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Claude Levi-Strauss

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Claude Lévi-Strauss


(1908 - ) French Social Anthropologist, Linguist, Structuralist



 Photograph of Claude Lévi-Strauss


Strengths: helped established the study of anthropology in French academia; produced

     groundbreaking works on kinship, mythography, linguistics; applied structuralism and

     bricolage to his study of culture; regarded as France’s top intellectual for his cultural,

     psychological, philosophical theories


Weaknesses: his more recent Mythologiques is an extremely detailed, lengthy, four-volume

                      work tracing the telling of a single South American myth in cultures through Latin

          America to the Arctic Circle—regarded as his masterwork but very inaccessible t

                      compared with his other works; his Tristes Tropiques had methodological

          shortcomings like language barriers and short periods of participant observation


Special Features: Franz Boas died in his arms of a heart attack during a dinner party; he will be

    celebrating his 100th birthday this November


Levi-Strauss is a French theorist and anthropologist whose ideas of binary structuralism as a means for understanding cultures and societies continue to influence thinkers today.  His early commitment to academics brought him a professorial position in Brazil where he conducted his first ethnographic fieldwork.  During WWII he found himself immersed in American anthropology with Franz Boas which influenced his later works on culture and structuralism.  He produced two significant works during his doctoral studies, The Family and Social Life of the Nambikwara Indians and The Elementary Structures of Kinship, in which he proposes that kinship is based on alliances formed through marriage between women of one group and men from another, rather than a kinship seen as a lineage existing through descent.  In his later works he also saw kinship as the explanation for societal variations in cultures.  In La Pensée Sauvage, he concluded that unity in the binary structure of society would be found by comparing social structures.  He spent much of his career concerned with mythology and linguistics as mediators between these binary social structures.  









Structural Anthropology (1958)


Mythologiques (1971)


The Elementary Structures of Kinship (1949)


Tristes Tropiques (1955)


La Pensée Sauvage (1962)




 card by Jill Coen







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