After the Fact: Two Countries, Four Decades, One Anthropologist (The Jerusalem-Harvard Lectures)
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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.
1971, 1972, 1976, or 1986, it always seemed not the right time, but a pause between right times, between a turbulence somehow got through and another one obscurely looming. Change, apparently, is not a parade that can be watched as it passes. Pare in the early fifties was a shabby, alternately hot and dusty and hot and muddy crossroads town of perhaps twenty thousand (a TOWNS • 5 couple thousand of them Chinese), and the regional hub, depending on how and for what purposes you defined its
partly on religious grounds, in the nineteen fifties, and continuing to the nineties to be a site of violent resistance, sporadic and obscurely motivated, to state authority, it is not the easiest society for an outsider, white, Western, and (thus) presumptively Christian, to navigate. I had come there in yet another capacity, new to me and not since repeated: I was a technical consultant, hired by a wealthy American philanthropic institution, if not absolutely the wealthiest, certainly the most
administrative corruption impressive even for Fez caused it not to extend across the whole city as originally planned, but stopped it midway. Tour buses, taxis, trucks, motorcycles, and various other sorts of vehicles pour down into the center at the bottom of the bowl and then have to turn about and struggle up out again the way they have come, creating a continuous stream of angry traffic-a great scar, as the inhabitants put it, on the belly of the city. The abandonment of the old city by its
the time of the coup, just let the Muslim youth have their head, at least for a while, after which they called a halt and began just arresting people and carting them off to Buru [a prison island in eastern Indonesia] or somewhere. There is still a good deal of bad feeling around on the part of friends and relatives of the victims. But anti-Communism is now so strong here they don't dare say anything; they just conceal it, like good Javanese. I myself am as anti-Communist as I always was. But the
elite wished them to be) bulldozed away. But this compromise, if that's the word for it, hardly ended the confrontation. It merely moved it onto a new plane of discussion, one in which the issues are represented as being between various interests within the city, not between it and aliens gathered along its edges. Consider, for example, a remarkable letter in an Arabic-language newspaper, written about two years later by a resident of the city's largest, fastest-growing, and most energetic