Clifford Geertz

Clifford Geertz’s influence in the realm of cultural and social anthropology is difficult to overstate. His work on symbolic meaning has influenced scholars in almost every branch of the social sciences, ranging from history and sociology to cultural and media studies. Professor of Social Science at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton from 1970 to 2000, Geertz gained worldwide prominence for his famous study of a Balinese cockfight and his development of the idea of ‘thick description’, which emphasizes that the true meaning of any event or situation depends upon describing it in the fullness of its social and cultural context. His integration of ideas from semiotics and the philosophy of language into anthropology fundamentally reshaped the field, changing the way social scientists thought about meaning and culture. Polity has published his Works and Lives, as well as Fred Inglis’s important study of his work Clifford Geertz: Culture, Custom and Ethics.