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Model for Reality, Model of Reality: Revisiting a Geertzian Conceptual Framework

Abstract of paper to be presented by Lahouari Addi, University of Lyon at the conference "Islam Re-Observed: Clifford Geertz in Morocco"

In order to enhance his symbolic approach, Clifford Geertz distinguished between the model of reality and the model for reality. Unfortunately, he did not elaborate much on this epistemological issue, but we can grasp the rationale for this distinction which pertains to a recurrent debate in the social sciences related to explanation versus comprehension, objectivism versus subjectivism, structuralism versus hermeneutics, semiotics versus symbolism. In this paper, I endeavor to show that the distinction Geertz made between the two models fits his conception of anthropology, but that his intellectual affiliation with Parsons, who made a sharp distinction between sociology (the study of the social) and anthropology (the study of the cultural), introduced certain contradictions noted by a number of scholars. However, if we examine Geertz’s work closely, we find that the reference to the Parsonian approach is formal rather than foundational, and therefore does not undermine the Geertzian approach.

Center for Near Eastern Studies