Wednesday, March 6, 2013

In which Clifford Geertz is on the money yet again.

Anthropologist Clifford Geertz is one of my academic heroes: he writes clearly, with elegance and that kind of identifying accuracy which is intensely satisfying to come across. Case in point: gathering thoughts together to clad this introductory chapter and justify my study and why it is important, I struggle with the task of trying to define something that is ephemeral, ever-increasing and which has the tendency to change on a dime. And Geertz writes:

'Cultural analysis is intrinsically incomplete. And, worse than that, the more deeply it goes the less complete it is. It is a strange science whose most telling assertions are its most tremulously based, in which to get somewhere with the matter at hand is to intensify the suspicion, both your own and that of others, that you are not quite getting it right. But that, along with plaguing subtle people with obtuse questions, is what being an ethnographer is like.' (1973)

It is a relief to remember that no one study can 'explain away the entire world', as I was told in Honours. You do what you can, being honest and rigorous about what you are discussing and you set strict boundaries around what you will do, leaving the rest for future studies. Got to remember that this year!


  1. I envy people who can write with such clarity. Hell, I even people who can communicate in any form with such clarity. Damn you, Geertz. Damn you, Findlay!

  2. I hope you're including yourself in this damned company, Melissa! You and your incredible photography? Heck yes! (And thank you!)