Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Claude Levi-Strauss

Claude Lévi-Strauss (28 November 1908 – 30 October 2009) was a French anthropologist and ethnologist, and has been called the "father of modern anthropology".

When young, Lévi-Strauss organized expeditions into the French countryside, and later studied in Paris, where he went on to teach. He later traveled and did research in Brazil with his first wife, Dina. Returning to France, he was drafted into the French army, but after France was invaded by the Nazis, he escaped to New York, where he taught at The New School for Social Research. In 1948, he returned to France.

Levi-Strauss never accepted the notion that Western civilization was unique and privileged: in his contact with Indigenous peoples in Brazil and Indigenous peoples in North America, he emphasized that the 'savage' mind had the same structures to the civilized mind and that human characteristics are the same everywhere. These observations culminated in his famous book Tristes Tropiques, which positioned him as one of the central figures in the structuralist school of thought, where his ideas reached into fields including the humanities and philosophy. Structuralism has been defined as "the search for the underlying patterns of thought in all forms of human activity."

He was honored by universities throughout the world and held the chair of Social Anthropology at the Collège de France (1959–1982); he was elected a member of the Académie Française in 1973. (bio taken here)

The Birth of Historical Societies (Hitchcock Lectures)
October 3 and 4, 1984. Berkeley Language Center, UC Berkeley
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