Sunteți pe pagina 1din 21
An Inconstant Profession: The Anthropological Life in Interesting Times Author(s): Clifford Geertz Source: Annual Review

An Inconstant Profession: The Anthropological Life in Interesting Times Author(s): Clifford Geertz

Source: Annual Review of Anthropology, Vol. 31 (2002), pp. 1-19

Published by: Annual Reviews Stable URL:

Accessed: 05/08/2009 16:25

Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of JSTOR's Terms and Conditions of Use, available at JSTOR's Terms and Conditions of Use provides, in part, that unless

you have obtained prior permission, you may not download an entire issue of a journal or multiple copies of articles, and you may use content in the JSTOR archive only for your personal, non-commercial use.

Please contact the publisher regarding any further use of this work. Publisher contact information may be obtained at

Each copy of any part of a JSTOR transmission must contain the same copyright notice that appears on the screen or printed page of such transmission.

JSTOR is a not-for-profit organization founded in 1995 to build trusted digital archives for scholarship. We work with the scholarly community to preserve their work and the materials they rely upon, and to build a common research platform that promotes the discovery and use of these resources. For more information about JSTOR, please contact

information about JSTOR, please contact Annual Reviews is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize,

Annual Reviews is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to Annual Review of Anthropology.

Annu.Rev. Anthropol. 2002. 31:1-19 doi: 10.1146/annurev.anthro.31.040402.085449 2002 by AnnualReviews. All rights reserved

Copyright ?


The Anthropological

Lifein Interesting



Institute for Advanced Study, EinsteinDrive,Princeton,New Jersey08540; email:

Key Words

social sciences,history, third world,modernization, ColdWar

M Abstract



I give anoverallview of anthropology andof my careerwithinit over

pastfiftyyears,relating themto changes in theworldin generalduring thattime.

lessonsare implicit, all morals unstated, all conclusionsundrawn.


I have arrived, it seems, at that point in my life and my careerwhen what people most want to hear from me is not some new fact or idea, but how I got to this point in my life and my career.This is a bit discouraging, not just because of

its momento mori overtones (when you are seventy-five,everything has memento

mori overtones), but because, having spent the whole of my adultlife trying to

pushthings forwardin thehuman sciences, I amnow

thathas entailed-why

thatdirectionis to be sustained, the next necessarything might be. As a

have engaged in the past few years in at least two moreor less organizedattempts

to describethe general curveof my life as a workinganthropologist, andthis essay

being askedto considerwhat

called forward, and what, if

result, I

I think my directioncan be


be the third,and, I trust, thelast. Talking aboutone's self andone's experiences

in a

homiletical manner--"go thou anddo likewise"-is

a bit muchthe firsttime

around. Recycled, it loses charm altogether.

The first of these essays in apologeticalretrospection,originally given as a Harvard-Jerusalemlecturein 1990, became the chapter entitled "Disciplines" in

my book After theFact (Geertz1995a). ThereI concentrated mostly on


and Morocco-a

leading to otheroutcomes.The second, originallygiven as an AmericanCouncil of LearnedSocieties "Lifeof Learning" lecturein 1999, becamethe first chapter,

entitled "Passage andAccident,"of my mostrecentbook,AvailableLight(Geertz 2000). ThereI presented a more personal,semi-introspective accountof bothmy

life and my career;a sortof sociointellectual autobiography and self-accounting.

This time-this

researchand scholarship, most especially on my long-term fieldworkin


story of projectsleading to outcomes leading to other projects

last time-I

want to do something else: namely, to trace the






development of anthropology as a field of study over the morethan half-century, 1950-2002, I havebeen involvedin it, andto trace,too, the relationships between that development andthebroadermovementsof contemporaryhistory.Though this also, of necessity,producessomething of a "the things I havebeen through andthe things I have done"sortof narrative, I am, for the most part, not concernedwith either my work or my persona. I am concernedwith whathas happened around me, both in the profession in which I have been, however loosely and at times

uncomfortably,enclosed, andin whatwe are pleased to

whichthat profession has been, however marginally and insecurely, enclosed.That worldis withus lateandsoon:Thereis very littlein anthropology thatis genuinely autonomous;pretensions to the contrary, howeverdressedin theborrowedclothes of "science," are self-serving. We are, like everybodyelse, creaturesof our time, relics of our engagements. Admittedly, this is a little vast for a short essay, andI am obliged to pass over some very large matters veryquickly,ignoring detailand suppressing nuanceand qualification. But my intentis notto present a properhistory, aninclusive summary, or a systematicanalysis. It is, instead,

1) To outlinethe successionof phases,periods,eras,generations, or whatever, both generally andin anthropology as such, as I have lived throughit, and them, in the last half of the last century,and, 2) To tracethe interplay between (for the most part, Americanand European) cultural,political,social, andintellectuallife overalland anthropology as a special and specializedprofession, a trade, a craft, a mitier.

Whethersuch broad-stroke,impressionistic, the-view-from-here sketching will yield much in the way of insight into how things are, andhave been, heading in our fieldremainsto be seen. But, absenta crystalball, I know of no other way. So faras phases,periods,eras, andthe like are concerned, I shall, for my own convenience, markout four of them. None of them is internallyhomogeneous, none of themis sharplybounded; but they can serve as useful place-markers in a lurching,tangled,digressivehistory. The first,roughly between 1946 and 1960- all datesaremovable-was a period of after-the-war exuberance, when a wave of optimism,ambition, anda sense of improvingpurposeswept through the human sciences. The second, about1960 to aboutthe mid-1970s, was dominated, on the one hand,by the divisionsof the universalizedcold war,and, on the other,by the romancesand disappointments of Third-Worldism.From 1975 or so to, shall we say, in honorof the fall of The Wall, 1989, there was, first, a proliferation of new, or anywaynewfangled,approaches to social and cultural analysis, varioussorts of theoreticaland methodological"turns,"Kehre, tournures d'esprit; and then, on the heels of these, the rise of radically criticaland dispersive"post-"movements, brought on by increasinguncertainty,self-doubt,andself-examination,bothwithin anthropology andin Westernculture generally.Finally, fromthe 1990s untilnow, interesthas begun to shifttowardethnicconflict,violence, world-disorder,global- ization,transnationalism,human rights, andthe like, although wherethatis going,

call "thewider world," in



especially after September11, is farfromclear. These,again, arenotthe only cuts that could be made, nor even the best. They are but the reflections, diffuse and refracted, in my own mindof the way of the worldandthe ways of anthropology withinthe way of the world.


During the second world war, American anthropologistswere, like

ciologists, historians,psychologists, and political scientists,drawn, almostto the manor woman, into government service.Afterit ended, in what was, in theUnited

States anyway, notthat long a time, threeorfour years,theyreturned,immediately, again almost to the man or woman, to academiawith their conception of them- selves and their professionradically altered.Whathad been an obscure,isolate, even reclusive, lone-wolf sortof discipline, concerned mainly withtribal ethnogra- phy, racialand linguisticclassification, cultural evolution, and prehistory,changed in the courseof a decadeinto the very model of a modern,policy-conscious, cor- porate social science. Having experiencedworking (mostly in connectionwith

propaganda,psychologicalwarfare, or intelligenceefforts) in

diverse groups,problem-focused collections of thrown-togetherspecialists, most of whom they had previously knownlittleaboutandhadless to do with,anthropol-

ogists came back to theiruniversitiesin a distinctlyexperimental frameof mind.

Multi- (orinter-, or cross-) disciplinarywork, team projects, andconcernwith the

immediate problems of the contemporary world were combined with boldness, inventiveness, anda sense, based mainly on the sudden availability of large-scale material support both fromthe government andfromthe new mega-foundations, that thingswere, finally and certainly, on the move. It was a heady time. I encounteredall this at what may have been its point of highest concentra- tion, greatestreach, and wildest confusion:Harvardin the 1950s. An extraordi- nary collection of persons and personalities had gatheredthere, andat the nearby MassachusettsInstituteof Technology,launchingprograms in all directions.There was the Department of Social Relations, which-chaired by the systematic sociol- ogist Talcott Parsons, and animated, rather diffusely,by his ratherdiffuse"General Theory of Social Action "--combined sociology, anthropology, clinical psychol- ogy, andsocial psychology intoanatleast terminologicallyintegrated whole (Par- sons & Shils 1951). TherewastheRussianResearch Center, headed by thecultural

anthropologistClyde Kluckhohn (1951); the Psychological Clinic, headed by the

psychoanalystHenryMurray(1938); the Laboratory of

the social statisticianSamuelStouffer (Stouffer1949). JohnandBeatrice Whiting, in from Yale, assembleda teamand beganexploiting the newly createdHumanRe- lationsAreaFiles for comparative correlationstudiesof socialization (BB Whiting &J Whiting1975).AndatMIT,therewastheCenterforInternationalStudiesdedi- catedto stimulatingmodernization,democratization,andtakeoffin the new states of Asia and Africa and the strandedones of Eastern Europeand LatinAmerica (Millikan& Blackmer1961). Justabout everything thatwas in any way in the air



Social Relations, headed by



in the social or, as they soon came to be called as the pressures towardunification intensified, thebehavioralsciences-from groupdynamics(Homans1950), learn- ing theory(Tolman1958), and experimentalpsychology (Bruner & Krech 1950) to structural linguistics (Jakobson1952), attitudemeasurement (Allport 1954),

content analysis(Inkeles1950),

by one or another Institute, one or another Center, one or another Project, one or

Marxismwas missing, and a numberof the students

another entrepreneur.Only

happilyprovided that (for a generalcritique fromthe left of all this, see Diamond

and cybernetics(Wiener1962)-was



For me, as a would-be anthropologist-one who hadneverhadan anthropology course and had no particular aim in mind except to renderhimself somehow

employable-the figure I hadmostto come to termswithin this swarmof talkative

authoritieswas Clyde Kluckhohn.A

an enormous range of interests, a continuously restless mind, andan impassioned, somewhatsectariansense of vocation, he hadreadClassicsat Oxfordas a Rhodes Scholar.He had studiedthe Navajo andother peoples in the AmericanSouthwest since having been sent there as a teenager for his health, and he knew his way aroundthe corridorsof power, both in Washington(where he had worked as consultantto the Secretary of Waranddirectedmorale surveys for the Office of War Information)and, aneven greater achievement (considering he hadbeen born obscurein Iowa) at Harvard.The authorof what was then the most widely read, and best written, statementof what anthropology was all about, Mirror for Man

(1949), a past president of the American AnthropologicalAssociation, a fierce controversialist, a player of favorites, anda master money-raiser, Kluckhohnwas rathera presence. Of the variouscollective enterprises(thinkingback, I count at least eight, and there were probablymore) thatKluckhohnwas at thatmomenteither directing, planning, or otherwise animating, I myself became involved, in turn, in three, which, taken together, not only launched my careerbutalso fixed its direction. The first, and smallest, wasthe compendium of definitionsof cultureKluckhohn was preparing in collaborationwith Alfred Kroeber, then in his late seventies and concluding a sovereign careerin detachedretirement (Kroeber & Kluckhohn 1952). I was given what, with the aid of other, more senior,graduatestudents, they had assembled and what they had writtenin the way of commentary, and

I was askedto review it and offer suggestions. I had some

them expository, a few of which were attended to; but the most fateful result of the experience for me was that I was inductedinto the thought-ways of the particular form of anthropology then called, rather awkwardly,patterntheory or configurationalism. In this dispensation,stemming fromworkbefore and during the war by the comparativelinguist Edward Sapir at Yale and the culturalholist Ruth Benedict at Columbia,it was the interrelationof elements, the gestalt they formed,nottheir particular, atomisticcharacter,asin previous diffusionandculture areastudies,thatwas takento be the heartof the matter.A phoneme, a practice, a role, an attitude,a habit,a trait,anidea,a customwas, as the slogan hadit, "a point

driven,imperious, ratherhaunted man, with

suggestions, most of



in a pattern"; it was systems we were after,forms,structures,shapes, contexts-the social geometry of sense (Kluckhohn1962, Sapir 1949, Benedict 1934). A large numberof expressions of this approach to things currentin anthropol- ogy appeared at that time. Perhaps the most visible and influential,though as it turnedoutnot so long-lived, was the so-calledcultureand personalitymovement, in the serviceof which Kluckhohn,Murray, anda junior memberof the Social Re- lations Department, David Schneider,puttogether a moreor less definitivereader (Kluckhohn et al. 1949).Strongly influenced by psychoanalytical ideasand bypro-

jectivetestingmethods, it sought torelatethe processes of individual psychological

varioussocieties. AbramKardinerand firstat Berkeley then at Harvard, Erik

development to the culturalinstitutionsof Ralph Lintonat Columbia, Cora DuBois,

Erikson, also firstat Berkeley andthenat Harvard, andKluckhohnhimself in his

Navajo work (Kardiner &Linton 1939, DuBois et al. 1944, Erikson 1950,Leighton

& Kluckhohn 1947) were perhaps the most prominentfigures in the movement,

and Margaret Meadwas its battle-fit, out-front tribune; butit was very widespread (Hallowell 1955, Piers & Singer 1953, Wallace 1970). Closely allied to culture

and personality therewerethe so-callednationalcharacterorculture-at-a-distance

studies, such as Benedict'son

Gorer'son Europe and America (Benedict 1949; Mead 1942; Mead & M6traux

Japan, and Mead's, Rhoda M6traux's and Geoffrey

1953; M6traux& Mead 1954; Mead & Rickman 1951; Gorer 1948, 1955; Gorer

& Rickman 1963), and, of course, those of the RussianResearch Center, where

sociologists, psychologists, political scientists, and anthropologistsattempted to

assemblea collective portrait of "thenew Soviet man"out of the

munist writings and refugee

My interestin all thiswas limited by whatseemedto me its somewhatmechan-

analysis of com-

life-histories (Bauer1959,

Baueret al. 1956).

ical, destiny-in-the-nurseryquality andthe vastnessof its explanatory ambitions. So I driftedinsteadtowardanotherof Kluckhohn's large-scale,long-term, multi-

discipline,multi-inquirer,systematicalenterprises in the interpretation of cultures, the so-called ComparativeStudy of ValuesorRamah (laterRimrock)Project. This

project, methodicalandwell financed, was

tems (world-views, mental attitudes, moral styles) of five geographicallyadjacent but culturallydiscrete, smallcommunitiesin northwesternNew Mexico-Navajo, Zuni, SpanishAmerican,Mormon, and Anglo (or Texan). Over a period thatfi- nally stretchedto twentyyears or so, dozens of researchersfroma wide variety of

crossbred specialties-moral philosophers,regionalhistorians, rural sociologists,

American Indianists, child

these sites to describe one or another aspect of the life being lived there.Their

fieldnotes, hundreds upon hundredsof pages of them, werethen typedup on cards and filed in the HumanRelationArea Files mannerat the Peabody Museumof Anthropology, where they couldbe commonly consultedanda long string of spe- cial studies, and finally a collective volume, written (Vogt & Albert 1966, Vogt 1955, Kluckhohn& Strodtbeck1961, Smith & Roberts 1954, Ladd 1957). As for me, I did not go to the Southwestbut workedfor some months in the files, then already vast and varied, on a subject set by Kluckhohn-the differential

dedicatedto describing the value sys-


dispatched to one or anotherof



responses of the five groups to problems set to them all by the common condi- tions of their existence as small, rural, more or less encapsulated communities:

drought,death, and alcohol. Mormon technologicalrationalism, Zuni raindanc- ing, Spanish-American dramaticfatalismin the face of drought,Navajo fear of ghosts, Mormon eschatological schemes, Anglo grief-avoidance in the face of death, Zuni sobriety, Mormon puritanism, and Navajospreedrinking in the face

of alcohol-all

latively, to their differing value systems (Geertz,unpublishedobservations). But whateverthelimitationsof the report I produced(and it wasn'tall thatbadas a first

pass at things), the experience turnedoutto be botha sortof dry-run forthekindof field research-comparative,collaborative, andaddressedto questions of meaning and significance-that I would spend therestof my life pursuing; andatransitionto thenext phase or period of theimmersionof anthropology in themovementof the times: the age of modernization,nation-building, andthe all-enveloping ColdWar.

were outlined, rather schematically, and attributed, rather specu-


The Centerfor International Studiesatthe MassachusettsInstituteof Technology, whichI mentionedearlieras part of theclusterof social science holding-companies emerging in post-warCambridge, was set up in 1952 as a combination intelligence gathering and policy planningorganization dedicatedto providingpolitical and economic advice both to the rapidlyexpanding U.S. foreign aid program and to

those it was ostensiblyaiding-the

less sanguine, "backward"countriesof Asia, Africa, andLatinAmerica.At first, the Center,something of an anomaly in an engineering schoolnotmuch given atthat

timeto socialstudiesof anysort, was hardly morethana secretary, a suiteof offices,

a name, a large amountof money, andanational agenda. Inaneffort simply to get it

up and running,Kluckhohn,who, still moving in mysteriousways, had again been somehow involvedin its formation,proposed thata team of doctoralcandidates fromHarvardsocial science departments be formedandsentto Indonesiaunderits auspices to carry outfieldresearchin cooperation withstudentsfromthat country's new, European-style universities.Five anthropologists,includingmyself and my then wife, Hildred, alsoaSocialRelations student; a sociologist whowasahistorian of China; a social psychologist; and a clinical psychologist were given a year of intensivework in the Indonesian language and sent off for two years to the rice fieldsof easternJava (not allof them gotthere, butthat'sanother story) to carryout, ensemble, parallel,interconnected,and, so it was hoped, cumulativeresearches:

the Ramah Project model updated,concentrated, and projected abroad. The ups and downs of this enterprise, which itself came to be called "The ModjokutoProject" andthe degree to which it achievedthe ends proposed to it, have been retailedelsewhere (Geertz 1995a). For the present "Marchof Time" sort of story, its significance lies in the fact that it was, if not the first, surely one of the earliestof what soon turned into a flood of efforts by anthropologists, or teams of them, to adapt themselves and theirtribes-and-islands discipline to

"developing,""under-developed,"or, for the



the study of large-scale societies with written histories, established governments, and composite cultures-nations,states, civilizations. (For another early effort in this direction, see Stewardet al. 1956.) In the years immediatelyfollowing, the numberof such country-focusedprojectsmultiplied(asdid, of course, as aresultof decolonization, thenumberof countries), anda sortof super-discipline calledarea studies, eclectic, synoptical,reformative, and policy-conscious, came into being to support them (Steward1950; Singer 1956; Redfield 1953, 1956). Whenthe Modjokuto teamleft for Southeast Asia, the Center, as I mentioned, did not yet really exist as a going concern, so its connection with the work we did there--essentially historicaland ethnographic, a refitted communitystudy- was nominalat best. By the time we returned to Cambridge, three years further

on, however, it had become a

specialized researchers, most

large, bureaucratized organization with dozens of of them economists, demographers,agronomists,

political scientists, engaged in developmentplanning of one sort or another or serving as in-countrypolicy consultantsto particulargovernments,including that of Indonesia.The work of our team seemed, both to the Center staff and to ourselves, to be ratherto the side of the Center's mission, inconsonantwith its


"applied"emphasis andtoo concerned withwhatthe program-mindedtypes tookto

be parochial matters.Wedrifted away into writing our separate theseson religion,

kinship,village life, market selling,

our academic careers. I, however, was rathermore interestedin developmental

questions, and in state formation, than my colleagues, and I wished to return as soon as possible to Indonesiato take them up. So, after gaining my doctorate, I rejoined the Centerand became more directly involved in its work and with the masteridea that governed it: modernization.

1960s and

andother irrelevancies, and beginning,finally,

This idea, or theory,ubiquitous in ThirdWorldstudies during the

early 1970s, and, of course, not all that dead yet, stemmed from a variety of sources.Most particularly, it grew out of the writings of the German sociologist Max Weberandhis Americanfollowers (of whom, TalcottParsonswas perhaps the most prominent, and certainly the most insistent) on the rise of capitalism in

theWest (Weber1950a,b, 1947, 1965;Tawney1947; Parsons 1937; Bendix 1962; Levy 1960; Eisenstadt 1966; Black 1976). Weber's conception of the history of the West since the Renaissanceand the Reformationwas that it consisted of a relentless process of economic, political, and cultural rationalization, the instru- mental adjustment of ends and means, andhe saw everything from bureaucracy, science, individualism, and double-entrybookkeeping to the industrial organiza- tion of laborandthe disciplinedmanagement of innerlife as expressions of such

a process.

nal terms,

its essence, modernity was. In particular, his famous, in some quartersinfamous,

ProtestantEthic thesis-that

relatedinner-worldly ascetic doctrinesof the sixteenthand seventeenthcenturies

provided the moral legitimation and driving force for under bourgeoiscapitalism-spurred a whole host of

The systematicordering of the entirety of humanexistence its imprisonment in an "iron cage" of rule and method, was

in ratio-

what, in

the harsh,predestinarian beliefs of Calvinism and

the tireless pursuit of profit studies designed to support



andextend it, to find signs and portents of such progress-producing value systems

in thatmost residualof residual categories, the

talistnon-West (Bellah 1957, 1965; Eisenstadt 1968; Geertz 1956, 1963b).

As for me, my original thesis proposal,puttemporarily asideto address myself to describing Javanese religion more generally for the purposes of the common project, wasto pursue the possibility thatreformist (ormodernist) Islam mightplay

a role in Indonesiasimilarto thatwhichWeber'sCalvinism supposedlyplayed in

the West. So, after writing a

agriculture, which ascribedits failure to rationalize along the capital-intensive,

labor-saving lines experienced earlierin the West and, in a somewhatdifferent way, in Japan, to the colonial policies of the Dutch (Geertz1963a), I headedback to Indonesia hoping to addresstheWeberianthesisin a moredirectand systematic,

hypothesis-testingway. I would, I thought,spend four or five months each in a strongly Islamic region in Sumatra, a strongly Calvinist region in Sulawesi, anda Hindu region in Bali and try to ferretout the effects, if any, of differentvarieties of religious belief on the modernizationof economic behavior.

a funnythinghappened on the way to the field. The cold war,previously out (the rather special case of Korea perhapsexcepted) in the client and


shortbook at the Centeron the history of Javanese



satellitestatesof Europe, shiftedits centerof gravity to theThird World, andmost

especially to SoutheastAsia. All this-the

the Khmer Rouge, the Huk rebellion, the Indonesianmassacres-is much visited, much disputed,history, andI will not rehearseit again here. Sufficeit to say this development alteredthe whole scene of actionfor those of us trying to carry out fieldstudiesin such suddenly world-critical places. Theinductionof theobsessions and machinationsof the East-Westconfrontationinto entrenched,long-standing

divisions in religious, ethnic, and cultural life-another, less foreseen, form of modernization-brought local, hand-to-hand politics to a furiousboil just about everywhere it occurred, andit occurred just about everywhere. Fromtheendof the 1950sto the beginning of the 1970s, the charismatical, hero- leadersof thenew states-Nehru, Nkrumah,Nasser, Ben Bellah, U Nu,AyubKhan, Azikwe, Bandanaraike,Sihanouk,Ho, Magsaysay, Sukarno-bedeviled within and without by these pressures toward ideological polarization,struggled to po- sition theircountriesin the ever-narrowing, unfilled space between the powers:

neutral,nonaligned,newly emerging, "tiersmonde." Indonesia, which soon found itself with boththe largest Communist Party outsidethe Sino-Sovietbloc andan American-trainedand-financed army, wasin the very forefrontof this effort,espe- cially afterSukarno organized the Bandung Conferenceof 29 Asian andAfrican nations, or would-be nations, in that west Javanese city in 1955 (Kahin 1956, Wright1995). Nehru,Chou,Nasser, andSukarnohimself all addressedthe Con- ference, whichled on to theformalcreationof the nonaligned movement.All this, andthe generalunfolding of things, made of Indonesia perhaps the most critical battleground afterVietnamintheAsiancoldwar.Andinthemid-1960sit collapsed


weight: failed coup, nearcivil-war,politicalbreakdown,economicruin,

andmass killings. Sukarno,his regime, andthe dreamsof Bandung, nevermore

Malayaemergency, the Vietnam war,



than dreams, or self-intoxications, were consumed, andthe grimmer, less roman- tic age of the kleptocrats,Suharto,Marcos,Mobutu,Amin, and Assad emerged. Whateverwas happening in the Third World, it didnot seem to be the progressive advance of rationality, however defined. Some sort of course correctionin our

procedures, our assumptions, and our styles of work, in our very conception of

whatit was we were trying to do, seemed, as

they say, indicated.


By the time I got backto the UnitedStatestowardthe beginning of the 1960s (my neat little three-wayproject spoiled by the outbreakof anti-Sukarnorebellions

in Sumatraand Sulawesi, I had spent most

effects of the deepening of the greatpower confrontationin SoutheastAsia were beginning to be felt with some force thereas well. The profession itself was torn

apartby charges and counterchargesconcerning the activities, or supposed activi- ties, of anthropologistsworking in Vietnam.Therewas civil rights and"TheLetter from BirminghamJail," civil libertiesandthe Chicago Seven. The universities- Berkeley, Harvard,Columbia,Cornell, Kent State, Chicago--erupted, dividing

faculty,inflamingstudents, and alienating the

on "underdeveloped" countriesin general, andon "modernization" in particular, was put under something of a cloudas a species of neoimperialism, whenit wasn't being condemnedas liberal do-goodism. Questionsmultipliedrapidly aboutan- thropology's colonial past, its orientalist biases, andthe very possibility of disin- terestednessor objectiveknowledge in thehuman sciences, orindeedwhether they shouldbe called sciences in the first place. If the discipline was not to retreatinto its traditional isolation, detachedfromtheimmediaciesof contemporary life-and therewere those who recommended that, as well as some who wished to turnit into a social movement-new paradigms, to borrowThomasKuhn'sfamous term, firstintroducedaroundthis time (Kuhn1962), were called for. And soon, andin

spades,they came. For the next fifteen years or so, proposals for new directions in anthropo- logical theory and method appeared almost by the month, one more clamorous than the next. Some, like French structuralism, had been aroundfor awhile but


from kinship studies to distributional analyses of symbolic forms-myths, ritu-

als, categoricalsystems-and

of thought (Ldvi-Strauss1963a,b, 1966,

"sociobiology"(Chagnon & Irons 1979), "cognitiveanthropology"(Tyler 1969, D'Andrade 1995), "the ethnography of speaking"(Gumperz & Hymes 1964, Tedlock 1983), or "cultural materialism,"(Harris 1979, Rappaport1968) were stimulated,sometimes overstimulated,by advances in biology, information the- ory,semiotics,or ecology. Therewasneo-Marxism(Wolf 1982),neo-evolutionism (Service 1971, Steward1957), neo-functionalism(Gluckman1963,Turner1957), and neo-Durkheimianism (Douglas 1989). Pierre Bourdieu gave us "practice

of the year in Bali), the destabilizing

generalpublic. Academicresearch

on greaterappeal as Claude L6vi-Strauss, its proprietor-founder, moved on

promised us a general accountof the foundations

1964-1967; Boon 1972). Others, like



theory"(1977), VictorTurner"the anthropology of experience"(Turner & Bruner 1986), Louis Dumont"the social anthropology of civilizations" (1970), Renajit Guha, "subalternstudies" (1982). EdmundLeach talked of "cultureand com- munication" (1974), Jack Goody of "the writtenand the oral" (1977), Rodney Needhamof "language and experience"(1972), DavidSchneiderof "kinship as a cultural system"(1968), Marshall Sahlins of "structureand conjuncture"(1981). As for me, I contributedto the merrimentwith "interpretiveanthropology," anex- tension, broadenedandredirected by developments in literature,philosophy, and

the analysis of language, of my concernwith the systems of meaning-beliefs, values, world views, forms of feeling, styles of thought-in termsof which par- ticular peoples constructtheirexistence andlive out their particular lives (1973, 1983). New or reconditionedsocial movements, feminism (Rosaldo & Lamphere 1974, Ortner& Whitehead 1981, McCormack& Strathern 1980, Weiner 1976), antiimperialism(Said 1978), indigenousrights(Deloria1969), and gay liberation (Newton 1979), addedto the mix, as did new departures in neighboring fields- the Annales movementin history (Le Roi Ladurie 1980), the "newhistoricism" in literature (Greenblatt1980), science studies in sociology (Latour & Woolgar 1986, Traweek 1988), hermeneuticsand phenomenology in philosophy(Gadamer 1975, Ricoeur 1981, Habermas 1972), andthatelusive and equivocalmovement, known, elusively and equivocally, as "post-structuralism"(Foucault1970, Lacan 1977, Derrida 1976, Deleuze & Guattari 1977). There were more than enough perspectives to go around. Whatwas lacking was any meansof ordering them withina broadlyaccepted

disciplinary frame or field was breakingup

a primordial oneness was being lost in a swarmof fads and fashions, grew,pro-

ducing cries, angry,desperate, or merely puzzled, for some sortof reunification (Lewis 1998). Types or varietiesof anthropology,separately conceived and or- ganized, appeared, one on top of the next: medical anthropology,psychological anthropology, feminist anthropology, economic anthropology,symbolic anthro- pology, visual anthropology; the anthropology of work, of education, of law, of consciousness;ethnohistory,ethnophilosophy,ethnolinguistics,ethnomusicology. Whathad been, whenI stumbledintoitinthe early1950s, a group of afew hundred,

argumentative but similarly minded ethnologists, as they tendedthento call them-

selves, mostof whomknewone another personally, became by crowdof scholarswhose sole commonality oftenseemedtobe

through one or anotherdoctoral program labeled anthropology(there are more thana hundredin the UnitedStates alone, and perhaps that many morearoundthe world). Muchof thiswas expectable and unavoidable, a reflexof the growth of the field and the advanceof technical specialization, as well as, once again, the workings of theWorld Spirit as it madeits way towardthe conclusionof things. But change nonetheless produced both an intensificationof polemical combatand, in some quartersanyway,angst andmalaise.Not only didthere appear a seriesof trumped- up "wars"between imaginary combatantsover artificialissues (materialistsvs.

rationale, an encompassingparadigm. The sense that the into smallerand smaller, incommensurable fragments, that

thelate 1970savast that they had passed



idealists, universalistsvs. relativists, scientistsvs. humanists, realistsvs. subjec- tivists), buta generalized and oddly self-laceratingskepticism aboutthe anthropo- logical enterprise as such-about representing TheOther or, worse yet, purporting to speak forhim-settled in, hardened, and began to spread(Clifford1988, Fabian


In time, as the impulses thatdrovethe optimism of the 1950s andtheturbulence of the 1960s died away into the routinesandimmobilitiesof Reagan'sAmerica,



Harvey1989). Defined against modernismin reproof and repudiation--"goodbye to all that"-postmodernism was, and is, more a mood and an attitudethan a

connected theory: a rhetorical tag applied to a deepening sense

temologicalcrisis, the supposedexhaustion,or,worse, corruption of the received modes of judgment and knowledge. Issues of ethnographicrepresentation, au- thority,political positioning, and ethical justification all came in for a thorough going-over; the anthropologist'svery "right to write" got put into question."Why have ethnographic accounts recently lost so muchof their authority?"--thejacket copy of JamesClifford'sand George Marcus' Writing Culturecollection (1986), something of a bellwetherin all of this, cried:

doubt, disillusion, and autocritiquegathered itself together underthe broad indefinite, rather suddenlypopular bannerof postmodernism(Lyotard1984,

of moraland epis-

Why were they everbelievable?Who has the right to challenge an 'objective'

cultural description?

termined by theneed to tell aneffective story? Cantheclaims of ideology and

desireeverbe fully reconciledwith the

Arenotall ethnographies rhetorical performances de-

needs of theory andobservation?

Most of the work in this manner (not all of it so flat-outor so excited as this, norso denselypopulated withrhetorical questions) tendedto centeraroundone or the otherof two concerns:eitherthe constructionof anthropologicaltexts, that is,

ethnographicalwriting, orthemoralstatusof anthropologicalwork, that is, ethno- graphicalpractice. The first led off into essentially literary matters: authorship,


suasion (Geertz 1988, Boon 1982, Fernandez 1986, Sapir & Crocker 1977, Pratt 1992); the second, into essentiallypolitical matters:the social foundationsof an-

thropologicalauthority, the modes of power inscribedin its practices, its ideo- logical assumptions, its complicity with colonialism, racism, exploitation, and exoticism, its dependency on the masternarrativesof Western self-understanding (Hymes 1972, Asad 1973, Marcus& Fischer 1986, Rosaldo 1989). These inter-

linked critiques of anthropology, the one

outward-looking and recriminatory,may not have produced the "fully dialectical ethnographyacting powerfully in the postmodern world system," to quote that Writing Cultureblast again, nor did they exactly go unresisted (Gellner1992, cf.

Geertz 1995b).But they did inducea certainself-awareness,anda certaincandor also, into a discipline not withoutneed of them.

inward-looking and brooding, the other

be, I spent these years of assertionanddenial,promise and

counterpromise, firstat

Institutefor Advanced Study in Princeton,from 1970 on, mostly trying to keep

the University of Chicago, from 1960 to 1970, thenat the

Howeverthat may



my balance, to rememberwho I was, and to go on doing whateverit was I had, before everything came loose, set out to do. At Chicago, I wasonce again involved in, andthistime ultimately asits director,

an interdisciplinaryprogram focused on the prospects of the by now quite stalled and shredded-Biafra, Bangladesh,Southern Yemen-third world:theCommittee for the ComparativeStudy of New Nations. This committee, which remainedin being formorethana decade, was not concerned as suchwith policy questions nor with constructing a generaltheory of development, norindeedwith goal-directed team researchof any sort. It consisted of a dozen or so faculty membersat the university-sociologists, political scientists, economists, and anthropologists- working on or in one or anotherof the decolonizednew states,plus a half-dozen or so postdoctoral research fellows, mostly from elsewhere,similarlyengaged. Its

main collective activity was a long weekly

led a discussionof his or her work, which in turnformedthe basis for a smaller core group of, if not precisely collaborators, for we all worked independently, similarlyminded,experienced fieldworkersdirectedtowarda relatedset of issues in what was then called, rather hopefully,considering the general stateof things, nation building(Geertz 1963b). Unable, for the moment, to returnto Indonesia, by then fully in the grip of pervasiverage, I organized a teamof doctoralstudents fromthe anthropologydepartment, of whichI was also a member, to study a town comparable in size, complexity, and general representativeness to Modjokuto, but at the far other, Maghrebian, end of the Islamic world: Morocco (Geertz et al. 1979). The Chicago department of anthropology,presided over at that time by an unusually open and supportivegroup of elders (FredEggan, Sol Tax, Norman MacQuown, andRobert Braidwood; RobertRedfield havingonly just died), pro- vided an unusuallycongenial setting for this sortof free-style, thousand-flowers approach to thingsanthropological.LloydFallers, Victor Turner, David Schneider, McKim Marriott, Robert Adams,ManningNash, Melford Spiro, Robert LeVine, Nur Yalman, Julian Pitt-Rivers, Paul Friedrich, and Milton Singer were all there cryingup, as I was also, one oranotherline of cultural analysis, andtheinteraction

among us was intense,productive, and surprisingly,given the range of tempera- ments involved,generally amicable (Stockingn.d.). But when, in the late 1960s, the Directorof the Institutefor Advanced Study in Princeton, the economistCarl Kaysen, invitedme to come thereandstart up a new school in the Social Sciences to complement the schools in Mathematics, Natural Science, andHistoricalStud- ies in existence since Einstein,Weyl, von Neumann,Panofsky, andotherworthies had put the place in motionin the late 1930s and early 1940s, I, aftera couple of yearsbacking and filling, accepted. However exposed andfull of hazardit might be, especially in a time of such divisionwithinthe academy andthe dubiousness of the very idea of "thesocial sciences"in the eyes of many humanistsand"real scientists,"the prospect of being given a blank andunmarked page upon which

writewas, for someone by now addictedto good fortune,simply too attractive

to resist.


seminarat which one of the members




It is alwaysvery difficultto determine just whenit was that"now" began.Virginia

Woolf thought it was "on or aboutDecember 1,

"September1, 1939," for many of us who worriedour way through the balance of terror, it was 1989 andthe Fall of the Wall.And now,having survivedall that,

thereis September11, 2001. My years, thirty-one and counting, at the Institutefor Advanced Study have

proved, aftersome initial difficultieswith the resident mandarins, soon

of (the difficulties, not the mandarins), to be an excellent vantage from which to

watchthe present come into being in thesocial sciences (Geertz2001). Settingup a new enterprise in the fieldfroma standing start-the whole fieldfrom economics, politics,philosophy, and law, to sociology,psychology,history, and anthropology, with a few scholarsfrom literature,art, and religion thrownin for leavening- demandedmuchcloser attentionto whatwas going on in these areas, not only in the United States but abroadas well. And with more thanfive hundredscholars frommorethan thirty countries spending a year as visiting fellows at one time or

another (nearly a fifthof them anthropologists of various kinds,origins,ages, and degrees of celebrity), one hadthe extraordinaryexperience of seeing "now" arrive, live andin color. All thatis well and good, butasthe present immediate is, inthenatureof the case, entirely in motion, confusedand unsettled, it doesnot yield so readily to sorting out as does, at least apparently, the perfected,<