Professor Clifford Geertz is a prominent anthropologist who is known for the unparalleled achievements in Southeast Asian studies, and the excellent methodology in understanding different cultures and societies. Such distinguished accomplishment resulting from his profound insight have had a great influence not only on anthropology, but on cultural and social sciences.
After World War II, Southeast Asia emerged for the first time as a new area focus for the world's "area studies." There were, however, many obstacles to overcome before Southeast Asian studies obtained a status as an independent subject matter, instead of colonial studies like that of prewar time. In particular, there was a pressed need to clarify how to understand societies and cultures we live in today and how ordinary people with no political voice look at their societies or cultures. In order to do so, knowledgeable opinions and honest research principles of long-term residence in Southeast Asia, were indispensable.
Professor Geertz is the first researcher who literally exercised these prerequisites and still continues to lead the academic circles. His intellectual honesty and profoundity of thought, along with the magnitude of his contribution to Southeast Asian studies are unequaled among his co-researchers.
He started his first research in a small local city of Java where he studied religion. This field work resulted in the book, "The Religion of Java", which is very famous for its presentation of cultural concepts such as puriyai, santri, and abangan. It still maintains its prestige as a classic of Southeast Asian studies.
The diverse analytic views and the conceptual framework he has presented, together with his highly sophisticated literary style, received broad recognition among co-researchers and have contributed to the enhancement of Southeast Asian studies immensely.
Concepts such as "Exemplary Center," "Theater State," "Agricultural Involution," "Ecology in Paddy Field and Burned Field," "Shared Poverty" and "Bazarr Economy" are a few examples and they opened up new lines of inquiry for area studies. It is difficult to stress strongly enough the influence these concepts have had on Southeast Asian studies.
Professor Geertz's academic contribution to the advancement of Asian culture and societies is so immense that he is truly worthy of the Fukuoka Asian Cultural Prizes' International Academic Prize.