Friday, May 4, 2012

Clifford Geertz's "Thick Description" explained (summary)

One of the key terms in Clifford Geertz's anthropological theory is that of "Thick Description". 

Following Ryle, Geertz holds that anthropology's task is that of explaining cultures through thick description which specifies many details, conceptual structures and meanings, and which is opposed to "thin description" which is a factual account without any interpretation. Thin description for Geertz is not only an insufficient account of an aspect of a culture; it is also a misleading one. According to Geertz an ethnographer must present a thick description which is composed not only of facts but also of commentary, interpretation and interpretations of those comments and interpretations. His task is to extract meaning structures that make up a culture, and for this Geertz believes that a factual account will not suffice for these meaning structures are complexly layered one on top and into each other so that each fact might be subjected to intercrossing interpretations which ethnography should study.  

In "Thick Description: Toward an Interpretive Theory of Culture" Geertz outlines four parameters for an adequate "thick description" and a study of culture:
1.       Interpretative study:  since anthropology is a semiotic endeavor, cultural analysis should be an interpretative practice which traces the manner in which meaning is ascribed. The raw observational material collected by an ethnographer is not sufficient if we are to achieve a thick description of a culture.
2.       The subject of interpretation is the flow of social discourse. Interperative ethnography according to Geertz should produce the codes required for decoding social events.
3.       Interpretation deals with extrovert expressions. Data collection and interpretation are limited to what local informants can tell us. Therefore the thickest of descriptions can only be based on extrovert expressions of culture.
4.       Ethnographic description is microscopic. According to Geertz ethnographic findings describe local behaviors and truths as serve as an ethnographical miniature. We always view specific and contextualized happenings, and these make up the thick description.

other summaries of articles by Clifford Geertz:

Get the book:



  1. "Thick", as in "thick as pea soup"-- i.e., a fog of balderdash.

  2. I wish people would write more about this as you have done.

    summarizing tool

  3. Hi admin,
    I have visited your blog,I have also a blog which is related with you, which is about film thickness.
    The sputtering film can get the film with uniform thickness in a larger surface.
    Energy conversion of the high energy of neodymium fluoride sputtered atoms deposited on the substrate is much more than the evaporation of atoms high, resulting in high heat, enhances the adhesion of the sputtered atoms and the substrate.
    film thickness



  4. Thank you for this post. Geertz introduced concepts that have proven very useful in Narrative Practice. This summary provides a handy reference for some of these ideas.

  5. creativity of writer is purely impressive. It has touched to the level of expertise with his writing. Everything is up to the mark. Written perfectly and I can use such information for my coming assignment. ติว a level

  6. Sometime it becomes very hard to find a well written and well established bog which give you correct and useful information. However, I found this blog and got some relevant information which are really helpful for me.

  7. It is really a helpful blog to find some different source to add my knowledge. I came into aware of new professional blog and I am impressed with suggestions of author.
    ติว igcse


script async src="//">