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指导英国社会学essay:How might culture be read as a text

论文价格: 免费 时间:2019-08-05 09:25:56 来源:www.ukassignment.org 作者:留学作业网
1.0 Introduction介绍
With the advent of global integration and the advent of the Internet era, all cultures in the world have enjoyed unprecedented exchanges. However, there have been a series of problems in the process of exchange, including conflicts between different cultures, such as the impact of strong culture on indigenous cultures, which makes it face demise, the conflict between traditional culture and the development of modern social civilization, science and technology and so on (Parker, 1985, p.102-118). The existence of these conflicts not only affects the harmonious coexistence of various cultures in the world, but also affects the current culture to obtain better development under new economic and technological conditions (Parker, 1985, p.102-118). Therefore, more and more attention has been paid to the study of culture. However, it is worth noting that about how to read and study culture, different scholars have put forward different theories and research methods. Each of these research theories and methods has its own value and defects. At present, there is still a lack of a gold standard on cultural research methods, which gives people engaged in cultural studies some distress. In the theory of cultural studies, Geertz (1973b, p. 3–30) interprets culture as text and uses thick description to interpret it, which is taken as a theory and method of cultural studies adopted by more people. The purpose of this article was to introduce Geertz's theory and method to provide a valuable reference for the researchers to take the method of cultural studies. This article first introduced the dispute about definition of culture and how to read, followed by how Geertz interpreted culture by using thick description, and finally it analyzed the advantages and disadvantages of Geertz's theory and method.
2.0 Main body主体
2.1 Dispute about definition of culture关于文化定义的争议
There are mainly two schools on the definition of culture and research methods of culture. One is the school of functionalism, the other is interpretive anthropology school. The former believes that culture plays a crucial role in every civilization, in all habits, material objects, thinking and beliefs, with certain tasks to be accomplished and in which culture meets the needs of a community or individuals. They claim using natural science methods to carry out anthropological research (Wood, 1981, p.65-126). The school tried hard to establish the paradigm of "scientific ethnography", for which they made strict rules and requirements on field investigation methods. Wood (1981, p. 65-126) believed that anthropology must be as rigorous and transparent as natural sciences, like a physics or chemical experiment. The experimental report should give a detailed description of all the experimental arrangements, including the instruments used, the methods of observation, times of observations, time spent on observation, the approximate degree of each measurement and so on. Thus people can tell the difference between material directly observed or interpreted by indigenous people and the material inferred by an author based on his general knowledge and psychological understanding. That is to say, it should let readers understand that how the material is obtained and the credibility (Hoffman, 2009, p. 417-430).
Interpretive anthropology school puts forward different views on the definition of culture and cultural studies. Geertz (1973b, p.3–30) held that social reality is fundamentally composed of people and their meaningful social behaviors. In Weber's view, social and cultural fields are different from the natural world. Research on social culture should not treated by using the same principles as research on the natural society, the study of natural science discusses its regularity, causal link. The study of social culture involves the study of human being. Human being is an extremely complex subject of study, they have thinking and awareness. Their actions do not follow the laws of nature. Therefore, it is necessary to understand the meaning of people’s actions, from the inner understanding to grasp the meaning of behavior (Parker, 1985, p.102-118).
According to Geertz (1973b, p.3-30), culture is a set of generations-passed concepts that use symbols to communicate, with these symbols, people can exchange, renew and develop their attitudes about life and attitude towards life. The cultural concept Geertz (1973b, p.3-30) advocated is actually a semiotics concept. Gertz's definition of culture is essentially that of Weber’s, Max Weber argues that humans are animals hanging in the net of their own weaves. Geertz agrees and further explains that culture is the meanings net. Moreover, Geertz (1973b, p.3-30) argued that research on culture is not an experimental science that seeks regularity, but an interpretive science that seeks meaning. Thus, Geertz argues that cultural analysis is not an experimental science that seeks regularity, but rather a kind of science of interpretation which explores meaning, what he pursues is analysis and interpretation the mysterious social expression (Parker, 1985, p.121-147).
2.2 Debate on how to read cultural text 
Malinowski (1944, p. 88-127) thought that the first task of ethnographic field work is to figure out all the principles and laws of tribal life, to identify those permanent and certain things, analyzing their culture and describing their social structure. Namely, scientific ethnography aims to ultimately seek the laws (Malinowski, 1944, p. 88-127). Geertz (1973b, p.3-30), who belonged to interpretive anthropology school argues that cultural analysis is not an experimental science that explores the laws, but an interpretive science that explores meaning. Such as Geertz's study of Balinese cockfighting, he was not content with his own description of the "cockfighting" game. His further analysis was why Balinese residents were always enthusiastically, often joined in the fighting game, and even disregarding morality condemnation, punishment of the law. Geertz found that in the game, money was not so much a measure of utility, it was about status, fame, honor, dignity, and respect (Geertz, 1973b, p.3-30) Freeman has come to the opposite conclusion to Mead’s, which is a strong response to those who argue that anthropology is an objective and fair cultural description. Driven by Geertz, ethnography no longer advertises science and rationality as the sole guideline for writing, but rather fully comprehends the moral ideals, aesthetic concepts and emotions of indigenous communities and indigenous peoples to deeply understand indigenous peoples' inner world (Geertz, 1973b, p.3-30; Shankman, 1984, p.261-280).
Geertz (1973b, p.3-30) put forward the concept of thick description on how to read and explain culture. The term "thick description" refers to revealing the meaning of his action through the description of the social behavior of a subject (Geertz, 1973b, p.3-30). For example, a person blinks spontaneously, and the other people blinks to send information to his companions. If only the action is described, they are all the same, and the inner meanings of the blinking of the two can not be discerned. However, an in-depth study of the winking behavior requires people to find out the meaning behind their actions, which requires the research approach of thick description (Geertz, 1973b, p.3-30).
Geertz (1973b, p.3-30) believed that ethnography is often used in anthropology, it is an attempt by anthropologists to conduct thick descriptions when studying culture. Anthropological field ethnography is mainly analysis and interpretation of different cultures. This process must be based on the anthropological approach, namely, field investigation. Often it visits field collaborators, observes ceremonies, verifies kinship terms, traces the route to property inheritance and conduct a more in-depth analysis on these field materials (Schneider, 1987, p.809-839). Geertz argued (1973b, p.3-30) that the study of ethnography is not a simple process of reproduction and reflection, but rather understanding and interpreting the deep understanding of a culture and integrates the observer's self-reflection into the understanding and interpretation of different cultures. Geertz (1973b, p.3-30) refers to ethnographic methods to tell the rationality of using thick description in studying and reading.#p#分页标题#e#
2.3 Thick description
Geertz (1973b, p.3-30) figured that the argument about whether culture is materialistic or idealistic, whether it is subjective or objective, is entirely misguided, he holds that culture is a set of concepts passed down from generation to generation expressed in various symbols, people use these symbols to exchange, continue and develop their knowledge about life and their attitude toward life, the task of anthropology is not only to understand these symbols, but also to understand the social context in which these symbols exist and what they represent. Geertz thinks that thick description is an effective method of reading culture and he expounds how to carry on thick description (Parker, 1985, p. 102-118).
First, Geertz introduced how to carry on thick description towards culture from the angle of symbol. Smith’s (2008, p. 169-186) field ethnography about Balinese cockfighting included many symbolic objects, rituals, spaces, relationships, activities and scenes. All he wanted to reveal was the cultural conception and behavior of people in Balinese society. Because of the commonality of these symbols, the locals were familiar with the symbols, for example, the recognition of "rooster" by men in Bali, has a very special cultural meaning. As the relationship between the symbols of culture depends on the way in which the actors behave in the culture. Balinese men revolved around the understanding of roosters and the set of rules they formed during cockfighting were deeply reflected in their cultural life model and social organization form Smith’s (2008, p. 169-186). Therefore, when anthropologists are writing field ethnography, they should understand the local people's way of understanding and expression of their own culture, and accurately grasp the symbols that are commonly used by the society. Such thick description is possible to close to an object described. In this regard, Geertz openly stated his position in an attempt to suppress subjectivism on the one hand and inhibit mysticism on the other, trying to make symbolic analysis as close as possible to specific social events and occasions, that is, to be linked with the general public (Geertz, 1973b, p.3-30).
Second, Geertz introduced how to carry out thick description of culture from the angle of religion. In the anthropological research in Bali Island and Morocco, Geertz used great energy to implement thick description towards the religious life, rituals and symbols of the locals (Geertz, 1973b, p.3-30). Functionalism regards religion as a kind of social and individual emotional needs, religious rites and symbols are relatively stable; Durkheim interprets the meaning of religion as which is determined by social structure; and Geertz made a corresponding criticism towards similar views. In his view, religion itself is rich in autonomous meanings, which is an explanation system that communicates with human outlook on life (Geertz, 1973b, p.3-30). Geertz points out that religion includes a whole set of ritual symbols through related anthropological research. The social relations, cultural patterns, moral ethics, emotional emotions and value meanings behind religious symbols constitute the main content of social culture (Geertz, 1973b, p.3-30; Asad, 1983, p.237-259).
Finally, Geertz introduced how to conduct thick description of culture from a local knowledge perspective. In his eyes, the study of art is not art itself but the cultural information of the locals, including their worldview and values (Swidler, 1996, p. 299-302). For art research, these symbols and media, which symbolizes these meanings play their own roles in social life or in one part of a society, and in fact they infuse the society with life. In Geertz’s (1973b, p.3-30 book, he more deeply explained the Balinese feel of the calendar, to further explain their concept of time and life. Geertz (1985, p. 121-147) applied the method of thick description to reveal the culture patterns and behavioral logic of nations in different places through a comparative study of legal texts and culture. This ethnography and the ethnography of cock fighting game by Balinese men is a good illustration of the methods of research on culture. Law and ethnography, like driving a boat, gardening, politics, and writing poetry, are all jobs that are relevant to local knowledge of their place. Geertz tells that the interpretation of cultural symbols needs to be related to local knowledge, which in turn can explain the principles of the locals (Geertz, 1985, p. 121-147).
2.4 Advantages of Geertz’s theory
First, Geertz advocates that cultural researchers should use a special kind of emotional approach to think, perceive like real local cultural holders, so as to understand the ways that the real local cultural holders use in thinking perceiving to have a deeper understanding and interpretation of the essence of local cultural text (Geertz, 1973b, p.3-30).
Second, considering a tremendous impact of globalization on cultural diversity, Geertz seized and conducted thick description of local knowledge with its own knowledge system and cultural model from a local perspective, he forced cultural researchers realize the particularity of the existence of cultural texts interpreted, the particularity of ethnographic texts and led to a profound reflection on cultural studies (Geertz, 2005, p.56-86).
Finally, the subjective cognition of cultural interpretation was often neglected by anthropologists in field ethnographic writing, Geertz broke through such limitations and emphasized that it should pay attention to the subjective understanding of cultural interpretation, thus changing the past emphasis only on the first level of the record and ignoring the discussion on the second,  third and even fourth level (Parker, 1985, p. 121-147). Geertz said, interpretation is the essence of ethnography, once ethnography goes beyond simple enumeration, interpretation comes with the annotation of the author’s of ethnography for the annotation provided by information providers. Geertz distinguished the near-term experience of locals' perspectives and far-field experience of social theorists, and argued that the ethnographic author's task was to elaborate on the relationship between the two (Geertz, 1973b, p.3-30). Geertz pointed out that research on a culture should grasps ideas that are near-experiential to another nation and put them in the proper articulation of the far-experiencing concepts put forward by theorists, it can only be realized by interpretation (Geertz, 1973b, p.3-30).
2.5 Critical analysis
Geertz's theory of thick description about reading cultural texts opens up entirely new theories and perspectives for the study of anthropology and culture. His theory is undoubtedly of great value, but some shortcomings of his theory should also be noticed, to understand these defects are of great value for better application of his theory and method.
First of all, to interpret text in a thick description way, there must be many investigators' own understanding of culture. It is likely that different investigators will have different conclusions. So how to view and evaluate the differences between these conclusions, whether it is necessary to form a consistent evaluation of cultural texts, all of which are not solved by Geertz (Hoffman, 2009, p. 417-430).
Second, thick description emphasizes the description and interpretation of a large number of life details and facts of objects observed to finally form conclusion. However, there are many details of life in the culture of a research object, and it is impossible for a researcher to describe and explain every little thing. Thus which should be described and to what extent it should be  described needs the researcher to make a decision (Hoffman, 2009, p. 417-430), but Geertz did not propose corresponding solutions, so for those scholars engaged in relevant research, especially beginners, when using thick description to interpret and study different cultures, a set of normative rules of operation will be lacking, resulting in poor research quality or inconsistent findings of different researchers’.
Finally, one of the theoretical premises of Geertz's method of thick description is the differences between different cultures, thus they can not be interpreted in the same set of methods, values or perspectives, Geertz is valuable in the sense that and he affirmed the difference between cultures (Swidler, 1996, p.299-302). However, there are also similarities among cultures. Understanding the sameness between cultures and comparing cultures can also play an important role in cultural interpretation. However, Geertz’s thick description is less persuasive in the research on cultural identities, because it lacks a set of standard operating procedures.
3.0 Conclusion
In the theory of cultural studies, Geertz interprets culture as text and uses thick description to interpret it, as a theory and method of cultural studies, it can be adopted by many people. There are mainly two school about the definition and research methods of culture, one is the school of functionalism, the other is interpretive anthropology school. The former believes that anthropology should be as rigorous and transparent as natural science, as physics or chemistry experiments, the experimental reports should make a detailed description of all the experimental arrangements, and the representatives of interpretive anthropology school, Geertz holds that the analysis of culture is not a kind of experimental science seeking laws, but a kind of interpretive science that explores meaning. Therefore, he proposed a method of thick description, that is, through the description of the social behavior of a research object to reveal the meaning of its action. Geertz thinks that thick description is an effective method of reading culture and expounds how to carry out thick description.#p#分页标题#e#
First, Geertz introduced how to carry out thick description from the angle of symbol. Gertz tries to make the analysis of symbols as close as possible to concrete social events and occasions, that is, the general world of ordinary life. Second, Geertz showed how to conduct thick description of culture from the angle of religion. Geertz pointed out that religion includes a whole set of ritual symbols. The social relations, cultural patterns, moral ethics, emotional emotions and value meanings behind religious symbols form the main contents of social culture and research. In the end, Geertz introduced how to deal with thick description of culture from a local knowledge perspective. According to Geertz, cultural studies are related to the local knowledge of local places. Geertz figured that the interpretation of cultural symbols should be related to local knowledge, so as to explain the principle of locals. Geertz's method of thick description has the enlightenment for people on how to read cultural texts, Researchers should think about and understand the essence of local culture like true local cultural holders, respect and discover the differences and particularities of local culture, focus on the subjective understanding of cultural interpretation and seek balance between near and far experience. Geertz's thick description theory on the reading of cultural texts has some flaws, but his theory opens a completely new theory and perspective for anthropological and cultural studies. No doubt his theory is very valuable.
Asad, T. (1983) ‘Anthropological Conceptions of Religion: Reflections on Geertz’, Man, 18(2): 237-259.
Geertz, C. (2005) ‘Deep Play: Notes on the Balinese Cockfight’, Daedalus, 134(4): 56-86.
Geertz, C. (1985) Local Knowledge: Further Essays in Interpretive Anthropology, New York: Basic Books, 121-147. 
Geertz, C. (1973) ‘Thick Description: Toward an Interpretative Theory of Culture’, The Interpretation of Cultures: Selected Essays, New York: Basic Books.
Hoffman, K. (2009) ‘Culture as text: hazards and possibilities of Geertz’s literary/literacy metaphor’, The Journal of North African Studies, 14(3/4): 417-430.
Malinowski, B. (1944) A Scientific Theory of Culture and Other Essays, New York: Oxford University Press, 88-127. 
Parker, R. (1985) ‘From Symbolism to Interpretation: Reflections on the Work of Clifford Geertz’, Anthropology and Humanism, 10(3): 62-67.
Schneider, M. (1987) ‘Culture-as-Text in the Work of Clifford Geertz’, Theory and Society, 16(6): 809-839.
Shankman, P. (1984) ‘The Thick and the Thin: On the Interpretive Theoretical Program of Clifford Geertz [and Comments and Reply]’, Current Anthropology, 25(3): 261-280.
Smith, P. (2008) ‘The Balinese Cockfight Decoded: Reflections on Geertz, the Strong Program and Structuralism’, Cultural Sociology, 2(2): 169-186.
Swidler, A. (1996) ‘Geertz’s Ambiguous Legacy’, Contemporary Sociology, 25(3): 299-302.
Wood, G. (1981) ‘Empirical philosophies of mind’, Economy and Society, 10(2): 125-165.

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