Clifford Geertz interviewed by Alan Macfarlane in Cambridge, 6th May 2004


0:00:36 Biographical details – early life and education – influential teachers – family

0:09:04 War service in the Navy

0:11:48 End of war  writing short stories in San Francisco – Antioch University, Ohio – influential teachers – encouraged to become an anthropologist after reading English and Philosophy but seeing no future in that direction – marriage to Hildred who also majored in English and similarly at a loss – grant to do anthropology at Harvard under Kluckhohn

0:15:50 Margaret Mead – both Hildred and self introduced to her fieldwork methods and encouraged to become anthropologists – both accepted to do anthropology at Harvard

0:17:30 Impressions of Margaret Mead – kindness – made effort to see them  in Bali  and to introduce them to influential person – Freeman controversy – meeting with Derek Freeman – feels he should have made criticism when Mead was still alive and could defend herself – ‘Coming of Age in Samoa’ written when she was 26 – what he knows of Samoa suggests not all right or all wrong

0:25:08 Harvard – memories of Clyde Kluckhohn – tortured man – grew up in Iowa, adopted by the Kluckhohns – sick all his life – sent to the South when young and became a Navaho specialist – dysfunctional family - hard to deal with but was supportive

0:28:40 Talcott Parsons – benevolent and kind though not a great influence – produced some very good students – very intelligent – caught up in the tension between Kluckhohn and Parsons – interpreter of Max Weber

0:32:44 Influence of Max Weber on self – other influential thinkers including Marx and Durkheim – thinks of himself as a ‘fox’ not a ‘hedgehog’ unlike Parsons

0:34:41 Earlier tradition of American anthropology – Ruth Benedict – Robert Lowie – Alfred Kroeber – Ralph Linton – Edward Sapir – Franz Boas

0:37:51 Harvard PhD – fieldwork ‘rite de passage’ - at that time had to be outside US in another language – Douglas Oliver, teaching at Peabody, invited him and wife to be part of a project to study Javanese kinship and religion for two years – no knowledge of Indonesia beforehand – well financed by Ford Foundation – both joined the group – language training for a year then went to Java – Kluckhohn had suggested them to Oliver

0:40:18 First impressions – first to Leiden to improve Dutch and to meet scholars – ship to Indonesia – day before arrival rebellion against Sukarno government started – tanks on streets – taken to safe house by Indonesian friends – very tense for first few days until Sukarno prevailed

0:42:51 Sent to Jojakarta, Central Java where National University (Gadjah Mada) was founded in Sultan’s palace – beautiful town at that time – idea that they with three professors and thirty students would sit in hotel and interview people who’d be called in – refused to work in this way and found a suitable fieldwork site in Pare where the team stayed for two years – detached themselves from students although some bitterness for a time

0:49:50 Nature of fieldwork – pleasure – war and illness – went off to Bali – later Morocco – challenge is to understand people who are quite different from self –Javanese, Balinese and Moroccans endlessly intriguing – freedom to do it in one’s own way

0:55:11 Never had one single question – a ‘fox’, a pluralist – I think people really are different so not looking for common thread but particular expressions – coming from Literature look at what is extraordinary and different about famous writers – looking for the Javaneseness of the Javanese etc. – interested in peoples’ ways of being in the world – don’t agree with idea that we should study other peoples to better understand ourselves