Thick description speaks to me. From the first time I took a cultural anthropology class in high school, ethnographic methods have captured my imagination. Instead of trying to superimpose rigid structure on something to measure it (structure that often strips a thing of it’s context), scholars work to understand a thing in situ. Although Thick Descriptions can only access, describe, and interpret outward projections of culture, there isn’t much that can be done to capture internal representations of culture while working with a culture’s embedded context.
In contrast, so much work that comes out of Western science seem to be concerned with projecting dominance over the world. This methodology exerts control over a situation until the situation fits within extremely rigid parameters (parameters that often line up with deductive and inductive logic—a space from which emotion has been all but banished). From these parameters, a very specific, narrow form of truth can be ascertained. If the “truth” of culture were to be sought out within the tradition of Western Science, it would have to be placed inside a sterile lab, and pared down until there was a small factor that could be tested in some classically logical capacity. Like asking the question, “How does the length of a cane impact the presence of a group leader?” And then subjecting a series of near-identical group leaders into a near identical situation, where the only real change is the length of said cane. Then some statistical measures of factors x, y, or, z will be called upon to extract meaning. However, there number of factors that go unquestioned and unobserved to create such a situation blow my mind. These types of environment will have a hard time understanding why the leaders are always men, or always old, or if there is something about the cane outside of it’s length that is important. Thick description is a good response to positivist science because it doesn’t try to assert understanding before experiencing, it situates them together with an awareness that interpretation is necessary to understand the experience.
I’ve always wondered if positivist science mistakes the forest for the trees. Its not to say that there isn’t value in the canon of traditional Western science (I am certainly grateful for my vaccines). It is just to say, maybe the missed a lot of insights along the way.
 C. Geertz, “Thick Description: Toward an Interpretive Theory of Culture,” in The Interpretation of Cultures: Selected Essays, vol. 31, New York, New York, USA: Basic Books, 1973, pp. 3–33.