Summer is time for reading books that I haven’t had the time to read before. It has become a tradition of some sort for me to read a Grisham novel every summer. No time during the winter? Right, sure. Be what it may, summer is my reading-time for books that don’t necessary have anything to do with my daily work. Nonetheless, I do read also books that could be considered professional reading material. This week I had one of those, namely a book by Clifford Geertz, “After the Fact”.
In his book Geertz shares his thoughts on his research, work, history, and anthropology. All of the abovementioned were interesting to read, not the least because it is nice to notice that there has always been challenges of this sort, of how to deal with change, limits of possibilities for researcher and for research, university politics, and a vague description of one’s discipline.
The thing that I was left most pondering afterwards, was the description and identity of an anthropologist. So far I haven’t yet experienced the most pitiful state of an anthropologist, a one without humans (those beings that one should be studying all along). This notion should not be considered lightly. Wether one is an anthropologist, sociologist, folklorist, or other researcher of human life, a contact with reality – how people live and think in everyday life – should remain. Theories and theorists of human life are important to read, but their insight should always be evaluated by empricial evidence. The best way to do this is to conduct original research, live amongst the people.
It was good to note that such an experienced researcher like Geertz would not be hasty to pinpoint some “real” description or “essence” of what anthropology and an anthropologist is. A discipline that is perhaps better described as a research desire than a method, clear theory or theoretical framework, is an honest description of scientific approach to culture, human and human life. An anthropologist is a researcher that wants to add human knowledge about culture and humans. Vague? Perhaps. But nevertheless true. This is what I am, also, I could add.