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"Suppose," Clifford Geertz suggests, "having entangled yourself every now and again over four decades or so in the goings-on in two provincial towns, one a Southeast Asian bend in the road, one a North African outpost and passage point, you wished to say something about how those goings-on had changed." A narrative presents itself, a tour of indices and trends, perhaps a memoir? None, however, will suffice, because in forty years more has changed than those two towns--the anthropologist, for instance, anthropology itself, even the intellectual and moral world in which the discipline exists. And so, in looking back on four decades of anthropology in the field, Geertz has created a work that is characteristically unclassifiable, a personal history that is also a retrospective reflection on developments in the human sciences amid political, social, and cultural changes in the world. An elegant summation of one of the most remarkable careers in anthropology, it is at the same time an eloquent statement of the purposes and possibilities of anthropology's interpretive powers.
To view his two towns in time, Pare in Indonesia and Sefrou in Morocco, Geertz adopts various perspectives on anthropological research and analysis during the post-colonial period, the Cold War, and the emergence of the new states of Asia and Africa. Throughout, he clarifies his own position on a broad series of issues at once empirical, methodological, theoretical, and personal. The result is a truly original book, one that displays a particular way of practicing the human sciences and thus a particular--and particularly efficacious--view of what these sciences are, have been, and should become.
This long-awaited professional memoir by...one of anthropology's most illustrious demigods plays on the ambiguity of method in a curious discipline that began in the early twentieth century as something of a treasure hunt after lives and cultures in exotic, faraway places...Worked in between Geertz's ethnographic tales, anecdotes, and reminiscences of fieldwork in Sefrou and Pare is the engrossing story of a few key moments in American social science during the second half of the twentieth century as he participated in them.
— Nancy Scheper-Hughes
After the Fact is a retrospective on a remarkable career, and on the worlds that shaped its characteristic contours.
— Benedict Anderson
This memoir by the eminent cultural anthropologist functions at several levels. It is worth reading just for the well-chosen and narrated anecdotes from Geertz's fieldwork in Indonesia and Morocco. This book is also an anthropological critique of the extensive political-economic changes in the Third World over the past 40 years. On a more philosophical level, Geertz has written a series of meditative reflections on the nature of anthropological knowledge...Geertz shows the value of building patterns and connections from multiple, nuanced, first-hand observations of an anthropologist.
— Adan Quan
Geertz's disarmingly casual [book is]...a history of his relationships with the towns in Indonesia and Morocco where he's done his most sustained fieldwork, cast in terms of a history of the ideas that have shaped that work...Its deftly rendered anecdotes always serve as illustrations of concepts...Elegant.
— Michael Gorra
A new book by Clifford Geertz is an event...[The] chapters on Java and Morocco...are marked by the impressive learning, the illuminating insights, the marvelous description of scene and event, the masterful summary of complex social history, and the evocative characterization of cultural heritage, as well as the elegant style, the pithy phrase, and the illuminating trope, that we have come to expect from vintage Geertz...In sum, an intellectual feast.
— Melford E. Spiro
After the Fact is Clifford Geertz's Jerusalem-Harvard lectures, jointly sponsored by the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Harvard University. Appropriate to its venue, the books addresses major questions, making strong theoretical and empirical claims. For that reason, After the Fact is a rather touching confession, even a testament.
— Paul Rabinow
Posted January 24, 2010
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