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Clifford Geertz’s Interpretive Anthropology

Between Text, Experience and Theory

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Katarzyna Majbroda

Over the last decades Clifford Geertz’ interpretive anthropology has played an important role in the field of socio-cultural anthropology. The study presents the critical reception of his thoughts in Western countries and Polish anthropology. Interpretive anthropology is based on the category of interpretation and the concept of thick description: the assumed indexical nature of reality and the possibility of unraveling its order through semiotic analysis has influenced the epistemological reflection in anthropology, the approach to theory, fieldwork and the research process.
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Chapter VI. The impact of the interpretive turn on qualitative research methods, or influence of categories drawn from literary studies on anthropological research practices

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Chapter VI.  The impact of the interpretive turn on qualitative research methods, or influence of categories drawn from literary studies on anthropological research practices

The question ‘What is anthropological theory?’ is demonstrably tried to the question ‘What is anthropology?’, as all these responses indicate. The problem here is that none of the things included in such lists, whether as empirical entities or as theoretical concepts, are exclusively the domain of anthropology, and this immediately raises difficulties of how to delineate and specify the anthropological object of study. Such difficulties are, of course, common to all the other disciplines in the social sciences whose domains of enquiry not only overlap, but are implicated in each other.309 Fieldwork is usually considered an element that differentiates anthropology from other disciplines; in sociological literature it is often described as the ‘ethnographic method’.310

Reflections on fieldwork and the related research practices within discipline take on particular meaning in the context of their role for academic practices. This is because these research practices make the work of anthropologists different from the work of sociologists, political scientists, literary critics and those who work in literary, religious or cultural studies. Fieldwork is an element that makes the image of anthropology as a discipline more coherent; it defines its potential scope and research practices and at the same time it marks its boundaries. There is a considerable body of literature on fieldwork and the research methods it involves. Yet...

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