Beyond the Cultural Turn
Victoria E. Bonnel and Lynn Hunt, eds., Beyond the Cultural Turn (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999), 350 pp.
This is an uneven, but in places suggestive, collection of papers on the present status of the concept of culture and cultural analysis in the historical sciences. There is an overall anxiety, a bit excessive, about intellectual "fashion," and being left behind by it--missing a "turn." Nevertheless, the pieces by Richard Biernacki on "method and metaphor," by Margaret Jacob (despite a certain sourness [End Page 204] of tone) on science studies, by Steven Feierman on writing the colonial history of Africa, by Caroline Bynum on writings, modern and medieval, about "the body," and by Jerrold Seigel on the problematics of the self are valuable, and in Bynum's case genuinely innovative. For the rest, they are harmless enough, but there is rather more of wheel spinning than there is of traction.
Clifford Geertz's books include Available Light, After the Fact, Local Knowledge, Negara, and The Interpretation of Cultures. His Works and Lives: The Anthropologist as Author received the National Book Critics Circle Award. He is Harold F. Linder Professor of Social Science at the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton.