Art History Unstuffed. Art and “Thick Description,” Part Two

ART AND LOCAL KNOWLEDGE

Part Two of Art and Thick Description,” a series on the relationship between Clifford Geertz and art history was posted on March 28, 2014 on Art History Unstuffed. This post discusses the bricoleur nature of the work and thought of Clifford Geertz. Not only did he borrow from Erwin Panofsky and his philosophical colleagues, Geertz also used a contemporary art historian, Michael Baxendall as his “guide” to examining a particular way of thinking at a particular point in time—local knowledge. At the same time that Geertz was formulating concept of a “thick description,” Michel Foucault was thinking through his notion of the episteme, indicating that a number of philosophers were attempting to understand how knowledge formations change and alter over time.

The Geertzian method removes the false dichotomy between fine and popular art—that much is obvious—but his method also breaks the confines of visual culture and transforms the historian into a cultural observer, into an anthropological watcher, who investigates and records and describes–like Honoré Balzac.

Dr. Jeanne S. M. Willette

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