Essay on The Anthropological Theorists Of Clifford Geertz And Julian Steward

Essay on The Anthropological Theorists Of Clifford Geertz And Julian Steward

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In this research I will discuss the anthropological theorists of Clifford Geertz and of Julian Steward in regards to their ideas of culture, the environment and specifics related to each theorist ideas such as meaning and behavior. A brief overview of their respective backgrounds will be given to frame the discussion and add context to Geertz and Stewards perspectives .Furthermore, this paper will connect the ways other theorists have influenced Geertz and Steward in shaping their own understanding of culture and theories related to culture. And ultimately compare and contrast the two perspectives to each other.
Clifford Geertz is an American anthropologist who’s extensive contributions to the field of anthropology still influence how an anthropologist conducts their research in the field today (Moore 2012: 238-239). It can be argued that much of how Geertz shaped his theory was based on the ideas similar to Max Weber and even possibly Evans Pritchard. A focus on meaning and the symbolic aspects that exist in rituals and in culture practice generally, is arguably Geertz’s most influential contribution to anthropology as a whole. Geertz builds upon theories by Weber and moves away from comparing cultures like how a unilineal perspective would. The unilineal perspective has an interest in categorizing society based on their level of cultural evolution in comparison to western society, Geertz instead looks at culture in terms of “thick descriptions” that would explain symbolism and meaning (Moore 2012: 240). In his understanding of Geertz’s “thick descriptions”, Jerry D. Moore (2012) describes this perspective as one that looks at events such as ritual or expressions and is“…unraveling and identifying those contexts and meanings…” i...

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...ltures such as the Balinese or in Java where his research on the symbols and meaning in cultural practice were used to describe his theory towards culture (Moore 2012: 242). Steward looks broadly at civilizations to gain his perspective and does not have the same extensive ethnographic experience as Geertz does. This could be due to his focus more on the chronological history of a given society rather than an in-depth look like Geertz did in his research. But this of course does not mean that he did not look at particulars in a given group. Steward as was mentioned before looked at material culture to draw upon parallels and see patterns. Overall these theorist illustrate how cultures can be interpreted in a multitude of ways in their own context and how their cultures can come to have similar practices due to a parallel environment or set of pressures.

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