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Geertz, Clifford. "Thick Description: Toward an Interpretative Theory of Culture." In The Interpretation of Cultures. New York: Basic Books, 1973.
In his first chapter in The Interpretation of Cultures, Clifford Geertz discusses the role of the ethnographer. Broadly, the ethnographer's aim is to observe, record, and analyze a culture. More specifically, he or she must interpret signs to gain their meaning within the culture itself. This interpretation must be based on the "thick description" of a sign in order to see all the possible meanings. His example of a "wink of any eye" clarifies this point. When a man winks, is he merely "rapidly contracting his right eyelid" or is he "practicing a burlesque of a friend faking a wink to deceive a an innocent into thinking conspiracy is in motion"? Ultimately, Geertz hopes that the ethnographer's deeper understanding of the signs will open and/or increase the dialogue among different cultures. [M. Murphy]