books: October 2006 Archives

Clifford Geertz, 1926-2006

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Just heard that Clifford Geertz passed away yesterday. The Institute for Advanced Study has a full rundown of his career.

Noting that human beings are "symbolizing, conceptualizing, meaning-seeking animals," Geertz acknowledged and explored the innate desire of humanity to "make sense out of experience, to give it form and order."

Sound like anyone else we rhetoricians might be familiar with? I certainly don't claim exhaustive knowledge of Geertz's work, but The Interpretation of Cultures was part of my foundational coursework in rhetoric, and we could do worse as a field than to acknowledge that connection more explicitly. From Gary Olson's 1991 interview with Geertz for JAC:

Clifford Geertz says it all in one crisp, succinct sentence: "I'm probably a closet rhetorician, although I'm coming out of the closet a bit." For over three decades, Geertz has been attempting to steer anthropological scholarship away from a rigidly scientific model and toward a humanistic, interpretive, hermeneutic model--apparently with great success. Perhaps it is Geertz's preoccupation with seeing science and scholarship as rhetorical, as socially constructed, that makes his work so eminently appealing to many of us in rhetoric and composition. Geertz sees rhetoric as central to his own life and work.

Take a look at the interview--it's worth it, and not just for those of us engaged in what Geertz first called "thick description."

Update: More links over at Savage Minds



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