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Hermeneutics and Interpretation in Anthropology

Hermeneutics and Interpretation in Anthropology


Hermeneutics and Interpretation in Anthropology SAGE Publications, Inc.1989DOI: 10.1177/092137408900200303 Carl Martin Allwood University of Göteborg For many anthropologists the aim of the discipline is to understand other cultures and for this purpose they see interpretation as central. Some researchers have gone further and concluded that anthropology should identify itself with the humanities and should distance itself from research methods used in the natural sciences. This view has been called the interpretive approach (i.e. Salzman 1986). What is understood and interpreted is typically the content of meaning structures prevalent in a group of people or in a society, i.e. meaning. Another approach centrally concerned with meaning, understanding and interpretation is hermeneutics. Hermeneutic writers often present points of view on questions concerning scientific methodology. At a quick glance, some forms of hermeneutics and the interpretive approach in anthropology may appear fairly similar. Due to the present popularity of the interpretive approach it is of interest to relate some ideas developed in hermeneutics to ideas advocated in interpretive anthropology. In this paper I discuss two of the most important writers in this connection, Hans-Georg Gadamer and Clifford Geertz. I also present arguments and suggestions concerning the usefulness for interpretive anthropology of
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