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Available Light: Anthropological Reflections on Philosophical Topics. [Paperback]

By Clifford Geertz (Author)
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Item description for Available Light: Anthropological Reflections on Philosophical Topics. by Clifford Geertz...

Clifford Geertz, one of the most influential thinkers of our time, here discusses some of the most urgent issues facing intellectuals today. In this collection of personal and revealing essays, he explores the nature of his anthropological work in relation to a broader public, serving as the foremost spokesperson of his generation of scholars, those who came of age after World War II. His reflections are written in a style that both entertains and disconcerts, as they engage us in topics ranging from moral relativism to the relationship between cultural and psychological differences, from the diversity and tension among activist faiths to "ethnic conflict" in today's politics.

Geertz, who once considered a career in philosophy, begins by explaining how he got swept into the revolutionary movement of symbolic anthropology. At that point, his work began to encompass not only the ethnography of groups in Southeast Asia and North Africa, but also the study of how meaning is made in all cultures--or, to use his phrase, to explore the "frames of meaning" in which people everywhere live out their lives. His philosophical orientation helped him to establish the role of anthropology within broader intellectual circles and led him to address the work of such leading thinkers as Charles Taylor, Thomas Kuhn, William James, and Jerome Bruner. In this volume, Geertz comments on their work as he explores questions in political philosophy, psychology, and religion that have intrigued him throughout his career but that now hold particular relevance in light of postmodernist thinking and multiculturalism. "Available Light" offers insightful discussions of concepts such as nation, identity, country, and self, with a reminder that like symbols in general, their meanings are not categorically fixed but grow and change through time and place.

This book treats the reader to an analysis of the American intellectual climate by someone who did much to shape it. One can read Available Light both for its revelation of public culture in its dynamic, evolving forms and for the story it tells about the remarkable adventures of an innovator during the "golden years" of American academia.

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Item Specifications...

Studio: Princeton University Press
Pages   288
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 9.26" Width: 6.1" Height: 0.72"
Weight:   0.9 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Jul 22, 2001
Publisher   Princeton University Press
ISBN  0691089566  
ISBN13  9780691089560  

Availability  96 units.
Availability accurate as of Oct 21, 2016 11:47.
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More About Clifford Geertz

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! Clifford Geertz, the author of many books, is Harold F. Linder Professor of Social Science at the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, New Jersey.

Clifford Geertz has published or released items in the following series...
  1. Basic Books Classics

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Product Categories

1Books > Subjects > Nonfiction > Philosophy > Ethics & Morality
2Books > Subjects > Nonfiction > Philosophy > General
3Books > Subjects > Nonfiction > Social Sciences > Anthropology > Cultural
4Books > Subjects > Nonfiction > Social Sciences > Anthropology > Anthropology
5Books > Subjects > Nonfiction > Social Sciences > Sociology > General
6Books > Subjects > Nonfiction > Social Sciences > Sociology

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Reviews - What do customers think about Available Light: Anthropological Reflections on Philosophical Topics.?

Where was the editor?  Aug 3, 2007
There is a lot to gain by reading Geertz; his knowledge and insight are wonderful. However, I don't think I have ever read anyone that uses run-on-sentences to the extent that he does. To pull the message out of his writing is like looking for the proverbial needle in the haystack. I can't imagine how an editor allowed this verbal diarrhea to go unchecked. I can't tell if he is suffering from ADD or is simply pretentious. If you can get past all that, it is well worth reading.
Geertz at his best, Available Light  Jul 3, 2000
Any student of culture in the "social studies" sense who has picked up a new book and found inside a "kindred spirit," as I did 40 years ago with Albert Camus and, more recently, with Clifford Geertz, has a treat in store with Geertz' most recent, perhaps last, offering: Available Light: Anthropological Reflections on Philosophical Topics (Princeton UP, 2000).

Right from the Preface, this flight is "Go for orbit." While seemingly bidding farewell to us, and this "vast inelegance" (attributed by Geertz to Stevens), Geertz lifts one's thoughts to uncommon heights using broad, galloping strokes in particular detail, kept on track with parenthetical interjections, self-depricating personal and professional reminders, and living proofs that long sentences need not be incomprehensible.

Although it is hard to know whether Available Light would have had the same impact, had I not spent the last two years updating my 1960s cultural anthropology education, I believe it would have helped to read it first, rather than last, before reading Interpretation of Cultures, Local Knowledge, Works & Lives, and After the Fact, as well as many non-Geertz offerings.

Had Available Light come to hand before I read 3 interesting, helpful, but turgid, volumes on ethnographic field work and methodology, in preparation for a retirement project I'm planning, I would surely have struggled less with any of the three. With 3 fundamental field work questions in a single sentence, Geertz made it all clear, the remainder being mostly "techniques" which those 3 books richly supplied. Where were you, Clifford, when I needed you?

Even more, had Available Light come to hand earlier in my self-tutorial sojourn, I would surely have struggled less with such basic concepts as "culture," "religion," and "semiotics." We who lay no great claim to extraordinary intellectual prowess can use Geertz' succinct definitional descriptions to collect, organize and parse the cacophony of competing definitions, perspectives, and outright agendas surrounding each such key anthropological concept.

Finally, the writing! You will rarely find such clear, lucid writing. It is a trait, I find, not unique to Geertz, but Geertz does it better than most. It is not simple writing - on the contrary! - but clear; few short sentences, as precision so often requires modulating interjection. Available Light could find valuable use by English and journalism students just for study of writing clarity!

If I have a gripe, it's only shared by Geertz with so many Harvard-trained so-called scholars, a propensity for uncommon vocabulary - not big words, mind you, but such uncommon ones that I, schooled so many decades ago, still race for the dictionary (where, incidentally, many do not occur). My working vocabulary is enormous, so I suspect "airs" when I encounter too many unknown words, even when they turn out to be well-suited to their context, and particularly when there is an equally-suitable, better-known synonym available.

One rejoinder: Early in Available Light, Geertz notes, he has not actually taught in many years. On the contrary, Professor Geertz, on the contrary! (Rod Borlase)

Great collection  Jun 28, 2000
This was a pretty good compilation of essays, both popular and lesser known. Very worthwhile!

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