The Online Encyclopedia and Dictionary






Clifford Geertz

Clifford James Geertz was born on August 23, 1926 in San Francisco. After service in the U.S. Navy in World War II (1943-45), Geertz studied at Antioch College receiving a B.A. in 1950 and at Harvard receiving his Ph.D. in 1956. He taught or held fellowships at a number of schools before joining the anthropology staff of the University of Chicago(1960 - 70); he then became professor of social science at the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton University from 1970 - 2000, now emeritus. At the University of Chicago, Geertz became a "champion of symbolic anthropology", which gives prime attention to the role of thought (of "symbols") in society. Symbols guide action. Culture, according to Geertz, is "a system of inherited conceptions expressed in symbolic forms by means of which people communicate, perpetuate, and develop their knowledge about and attitudes toward life." The function of culture is to impose meaning on the world and make it understandable. The role of anthropologists is to try (though complete success is not possible) to interpret the guiding symbols of each culture (see thick description).

He has conducted extensive ethnographical research in Southeast Asia and North Africa. He has also contributed to social and cultural theory and is still very influential in turning anthropology toward a concern with the frames of meaning within which various peoples live out their lives. He has worked on religion, most particularly Islam, on bazaar trade, on economic development, on traditional political structures, and on village and family life. He is presently professor emeritus at the Institute for Advanced Study (IAS) in at Princeton and working on the general question of ethnic diversity and its implications in the modern world.

Works and bibliography

For more detailed information about current research projects, academic career and a basic bibliography see: his homepage at the IAS

For a complete bibliography in ALL languages, including all translations und reprints, as well as manucripts and research reports, see HyperGeertz@WorldCatalogue

Last updated: 02-07-2005 13:15:33
Last updated: 04-29-2005 16:37:12