September 16, 2012
Grasping Different Life
Anthropologists are consistently trying to understand different cultures and the way people think, act, and feel. Some experience the different cultures through filed studies, living amongst the people allowing them to study and act like one of them. For others, this involves studying historical content and observing the people from a higher vantage point. This technique allows them to study their actions from a distance, but Clifford Geertz chooses a different method. He argues that knowledge lies in between understanding of experimental-near and experimental-distant concepts, terms formulated by the psychoanalyst Heinz Kohut. In other words, experimental-near means the way in which the subject, or in anthropological cases, the native, define what they experience every day. Experimental-distant refers to the understanding of the objector, or person looking from afar, the anthropologist. One solid example that Geertz utilizes in his article is love as the experimental-near concept and object catharsis as the experimental-distant approach. It isn’t until the anthropologist can align these near and distant concepts that he or she can have a full understanding of their subject or culture.
Geertz’s approach isn’t necessarily erratically different from other anthropologists; but rather it just verifies why he’s so successful. He states that if one is too close to one’s subject he is, “left awash in immediacies as well as entangled in vernacular,” but if one is too far away one is, “stranded in abstractions and smothered in jargon.” (Geertz 29). It is clear that you need to experience both sides of the spectrum, which authenticates Geertz’s idea of finding somewhat of a “happy medium”. He states that anthropologists can achieve this by clinging to a natives point of view rather than our own through a “sort of transcultural identification” (Geertz 28). Geertz further justifies his idea by saying,...