The Interpretation of Cultures

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The Interpretation of Cultures: Selected Essays
The Interpretation of Cultures.jpg
Cover of the first edition
AuthorClifford Geertz
PublisherBasic Books
Publication date
Media typePrint

The Interpretation of Cultures: Selected Essays is a 1973 book by the American anthropologist Clifford Geertz. The book was listed in the Times Literary Supplement as one of the 100 most important publications since World War Two.[1]


At the University of Chicago, Geertz became a champion of symbolic anthropology, a framework which gives prime attention to the role of symbols in constructing public meaning. In The Interpretation of Cultures (1973), Geertz described culture as "a system of inherited conceptions expressed in symbolic forms by means of which men communicate, perpetuate, and develop their knowledge about and attitudes toward life" (1973:89). Geertz believed that the role of anthropologists was to try to interpret the guiding symbols of each culture.


Geertz was awarded the Sorokin Award in 1974 by the American Sociological Association "for his brilliant essays on The Interpretation of Cultures."[2] The book is considered to be influential within the anthropological discipline, particularly in terms of the discussion of thick description as a construct for examining social phenomena.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Yarrow, Andrew. "Clifford Geertz, Cultural Anthropologist, Is Dead at 80". New York Times. Retrieved 16 June 2012.
  2. ^ "Sorokin Award to Geertz and Jencks," ASA Footnotes, Vol. 2, No. 8 (American Sociological Association, 1974): 3.