Works and lives: the anthropologist as author
Stanford/Ca./USA 1988: Stanford University Press & Cambridge/UK 1988: Polity Press


(by Clifford Geertz)




A vol in 6 Chpts (4 of which are revised from Harry Camp Memorial Lectures delivered at Stanford U in spring 1983, & 1 originally published in Raritan, 1983, fall), with an author's Preface, which explores how anthropologists write, primarily through detailed case studies of the text-building strategies employed in landmark works by four quite different sociocultural, ethnographically oriented anthropologists: Claude Levi-Strauss, Edward Evan Evans-Pritchard, Bronislaw Malinowski, & Ruth Benedict. (1) Being There: Anthropology and the Scene of Writing - explores reasons underlying previous resistance toward examining the peculiarities & mechanics of anthropological writing. Anthropology is shown to resemble "literary" discourses more than "scientific" ones. (2) The World in a Text: How to Read 'Tristes Tropiques' - reviews two common descriptions of the organization of Levi-Strauss's work - linear & quantum - & rejects them in favor of a "centrifugal" approach, showing how his works are characterized by different sorts of texts being superimposed on each other to bring out an overall kaleidoscopic pattern. Focus is on Tristes Tropiques ([The Sad Tropics], Paris, 1955) as a travelogue, ethnography, philosophical text, reformist tract, symbolist literary work, &, ultimately, a quest story involving the anthropologist-as-seeker myth. (3) Slide Show: Evans-Pritchard's African Transparencies - uses excerpts from Edward Evan Evans-Pritchard's little-noticed "Operations on the Akobo and Gila Rivers, 1940-41" (The Army Quarterly, 1973, 103, 4, July, 1-10) to illustrate his characteristic "of course" style, through which what appear to be bizarre aspects of other cultures are disenstranged by describing them in the (seemingly) offhand tone used to describe one's own culture. (4) I-Witnessing: Malinowski's Children - examines how Bronislaw Malinowski's A Diary in the Strict Sense of the Term (New York, 1967) epitomizes his "join-the-brutes," total-immersion style of ethnography. Two antithetical images of the anthropologist are revealed: the "absolute cosmopolite," who is adaptive & subjective, & the "complete investigator," who is dispassionate & objective; their simultaneous existence is explored using excerpts from four other works. Malinowski's "I-witness" style is compared to the styles used by other anthropologists, including Kenneth Read, Paul Rabinow, Vincent Crapanzano, & Kevin Dwyer. (5) Us/Not-Us: Benedict's Travels - illustrates Ruth Benedict's edificatory ethnography & its characteristic irony & powerful expository style through an examination of two of her major works: Patterns of Culture (New York, 1959 [1932]), & The Chrysanthemum and the Sword: Patterns of Japanese Culture (New York, 1974 [1946]). It is shown how she perfected a genre that has often been ruined by moral posturing, exaggerated self-consciousness, & ideological preconceptions through an "Us/Not-Us" style used so successfully by satirists like Jonathan Swift. (6) Being Here: Whose Life Is It Anyway? - examines the incongruities inherent in the fact that anthropologists - no matter how foreign their subject matter - must ultimately write for the world of academe. The social relationships between anthropologists & the cultures they explore have been radically altered by the end of colonialism, imperialism, & scientism; resultant moral & epistemological issues are discussed. It is argued, however, that this current disarray need not mean the "end of what has been anthropology"; new roles for anthropologists & an enlargement of the possibilities of their discourse are examined. The benefits & hazards of regarding the anthropological vocation as a literary one are summarized.




source: Sociological Abstracts Inc. (paper version)


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