Introduction: The Interpretation of Cultures at Fifty


  • Andrea Cossu Department of Sociology and Social Research, University of Trento
  • Matteo Bortolini Department of Historical and Geographical Sciences and the Ancient World, University of Padua



Clifford Geertz, hermeneutics, anthropology, classics, memory


Introducing the symposium “The Interpretation of Cultures at Fifty,” editors Andrea Cossu and Matteo Bortolini reflect on the dynamics of the iconicization of texts and the paradoxical quality of so-called “classics”: their being present while being rewritten and forgotten. A brief illustration of the papers by the contributors to the symposium — Joan W. Scott, Anne Taylor and Jeffrey C. Alexander, Ann Swidler and Ronald Jepperson, Simon Susen, and Monika Krause — completes the introduction.


Alexander, J.C., & Taylor, A. (2024). “Ideology” and After: Reinscribing the Aesthetics of Symbolic Structure in Geertz. Sociologica, 18(1), 7–23.

Bortolini, M. (2023). “A Twenty-Four Hour Job”. Hildred and Clifford Geertz’s First Foray into the Field and the Scholarly Persona of the Ethnographer. History and Anthropology, November, 1–23.

Bortolini, M. (2024). Clifford Geertz (1926–2006). In L. Allodi (Ed.), Analisi comparativa delle civilizzazioni (pp. 363–375). Soveria Mannelli: Rubbettino.

Bortolini, M., & Cossu, A. (2015). Two Men, Two Books, Many Disciplines. Robert N. Bellah, Clifford Geertz, and the Making of Iconic Cultural Objects. In A. Law & E. Royal Lybeck (Eds.), Sociological Amnesia (pp. 37–55). London: Routledge.

Bortolini, M., & Cossu, A. (2020). In the Field but not of the Field: Clifford Geertz, Robert Bellah, and the Practices of Interdisciplinarity. European Journal of Social Theory, 23(3), 328–349.

Bourdieu, P. (1979) La distinction. Critique sociale du jugement. Paris: Les Éditions de minuit.

Burke, M.J. (2007). Geertz’s Influence on Intellectual Historians. Historically Speaking, 8(4), 40.

Cossu, A. (2021). Clifford Geertz, Intellectual Autonomy, and Interpretive Social Science. American Journal of Cultural Sociology, 9(33), 347–375.

Cossu, A. (2022). Talcott Parsons and Clifford Geertz: Modernization, Functionalism, and Interpretive Social Science. In A.J. Treviño & H. Staubmann (Eds.), The Routledge International Handbook of Talcott Parsons Studies (pp. 261–270). London: Routledge.

Davis, N.Z. (2009). Review: The Interpretation of Cultures, by Clifford Geertz. The Sixteenth Century Journal, 40(1), 58–61.

Geertz, C. (1973). The Interpretation of Cultures: Selected Essays. New York, NY: Basic Books.

Geertz, C. (1983). Local Knowledge. New York, NY: Basic Books.

Goffman, E. (1956). The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life. New York, NY: Doubleday.

Guhin, J. (2014) Religion as Site Rather Than Religion as Category: On the Sociology of Religion’s Export Problem. Sociology of Religion, 75(4), 579–593.

Isaac, J. (2018). The Intensification of Social Forms: Economy and Culture in the Thought of Clifford Geertz. Critical Historical Studies, 5(2), 237–266.

Isaac, J. (2023). Anthropology and the Turn to History. In R. Bourke & Q. Skinner (Eds.), History in the Humanities and the Social Sciences (pp. 379–406). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Krause, M. (2024). Interpretation and Critical Classification. Geertzism and beyond in the Sociology of Culture. Sociologica, 18(1), 87–93.

Lutkehaus, N. (2008). Margaret Mead. The Making of an American Icon. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Paidipaty, P. (2020). Tortoises all the Way Down: Geertz, Cybernetics and Culture at the End of the Cold War. Anthropological Theory, 20(1), 97–129.

Scott, J.W. (2024). On Rereading Clifford Geertz’s The Interpretation of Cultures 50 Years After the Fact. Sociologica, 18(1), 95–102.

Susen, S. (2024). The Interpretation of Cultures: Geertz Is Still in Town. Sociologica, 18(1), 25–63.

Swidler, A. (1996). Geertz’s Ambiguous Legacy. Contemporary Sociology, 25(3), 299–302.

Swidler, A., & Jepperson, R.L. (2024). Interpretation, Explanation and Theories of Meaning. Sociologica, 18(1), 65–85.




How to Cite

Cossu, A., & Bortolini, M. (2024). Introduction: The Interpretation of Cultures at Fifty. Sociologica, 18(1), 1–5.