is an Indian story -- at least I heard it as an Indian story -- about an Englishman who, having been told that the world rested on a platform which rested on the back of an elephant which rested in turn on the back of a turtle, asked (perhaps he was an ethnographer; it is the way they behave), what did the turtle rest on? Another turtle. And that turtle? 'Ah, Sahib, after that it is turtles all the way down” 28 likes
“What we call our data are really our own constructions of other people’s constructions of what they and their compatriots are up to.” 14 likes
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