Biography of Clifford Geertz

Clifford Geertz was an American anthropologist. He is best known for his advocacy of symbolic anthropology, an anthropological methodology that focuses on symbols as vehicles for cultural interpretation.

Geertz was born in San Francisco in 1926 and served in the United States Navy during the Second World War. He attended Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio where he received a bachelor of arts in philosophy. Geertz went on to earn a doctor of philosophy in anthropology from Harvard University in 1956. The first long-term fieldwork Geertz conducted was in Java, Indonesia with his first wife Hildred. He later returned to Indonesia to conduct fieldwork in Bali and Sumatra.

From 1960 to 1970, Geertz taught at the University of Chicago in their anthropology department. In 1970, he joined the faculty at Princeton's Institute for Advanced Study as a professor of social science. He remained at Princeton for 30 years before becoming a professor emeritus. During these years, he published and edited a number of important anthropological studies that established him as an Indonesianist and a theorist of symbolic anthropology. "Deep Play" is his most famous essay, as it puts on display Geertz's predilection for thick description – or explaining reasons behind human action with as much detail as possible.

Geertz died of complications following heart surgery in October of 2006.

Study Guides on Works by Clifford Geertz