Related to symbolic anthropology is interpretive anthropology advocated by Clifford Geertz. Geertz defined culture as ideas based on cultural learning and symbols. During enculturation, individuals internalize a previously established system of meanings and symbols. They use this cultural system to define their world, express their feelings, and make their judgments.
Interpretive anthropology approaches cultures as texts whose forms and, especially, meanings must be deciphered in particular cultural and historical contexts. Geertz’s approach recalls Malinowski’s belief that the ethnographer’s primary task is “to grasp the native’s point of view, his relation to life, to realize his vision of his world”.
Since the 1970s, interpretive anthropology has considered the task of describing and interpreting which is meaningful to natives. Cultures are texts that natives constantly “read” and ethnographers must decipher.
According to Geertz anthropologists may choose anything in a culture that interests or engages them fill in details, and elaborate to inform their readers about meanings in that culture. Meanings are carried by public symbolic forms, including words, rituals, and customs.