Friday, November 03, 2006

Rest in peace, Clifford Geertz

Clifford Geertz has died - just as I was reading his collection of essays "Available Light. Anthropological Reflections on Philosophical Topics"!

Geertz's book "Negara. The Theatre State in Nineteenth Century Bali" was one of the books that got me through the difficult years of my cultural anthropology MA, one of the few books that managed to be beautiful and scientific at the same time. Of course, I also loved his famous "The Interpretation of Cultures", and can wholeheartedly recommend both books to anyone with the slightest interest in the cultural life of that strangest of animals, homo sapiens. "Available Light" is also a wonderful read: the essays that are included in the collection, on diversity of cultures, breathe that optimism of the pre-George Bush, pre-9/11 era that is so sorely missed today.

In "Available Light" Geertz described anthropologists: 'We have, with no little success, sought to keep the world off balance; pulling out rugs, upsetting tea tables, setting of firecrackers. It has been the office of others to reassure; ours to unsettle. Australopithecenes, Tricksters, Clicks, Megaliths - we hawk the anomalous, peddle the strange. Merchants of astonishment'.

I hope this blog can live up to that ideal. Rest in peace, wise trickster.

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