chapter  9
5 Pages

The First Responses

ByAbena Dadze-Arthur

When Geertz published The Interpretation of Cultures, positivism dominated the research tradition in anthropology. The positivist theory of knowledge holds that social facts exist independently of people and the contextual meanings people give to these facts. We can verify or prove these facts by means of observation or experiment. Scholars of all convictions took issue with the explanatory reach of Geertz's seminal work. In other words, Geertz had let culture describe and explain itself. For instance, historians argued that Geertz's explanation of a system of meaning typically failed to consider "the historical processes that led to its production". Questioning the then common positivist model, many agreed with Geertz's argument that it remains important to understand meaning based on context and the intention of the person who acts in specific situations. It gave anthropology a new justification in the postcolonial era.