Anthropology Structuralism
by
Liam D. Murphy
  • LAST MODIFIED: 29 April 2015
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199766567-0122

Introduction

Few schools of anthropological theory are as closely identified with the work of one individual as structuralism (or “French structuralism”) is with Claude Lévi-Strauss (1908–2009). Though long out of fashion by the turn of the 21st century, structuralism has remained among the most important theoretical perspectives to originate within the discipline of anthropology, although its roots are deeply intertwined with 19th-century sociology, psychology, and linguistics. The novelty of Lévi-Strauss’s approach derives from its creative synthesis of mid-20th century ethnological and linguistic theory with the science underpinning early computing technologies. Over the course of his lengthy career Lévi-Strauss developed an innovative research perspective that even his detractors acknowledge as revolutionary. To use a term that Lévi-Strauss made famous, structuralism represents a creative bricolage that is more than the sum of its parts. Essentially, it is both a perspective and a method that assumes that culture is a system that can be objectively and empirically analyzed in terms of the meaningful relations and contrasts existing between minimal, paired, or binary mental units. As this implies, structuralism likewise assumes that culture is a cognitive phenomenon. In Lévi-Strauss’s original formulation, a small number of “elementary” structures may be considered pan-human, while “transformations” of these generate ever-more elaborate and diverse patterns and weaves of integrated classificatory categories. These diverse classification systems, the outcomes of innumerable transformations across time and space, create the tapestry of human cultures. It is because human cultures operate according to such different patterns of classificatory logic that we perceive radical difference between human groups; still, for Lévi-Strauss, such differences are ultimately superficial and conceal an underlying symmetry and isomorphism in culture as a universal human phenomenon. As a popular school of theorizing, structuralism enjoyed its disciplinary heyday from the early 1950s through the mid-1970s, by which time it was being largely eclipsed by various interpretive, materialist, and political-economic approaches in the discipline of anthropology. In particular, perspectives that illuminated relations of social power (ultimately indebted to Marx), such as those embraced by anthropological political economy, world systems theory, and an emerging cadre of “post”-structuralists, led by French theorists Michel Foucault, Jacques Derrida, and Jean Baudrillard, among others, had come to the fore. Despite this widespread fall from favor, many anthropologists (e.g., Maurice Godelier, Marshall Sahlins, and Sherry Ortner) sought to integrate and nuance structuralist analysis by making it more politically, culturally, and historically sensitive, as well as by redressing what were felt by some to be significant lacuna in structuralist theory: concern for creative agency and social change—both of which had been as difficult to discern in the work of Lévi-Strauss as they had in that of Emile Durkheim.

Claude Lévi-Strauss (1908–2009) and Key Works

The outpouring of accolades from world leaders and famous intellectuals following the death of Claude Lévi-Strauss shortly before his 101st birthday are testament to his influence as both a scholar and a humanist, rivaled only by such figures as Mead and Malinowski in the history of anthropology. Raised in an affluent Jewish home in Paris, he conducted extensive ethnographic research in Brazil in the early-mid 1930s before returning to France just before the outbreak of World War II. During the occupation, Lévi-Strauss fled the Vichy Regime and established himself in New York, where he lectured at the New School and engaged leading intellectual figures of the day, including Roman Jakobson and Franz Boas. Following the war, he returned to Paris to begin a career of prolific scholarship as chairman of social anthropology at the Collège de France and member of the prestigious Académie Française. Over the course of fifty years, Lévi-Strauss published dozens of influential books and papers, many of which became widely influential among Anglophone anthropologists only upon translation from French. Lévi-Strauss’s many works have been translated into a number of other languages as well. Not all of his writing is directly related to structuralism as a body of theory, but it can be reasonably inferred that even his nontheoretical writing reveals reflection and insight that informed his theory. In addition to his theoretical and ethnological writings, Lévi-Strauss gave many lengthy interviews and lectures that touched on the personal, as well as the professional. The works listed here are subdivided into four major categories of writing: General Structuralist Theory, Kinship, Mythology, and Reflections on Life and Theory.

General Structuralist Theory

Writings in the General Structuralist Theory category include major treatises on the logic and method behind structuralist analysis such as The Savage Mind (Lévi-Strauss 1966) and both volumes of Structural Anthropology (Lévi-Strauss 1974 and Lévi-Strauss 1983).

  • Lévi-Strauss, Claude. 1966. The savage mind. Translated by John Weightman and Doreen Weightman. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

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    A foundational work of French structuralism in which the precivilized human mind is compared to a bricoleur who organizes and structures cultural meaning, in the process developing ever broader and wide-ranging levels of complexity.

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    • Lévi-Strauss, Claude. 1971. Totemism. Translated by Rodney Needham. Boston: Beacon.

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      This book is Lévi-Strauss’s expansion of the long-standing interest in totemism among anthropologists (especially Radcliffe-Brown). In fact, the study of totems provided him with a focus for developing the architecture of structuralism in that he identified a minimal binary, or structure (nature-culture), and its elaboration and recombination among aboriginal Australians, Native Americans, and Melanesians.

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      • Lévi-Strauss, Claude. 1974. Structural anthropology. Vol. 1. Translated by Claire Jacobson and Brooke Grundfest Schoepf. New York: Basic Books.

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        The first of two volumes in Lévi-Strauss’s manifesto concerning the structuralist method, in which he analyzes the articulations of kinship, myth, and art, among others.

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        • Lévi-Strauss, Claude. 1983. Structural anthropology. Vol. 2. Translated by Monique Layton. New York: Basic Books.

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          The second of two volumes in Lévi-Strauss’s manifesto concerning the structuralist method, in which he analyzes the role of Durkheim in ethnology, compares indigenous religions, and reflects on myth and ritual, among others.

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          Kinship

          Lévi-Strauss’s major application of structuralism to kinship studies is from The Elementary Structures of Kinship (Lévi-Strauss 1969)—the title of which was a playful adaptation of Durkheim’s work on religion.

          • Lévi-Strauss, Claude. 1943. The social use of kinship terms among Brazilian Indians. American Anthropologist 45.3: 398–409.

            DOI: 10.1525/aa.1943.45.3.02a00050Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

            An early, proto-structuralist work on the social logic of kinship terms based on ethnographic fieldwork in Brazil.

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            • Lévi-Strauss, Claude. 1969. The elementary structures of kinship. Translated by James Harle Bell, John Richard von Sturmer, and Rodney Needham. Boston: Beacon.

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              In this work Lévi-Strauss advances kinship theory by addressing the centrality of alliance (and by extension atemporal structure) to social organization, rather than descent from a common ancestor.

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              Mythology

              Perhaps the lion’s share of Lévi-Strauss’s ethnological analysis was of mythology, and this is reflected in the many books devoted to the subject—most notably the four-volume Mythologiques (Lévi-Strauss 1983a, Lévi-Strauss 1983b, Lévi-Strauss 1990a, Lévi-Strauss 1990b).

              • Lévi-Strauss, Claude. 1983a. From honey to ashes: Mythologiques. Vol. 2. Translated by John Weightman and Doreen Weightman. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

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                The second of four volumes in which Lévi-Strauss uses the structuralist method to expand beyond the “raw and cooked” distinction (elaborated in volume 1) to decipher the cultural binary of honey and tobacco (two substances of great importance to many indigenous South American societies) in terms of how these code for wetness/dryness, sweetness/bitterness, among others.

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                • Lévi-Strauss, Claude. 1983b. The raw & the cooked: Mythologiques. Vol. 1. Translated by John Weightman and Doreen Weightman. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

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                  The first (and arguably most important) of four volumes in which Lévi-Strauss deploys the structuralist method to analyze nearly 200 South American myths in terms of their underlying mental-cultural logic. In particular, the binary distinction between what is “raw” and what is “cooked” is a device from which more complex forms of cultural meaning can be erected.

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                  • Lévi-Strauss, Claude. 1990a. The naked man: Mythologiques. Vol. 4. Translated by John Weightman and Doreen Weightman. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

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                    The fourth of four volumes in which Lévi-Strauss applies the structuralist method to an analysis of Amerindian myth; in this volume, Lévi-Strauss examines and compares the structures of both North and South American myths in order to show that, despite differences in content, both are informed by similar underlying, unconscious structural principles.

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                    • Lévi-Strauss, Claude. 1990b. The origin of table manners: Mythologiques. Vol. 3. Translated by John Weightman and Doreen Weightman. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

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                      The third of four volumes in which Lévi-Strauss applies the structuralist method to an analysis of native North American myths; in particular, Lévi-Strauss examines the structure and function of food-related ritual, numbers, and morality, among others.

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                      • Lévi-Strauss, Claude. 1995. Myth and meaning: Cracking the code of culture. New York: Schocken.

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                        An accessible introduction to Lévi-Strauss’s perspective on myth, originally prepared as a series of lectures for radio. Particular attention is paid to the importance of myths and mythic knowledge not as “false science” but as a universal source of deep cultural knowledge and principles.

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                        • Lévi-Strauss, Claude. 1996. The jealous potter. Translated by Bénédicte Chorier. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

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                          An exploration of North and South Amerindian myth that seeks in part to critique psychoanalytic theory while advancing Lévi-Strauss’s vision of symbols as overlapping, multivocal, and polysemous.

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                          • Lévi-Strauss, Claude. 2013. Structuralism and ecology. Translated by Joachim Neugroschel and Phoebe Hoss. In Readings for a history of anthropological theory. Edited by Paul A. Erickson and Liam D. Murphy, 146–157. Toronto: Univ. of Toronto Press.

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                            A structural analysis of several ecologically focused Native Canadian myths, including one concerning a supernatural cannibal.

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                            Reflections on Life and Theory

                            Works in this category provide a window into Lévi-Strauss’s perspective on his work, as well as developments in social theory generally over the long arc of his career. Most famous among these is his fieldwork memoir Tristes Tropiques (Lévi-Strauss 2012).

                            • Lévi-Strauss, Claude. 1987. Introduction to the work of Marcel Mauss. Translated by Felicity Baker. London: Routledge.

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                              Not a biography but rather an argument that Mauss, a major influence on Lévi-Strauss, was a proto-structuralist whose interest in unconscious social forces mirrored his own.

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                              • Lévi-Strauss, Claude. 2012. Tristes tropiques. Translated by John Weightman and Doreen Weightman. New York: Penguin Classics.

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                                Among the most widely read of Lévi-Strauss’s works, this memoir (or “travelogue”) explores the author’s development as an ethnographer by documenting the intellectual and institutional context in which he was trained and his fieldwork in Brazil, and by displaying his views on culture, academia, and anthropology.

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                                • Lévi-Strauss, Claude, and Didier Eribon. 1991. Conversations with Claude Lévi-Strauss. Translated by Paula Wissing. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

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                                  This series of interviews touches on a wide range of topics and reveals a great deal both about Lévi-Strauss’s personal biography and the development of his thought.

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                                  Classic Structuralist Works

                                  Though pioneered single-handedly by Lévi-Strauss, structuralism became popular among French anthropologists during the 1950s and was championed in the anglophone anthropological community by a number of British anthropologists seeking to push the boundaries of what had become a stale, apolitical structural-functionalist establishment. These structuralist “disciples” produced voluminous ethnographic material of their own and are responsible for both nuancing and refining Lévi-Strauss’s perspective, as well as for creating a “school” out of what might otherwise have been a one-man enterprise.

                                  France

                                  Francophone anthropologists were the first to be exposed to Lévi-Strauss’s perspective, and the 1950s and 1960s saw a number of distinguished ethnographic projects adopt the structuralist method and apply it to a range of non-Western geocultural settings such as sub-Saharan Africa and India. Perhaps the best known among these French researchers is Louis Dumont (Dumont 1980, 1983), who wrote extensively on the Indian caste system and kinship in southern India. Héritier 1981 and De Heusch 1982 expanded structuralist analysis to examine the logic of alliance and state-level institutions, respectively. With the exception of these, few of structuralist works have been translated into English.

                                  • De Heusch, Luc. 1982. The drunken king, or, the origin of the State. Translated by Roy Willis. Bloomington: Indiana Univ. Press.

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                                    De Heusch’s work extends structuralist theory beyond Lévi-Strauss’s foci to address the origin of state-level institutions in Africa.

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                                    • Dumont, Louis. 1980. Homo hierarchicus: The caste system and its implications. Translated by Mark Sainsbury. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

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                                      In one of the most significant structuralist monographs, Dumont analyzes the organizing principles undergirding the Indian caste system and the role of ideological texts in its creation and discusses the cross-cultural significance of this distinctive cultural logic.

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                                      • Dumont, Louis. 1983. Affinity as a value: Marriage alliance in South India, with comparative essays on Australia. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

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                                        Dumont argues for the distinctive character of marriage in South India as compared to North India and Western understandings; in particular, marriage is styled as an “inherited” relationship between corporate descent groups.

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                                        • Héritier, Françoise. 1981. L’exercise de la parenté. Paris: Gallimard le Seuil.

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                                          Important French-language study of alliance theory according to structuralist principles.

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                                          • Héritier, Françoise. 2002. Two sisters and their mother: The anthropology of incest. Translated by Jeanine Herman. New York: Zone.

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                                            Based on African fieldwork, Héritier’s is a comprehensive analysis of the structural principles giving form to the incest taboo cross-culturally.

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                                            Great Britain and United States

                                            In the Anglophone world, structuralism became deeply influential in the work of many British and American anthropologists. These can be credited for introducing Lévi-Strauss’s work to an English readership and even for “translating” Lévi-Strauss’s key works that, in translation as in the original, are at times ponderous and arcane. Among the most famous British anthropologists to plunge into structuralist analysis have been Edmund Leach (exemplified by Rethinking Anthropology [Leach 1966]) and Mary Douglas (see, e.g., Purity and Danger [Douglas 2002]). Among American anthropologists, perhaps the best-known “convert” to structuralism has been Marshall Sahlins (e.g., in Culture and Practical Reason [Sahlins 1976]).

                                            • Douglas, Mary. 2002. Purity and danger: An analysis of concepts of pollution and taboo. New York: Routledge.

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                                              Originally published in 1966, this is widely considered a classic work of ethnology, Douglas explores various ethnographic and historical case studies to argue for the centrality of ideas concerning purity and pollution in every human society. Her symbolic ordering of cultural meaning into universal categories draws much inspiration and method from French structuralism.

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                                              • Hugh-Jones, Stephen. 1988. The palm and the Pleiades: Initiation and cosmology in Northwest Amazonia. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

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                                                One of the few book-length English-language structuralist treatments of Amazonian religion, myth, and ritual symbolism.

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                                                • Leach, Edmund R. 1966. Rethinking anthropology. London School of Economics Monographs on Social Anthropology 22. New York: Humanities Press.

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                                                  A collection of essays on kinship theory by the best-known British convert to structuralism. Topics include cross-cousin marriage, polyandry, and bridewealth, among others.

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                                                  • Leach, Edmund R. 1976. Culture and communication: The logic by which symbols are connected. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

                                                    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511607684Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                    Leach’s accessible introduction to structuralist analysis intended for use by undergraduate students.

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                                                    • Leach, Edmund R., ed. 2010. The structural study of myth and totemism. London: Tavistock.

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                                                      A collection of structuralist essays edited by Leach that includes contributions by Lévi-Strauss, Mary Douglas, and Peter Worsley, among others.

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                                                      • Maybury-Lewis, David. 1974. Akwe-Shavante society: Social organization of a Brazilian tribe. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press.

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                                                        An early application of structuralist theory to the study of kinship and social organization among the Gê-speaking peoples of Brazil.

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                                                        • Maybury-Lewis, David, and Uri Almagor, eds. 1989. The attraction of opposites: Thought and society in the dualistic mode. Ann Arbor: Univ. of Michigan Press.

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                                                          A wide-ranging collection of essays focusing on the human propensity to create social institutions and knowledge based on binary patterning and to be attracted to “dualism,” especially in the domain of kinship.

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                                                          • Needham, Rodney, ed. 1973. Right and left: Essays on dual symbolic classification. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

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                                                            Seminal series of structuralist essays on the universal propensity of dualism in symbolic systems.

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                                                            • Needham, Rodney. 1984. Structure and sentiment: A test case for social anthropology. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

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                                                              A series of rigorously precise essays that discuss the value of structural analysis versus psychological and affective arguments concerning kinship organization.

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                                                              • Ortner, Sherry B. 1999. Sherpas through their rituals. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

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                                                                Ortner analyzes the symbolic structure and meaning of Sherpa ritual occasions, as mediated by the somewhat oppositional cultural pull of Buddhism and secularism. The book is one of the first works by a US anthropologist to make use of structuralism in the context of new currents in social theory (particularly “practice” approaches as pioneered by Pierre Bourdieu).

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                                                                • Sahlins, Marshall. 1976. Culture and practical reason. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

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                                                                  Written by a US anthropologist, this book is a polemic against materialist and other reductionist explanations of human culture; instead, Sahlins argues for a more nuanced view that builds on structuralist patterning of symbols and meaning. Sahlins is famous for having abandoned neoevolutionary theory in favor of his own hybrid of structuralism and historicism.

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                                                                  • Scholte, Bob. 1969. The ethnology of anthropological traditions: A comparative study of Anglo-American Commentaries on French structural anthropology. PhD diss., Univ. of California, Berkeley.

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                                                                    A meta-analysis of the ways in which US and British anthropologists have interpreted and made use of French structuralism.

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                                                                    General Discussion of Biography and Theory

                                                                    Lévi-Strauss has been the focus of a great deal of English-language biographical and quasi-biographical writing. Much of this secondary literature integrates discussion of structuralism as a theory and perspective into reflections on the character of the man himself.

                                                                    Biography

                                                                    Among the more biographical portraits, writings cut across a wide time frame and include several lengthy tributes and eulogies, as well as scholarly critique. These are cited as “biographies” here and include both book-length studies (e.g., Roland Champagne’s Claude Lévi-Strauss [Champagne 1987]) and short discussions of his life and influence (e.g., Vincent Crapanzano’s In Memoriam: Claude Lévi-Strauss [Crapanzano 2010]).

                                                                    • Bertholet, Denis. 2003. Claude Lévi-Strauss. Paris: Plon.

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                                                                      A recent French-language intellectual biography.

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                                                                      • Champagne, Roland. 1987. Claude Lévi-Strauss. Boston: Twayne.

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                                                                        An intellectual biography written during a period of significant decline in the popularity of structuralism as a research strategy.

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                                                                        • Crapanzano, Vincent. 2010. In memoriam: Claude Lévi-Strauss. Anthropology News. 51.1: 32.

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                                                                          Obituary carried in the monthly newspaper of the American Anthropological Association.

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                                                                          • DeBaene, Vincent. 2010. Like Alice through the looking glass: Claude Lévi-Strauss in New York. French Politics, Culture & Society 28.1: 46–57.

                                                                            DOI: 10.3167/fpcs.2010.280103Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                            Biographical essay examining the impact of New York City on Lévi-Strauss during his years of political and intellectual “exile” from wartime France.

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                                                                            • Doja, Albert. 2008. Claude Lévi-Strauss at his centennial: Toward a future anthropology. Theory, Culture, & Society 25.7–8: 321–340.

                                                                              DOI: 10.1177/0263276408097810Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                              This paper reflects on the enduring influence of Lévi-Strauss and structuralism on the occasion of his 100th birthday in 2008.

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                                                                              • Eribon, Didier, and Claude Lévi-Strauss. 1988a. Lévi-Strauss interviewed: Part 1. Anthropology Today 4.5: 5–8.

                                                                                DOI: 10.2307/3032748Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                A wide ranging discussion of Lévi-Strauss’s personal and professional life, conducted at the midpoint of his career.

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                                                                                • Eribon, Didier, and Claude Lévi-Strauss. 1988b. Lévi-Strauss interviewed: Part 2. Anthropology Today 4.6: 3–5.

                                                                                  DOI: 10.2307/3032944Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                  The second part of the interview of Eribon and Lévi-Strauss 1988a.

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                                                                                  • Harding, Susan, and Claude Lévi-Strauss. 2010. Questions for Claude Lévi-Strauss. Anthropology Now 2.2: 52–54.

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                                                                                    A rather tongue-in-cheek “channeling” of Lévi-Strauss by Harding in the form of a faux interview conducted several months after his death.

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                                                                                    • Johnson, Christopher. 2003. Claude Lévi-Strauss: The formative years. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

                                                                                      DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511803802Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                      This intellectual biography investigates the way in which Lévi-Strauss’s thinking developed between the 1940s and late 1960s, touching on the formation of his important theoretical contributions to myth, kinship, aesthetics, and “primitive” versus “modern” thought, among others.

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                                                                                      • Leach, Edmund R. 1989. Claude Lévi-Strauss. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

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                                                                                        A personal and intellectual biography by one of Lévi-Strauss’s most distinguished anthropological disciples, famed British anthropologist Edmund R. Leach.

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                                                                                        • Pace, David. 1983. Claude Lévi-Strauss: The bearer of ashes. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.

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                                                                                          This biography differs from many others in that it attempts to understand the personal motivations and character of Lévi-Strauss, as gleaned from his intellectual writings. The books also attempts to situate his thought within a struggle among 20th-century intellectuals to wrestle with cultural relativism.

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                                                                                          • Wilcken, Patrick. 2011. Claude Lévi-Strauss: The poet in the laboratory. London: Bloomsbury.

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                                                                                            Perhaps the most comprehensive attempt to date of a personal biography of Lévi-Strauss’s life and work.

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                                                                                            Introductions to Structuralist Analysis

                                                                                            Perhaps the greatest number of general discussions concerning Lévi-Strauss have taken the form of introductory texts and overview summations included within this the category. Many of these works (e.g., Deliège and Scott 2004 and Hénaff 1998) tend to blur the distinction between man and theory.

                                                                                            • Badock, C. R. 1976. Lévi-Strauss: Structuralism and sociological theory. Teaneck, NJ: Holmes & Meier.

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                                                                                              A somewhat dated introduction to structuralist thought and its relevance to the discipline of sociology.

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                                                                                              • DeGeorge, Richard, and Fernande DeGeorge, eds. 1972. The structuralists: From Marx to Lévi-Strauss. Garden City, NY: Doubleday.

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                                                                                                Published at the height of structuralism’s popularity, this volume was an effort to connect various perspectives on social structure within a common intellectual narrative.

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                                                                                                • Deliège, Robert, and Nora Scott. 2004. Lévi-Strauss today: An introduction to structural anthropology. New York: Berg.

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                                                                                                  An accessible, concise introduction to Lévi-Strauss and his place as a figure within anthropology and other social sciences.

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                                                                                                  • Donato, Eugenio. 1975. Lévi-Strauss and the protocols of distance. Diacritics 5.3: 2–12.

                                                                                                    DOI: 10.2307/464542Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                    This essay examines what the author regards as implicit assumptions concerning social and historical “distance” embedded in Lévi-Strauss’s theoretical perspective across a range of his work.

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                                                                                                    • Feld, Steven. 2010. Remembering Claude Lévi-Strauss. Journal of Anthropological Research 66.1: 1–3.

                                                                                                      DOI: 10.3998/jar.0521004.0066.101Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                      An obituary, eulogy, and critical appraisal of Lévi-Strauss’s contribution to anthropology.

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                                                                                                      • Hénaff, Marcel. 1998. Claude Lévi-Strauss and the making of structural anthropology. Minneapolis: Univ. of Minnesota Press.

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                                                                                                        An introduction to the thought and influence of Lévi-Strauss, especially as it concerns his contributions to anthropology, linguistics, and epistemology.

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                                                                                                        • Hugh-Jones, Stephen, and Janet Carsten, eds. 1995. About the house: Lévi-Strauss and beyond. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

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                                                                                                          Inspired by Lévi-Strauss’s perspective on the social structure of the house, contributors to this edited volume analyze domestic systems as instances of symbolic and social structure in Southeast Asia and South America.

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                                                                                                          • Jenkins, Alan. 1979. The social theory of Claude Lévi-Strauss. New York: St. Martin’s.

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                                                                                                            An introduction to structuralist theory published at a time when anthropology was beginning to favor studies of power dynamic and conflict over coherence and integration.

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                                                                                                            • Kurzweil, Edith. 1980. The age of structuralism: Lévi-Strauss to Foucault. New York: Columbia Univ. Press.

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                                                                                                              This volume looks at what might be called the later structuralist and poststructuralist intellectual movements across the humanities and social sciences.

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                                                                                                              • Launay, Robert. 2013. Is Lévi-Strauss still good to think? Reviews in Anthropology 42.1: 38–49.

                                                                                                                DOI: 10.1080/00938157.2013.765762Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                A critical reappraisal of the place of structuralism in anthropology following Lévi-Strauss’s death.

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                                                                                                                • Roth, Gary. 1993. Claude Lévi-Strauss in retrospect. Dialectical Anthropology 18.1: 31–52.

                                                                                                                  DOI: 10.1007/BF01301670Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                  A study of the evolution of Lévi-Strauss’s theoretical interests; in particular the shift from structures of kinship to those of the mind.

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                                                                                                                  • Wiseman, Boris, Judy Groves, and Richard Appignanesi. 2000. Introducing Lévi-Strauss and structural anthropology. New York: Totem.

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                                                                                                                    A concise, accessible introduction to Lévi-Strauss’s work and theory.

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                                                                                                                    Structuralism and Other Scholarly Disciplines

                                                                                                                    This category includes writings (e.g., Doran, et al. 2013 and Le Roux 2009) by scholars interested in the relation or application of structuralist analysis to academic fields other than social anthropology and ethnology.

                                                                                                                    • Boon, James A. 1972. From symbolism to structuralism: Lévi-Strauss in a literary tradition. New York: Harper and Row.

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                                                                                                                      An early study of the shifting boundaries between interpretive-hermeneutic and structuralist approaches to writing and textual representation.

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                                                                                                                      • D’Aquill, Eugene. 1975. The influence of Jung on the work of Claude Lévi-Strauss. Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences 11.1: 41–48.

                                                                                                                        DOI: 10.1002/1520-6696(197501)11:1<41::AID-JHBS2300110111>3.0.CO;2-XSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                        Discussion of the implicit and explicit features of Freudian psychoanalysis embedded in Lévi-Strauss’s structuralism.

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                                                                                                                        • Doran, Robert, Jonathan Culler, and Vincent Debaene, eds. 2013. Special Issue: Rethinking Claude Lévi-Strauss. Yale French Studies 123.

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                                                                                                                          Special issue of this interdisciplinary journal explores the legacy of Lévi-Strauss across humanistic scholarship and social sciences.

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                                                                                                                          • Le Roux, Ronan. 2009. Lévi-Strauss, une réception paradoxale de la cybernétique. L’Homme 1.189: 165–190.

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                                                                                                                            Discusses the connections between Lévi-Strauss’s work on kinship and important concepts in the field of cybernetics. Explores in particular the limits of his work in terms of explaining regulatory mechanisms in historically contingent social structure.

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                                                                                                                            • Rossi, Ino, ed. 1974. The unconscious in culture: The structuralism of Claude Lévi-Strauss in perspective. New York: E. P. Dutton.

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                                                                                                                              An edited collection of papers from the period of structuralism’s intellectual ascendancy that attempt to place the school in the context of other developments in the human and social sciences.

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                                                                                                                              • Tremlett, Paul-François. 2008. Lévi-Strauss on religion: The structuring mind. Sheffield, UK: Equinox.

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                                                                                                                                This accessible volume specifically addresses Lévi-Strauss’s contribution to the field of religious studies, with a particular focus on mythology, totemism, and the “savage” mentality.

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                                                                                                                                • Wiseman, Boris. 2007. Lévi-Strauss, anthropology, and aesthetics. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

                                                                                                                                  DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511585883Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                  This interdisciplinary portrait argues that Lévi-Strauss’s perspective on aesthetics is a cornerstone of his structuralist vision of “primitive” art, dance, and mythology.

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                                                                                                                                  Forerunners

                                                                                                                                  Though novel, Lévi-Strauss’s structuralism both was founded on the work of early generations and represented a synthesis of social scientific and technological developments in the mid-20th century. At its heart were the Durkheimian and Saussurian concern for abstract principles of social, mental, and linguistic order and classification that could be identified inductively through ethnography. The innovative quality of structuralism lies in its explanatory rigor and commitment to discerning the systematic quality of cultural meaning and activity.

                                                                                                                                  Sociology

                                                                                                                                  Like the majority of his French peers, Claude Lévi-Strauss was inspired by the sociology of “primitive societies” pioneered by Emile Durkheim and Marcel Mauss (Durkheim and Mauss 1967), which turned the principles of Cartesian rationalism and deduction to generating a foundational notion of ordered categories of significance. Mauss’s work on exchange (Mauss 1990) expanded understanding economic relations by showing how a logic of social cohesion is embedded in the act of gift giving. These analyses would, in turn, be the grounds of structuralism and other varieties of anthropological analysis (especially structural-functionalism in Great Britain).

                                                                                                                                  • Durkheim, Emile, and Marcel Mauss. 1967. Primitive classification. Translated by Rodney Needham. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

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                                                                                                                                    First published in 1903, this classic work of French sociology provides a foundation for many subsequent studies of social integration and synchronic analysis.

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                                                                                                                                    • Mauss, Marcel. 1990. The gift: Forms and functions of exchange in archaic societies. Translated by W. D. Halls. New York: Norton.

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                                                                                                                                      Among the most influential works in social science, The Gift was originally published in 1925 in French and translated into English in 1954. It addresses issue surrounding exchange as a social institution and lays groundwork for understanding the structural relations among different social entities.

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                                                                                                                                      Ethnology

                                                                                                                                      As an ethnographer and ethnologist, Lévi-Strauss was deeply influenced by and indebted to the work of his peers in Great Britain and the United States, as well as in France. Chief among these influences were ethnographers who eschewed mere description or “salvage” approaches (as made fashionable by Franz Boas in North America) in favor of developing powerful explanatory and logical models for social, cultural, and intellectual systems. Early on, the work of Van Gennep (Van Gennep 1960) and Hocart (Hocart 1927 and Hocart 1933) looked for the systematic ordering of social life in and through ritual, kingship, and cultural psychology. American students of Boas, such as Benedict (Benedict 2006), influenced the development of structuralism by their attention to the patterning of cultural meaning, while British ethnologists such as Radcliffe-Brown (Radcliffe-Brown 1965), Evans-Pritchard (Evans-Pritchard 1969), and Bateson (Bateson 1958) worked to decipher the logical intricacies of concrete social institutions.

                                                                                                                                      • Bateson, Gregory. 1958. Naven: A survey of the problems suggested by a composite picture of the culture of a New Guinea tribe drawn from three points of view. Stanford, CA: Stanford Univ. Press.

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                                                                                                                                        Originally published in 1936, this proto-structural study of Latmul “headhunters” in New Guinea seeks to uncover the psycho-cultural structure and dynamics of Latmul kinship and ritual activity.

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                                                                                                                                        • Benedict, Ruth. 2006. Patterns of culture. Boston: Mariner.

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                                                                                                                                          Originally published in 1934, this is a famous cross-cultural study of three societies in which each is shown to be the outcome of a unique configuration, or structure, of psychological and cultural traits.

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                                                                                                                                          • Evans-Pritchard, Edward E. 1969. The Nuer. Oxford: Clarendon.

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                                                                                                                                            Originally published in 1940, this is a seminal work of British structural-functionalism that anticipates and presages the cognitive focus of French structuralism.

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                                                                                                                                            • Hocart, Arthur M. 1927. Kingship. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press.

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                                                                                                                                              An early analysis of kings and kingship as socially integrating institutions in Oceania.

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                                                                                                                                              • Hocart, Arthur M. 1933. The progress of man: A short survey of his evolution, his customs, and his works. London: Methuen.

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                                                                                                                                                A wide-ranging survey of ethnological data that provides an early example of how history, culture, and individual psychologies are articulated with one another.

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                                                                                                                                                • Radcliffe-Brown, A. R. 1965. Structure and function in primitive society. New York: Free Press.

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                                                                                                                                                  Originally published in 1952, this is a classic work of British structural-functionalism that was especially influential to Lévi-Strauss in formulating his perspective on totemism.

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                                                                                                                                                  • Van Gennep, Arnold. 1960. The rites of passage. Translated by Monika B. Vizedom and Gabrielle L. Caffee. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

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                                                                                                                                                    Although he was less well known than some of his intellectual descendants (especially Victor Turner), Van Gennep’s seminal 1909 work on rituals of social transformation has been very influential among subsequent generations of anthropologists.

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                                                                                                                                                    Linguistics

                                                                                                                                                    In the early 1950s Lévi-Strauss became familiar with the field of structural linguistics by way of his friend and colleague, linguist Roman Jakobson, whose work in turn was largely derived from Ferdinand de Saussure. In the late 19th century, Saussure (see Saussure 2013) was the leading figure in moving disciplinary linguistics away from the historical reconstruction of particular languages toward a new perspective that sought to answer how languages were both organized and generative. Building on Saussure, Jakobson’s work (Jakobson 1971 and Jakobson 1981) was seminal in examining the interconnections among patterned sound and thought. In considering structural linguistics, Lévi-Strauss drew on Jakobson’s ideas in reconceiving what anthropologists refer to as culture—both as a general human attribute (“Culture”) and as more or less discrete social worlds. Where particular “cultures” were concerned, he came to see these as complex, richly patterned systems of transposable, binary “structures” that create logic, meaning, and connectedness between participants in a social community. Regarding “Culture,” he increasingly regarded the human mind as a universally binding foundation for all social groups, which could be ultimately deciphered by way of a small number of innate binary contrasts (male/female; left/right; nature/culture, and so on). In Lévi-Strauss’s work, the parallel between structured language and structured culture is both implicit and explicit.

                                                                                                                                                    • Jakobson, Roman. 1971. Selected writings. Vol. 2, Word and language. Edited by Stephen Rudy. Paris: Mouton.

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                                                                                                                                                      This seminal treatment of linguistic theory and language acquisition ushered in a modern approach to linguistic structure and had a deep impact on Claude Lévi-Strauss.

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                                                                                                                                                      • Jakobson, Roman. 1981. Six lectures on sound and meaning. Translated by John Mepham. Cambridge, MA: MIT.

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                                                                                                                                                        A series of essays that analyze the relationship of sound to meaning in language, laying the groundwork for the semiotic aspects of French structuralism. Originally published 1978.

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                                                                                                                                                        • Saussure, Ferdinand de. 2013. Course in general linguistics. Translated by Roy Harris. London: Bloomsbury.

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                                                                                                                                                          Posthumously published by a coterie of devoted students in 1916, Saussure’s lectures moved linguistics away from interests in the historical development of particular language and toward the study of universal linguistic structures. In the process, they provided a foundation for all forms of structuralist analysis across the social sciences.

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                                                                                                                                                          Cybernetics

                                                                                                                                                          In the early 1950s Lévi-Strauss was deeply influenced by the advent of new computer technologies, collectively dubbed “cybernetics,” the chief use of which lay in missile guidance and other military objectives. Cybernetics consisted of the coding of messages within concentric, entangled patterns of binary contrasts—a technology that embodied a “ghost in the machine” quality that was simultaneously the epitome of abstract disenchantment and rational order. Not surprisingly, the early literature exploring these technologies (e.g., Shannon and Weaver 1971 and Wiener 1988) was highly mathematical in character and concerned with formal modeling. For Lévi-Strauss, such explorations intersected his own ambition to decode human culture. Expressed in networks of overlapping, nested binary associations, he viewed these mathematical expressions of “mind” as a collective model for human thought specifically, which could be collectively summed up in the term “culture.” Lafontaine 2007 provides an admirable overview of how these sophisticated technical discussions intersected with French social theory (including structuralism) from the mid-20th century

                                                                                                                                                          • Lafontaine, Céline. 2007. The cybernetic matrix of French theory. Theory, Culture, & Society 24.5: 27–46.

                                                                                                                                                            DOI: 10.1177/0263276407084637Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                            A recent analysis of the historical role of cybernetic research on anthropological, psychoanalytic, and philosophical theory.

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                                                                                                                                                            • Shannon, Claude E., and Warren Weaver. 1971. The mathematical theory of communication. Champaign: Univ. of Illinois Press.

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                                                                                                                                                              Originally published in 1949, this central work in the field of information theory uses mathematical modeling to propose how communicative symbols are expressed and shared. This in turn provided an empirical model and inspiration for structuralist analyses.

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                                                                                                                                                              • Wiener, Norbert. 1988. The human use of human beings: Cybernetics and society. New York: Da Capo.

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                                                                                                                                                                Originally published in 1950, this important early work in cybernetics theory argues that automation and what would come to be called “artificial intelligence” had important roles to play in modern societies. This provided inspiration for structuralists, who sought to analyze human culture and mind as akin to cybernetic and computer technology.

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                                                                                                                                                                Kinship

                                                                                                                                                                Although diverse, the work of Lévi-Strauss and his intellectual descendants has turned largely on a few interrelated domains of ethnographic and ethnological interest. Perhaps the widest ethnographic application of structuralism has been in the domain of kinship, among the oldest foci of anthropological study. Contrasting to his predecessors, for whom the primary locus of kin relations lay in a principle of descent from a common ancestor, Lévi-Strauss stressed the centrality of marital alliance between groups to the integration of social communities. Schneider 1980; Hoffman, et al. 1972; and Yalman 1967 provide structuralist (or semistructuralist) kinship analyses in the United States, Greece, and Sri Lanka, respectively, while Boon and Schneider 1974, Kortmulder 1968, and Scheffler 1966 discuss and analyze the structuralist method in relation to kinship. At the heart of these marital rules is a principle of exogamy, or out-group exchange of women. The following works represent a small number of writings by anthropologists who have either employed or commented on the structural study of kinship. More prominent entries may be found in the Classic Structuralist Works section (see especially Dumont 1980, cited under Classic Structuralist Works: France, and Leach 1976, Maybury-Lewis 1974, and Needham 1973, cited under Classic Structuralist Works: Great Britain and the United States).

                                                                                                                                                                • Boon, James A., and David M. Schneider. 1974. Kinship vis-à-vis myth: Contrasts in Lévi-Strauss’ approach to cross-cultural comparison. American Anthropologist 76.4: 794–817.

                                                                                                                                                                  DOI: 10.1525/aa.1974.76.4.02a00050Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                  This paper addresses the methodological rupture between Lévi-Strauss’s approaches to the study of kinship versus his study of myth and proposes ways of refining several of his conceptual tools (such as “distinctive feature analysis”).

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                                                                                                                                                                  • Hoffman, Susanna H., Richard Cowan, and Paul Aratow. 1972. VHS. Kypseli: Men and women apart: A divided reality. Berkeley: University of California Extension Media Center.

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                                                                                                                                                                    An ethnographic film in which structuralist principles are applied to analyzing the social matrix of life in the small town of “Kypseli” on the Greek island of “Thera” (Santorini). Hoffman considers the structure of Kypseli culture along the intertwined principles of male versus female, sacred versus profane, and clean versus dirty, among others. Special attention is paid to the institution of marriage and how it enshrines traditional classification.

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                                                                                                                                                                    • Kortmulder, K. 1968. An ethological theory of the incest taboo and exogamy: With special reference to the view of Claude Lévi-Strauss. Current Anthropology 9.5: 437–449.

                                                                                                                                                                      DOI: 10.1086/200926Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                      A novel application of structuralist theory to finding causal biological explanations for incest and exogamy and for nonhuman ethological behavior in general.

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                                                                                                                                                                      • Scheffler, Harold W. 1966. Structuralism in anthropology. Yale French Studies 36–37: 66–88.

                                                                                                                                                                        DOI: 10.2307/2930400Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                        An analysis and evaluation of the structural study of kinship by one of the leading figures in kinship studies.

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                                                                                                                                                                        • Schneider, David M. 1980. American kinship: A cultural account. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

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                                                                                                                                                                          Originally published in 1968, Schneider’s analysis departs from a traditional understanding of kinship as a series of roles and statuses and instead investigates the symbolic value of kinship terms and relations as nested in a social system. Schneider was not “orthodox” in his structuralism but was deeply indebted to Lévi-Strauss’s view that cultures were made up of sets of social relations.

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                                                                                                                                                                          • Yalman, Nur. 1967. Under the bo tree. Berkeley: Univ. of California Press.

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                                                                                                                                                                            A widely read study of Muslim kinship organization in Sri Lanka (formerly Ceylon).

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                                                                                                                                                                            Mythology and Religion

                                                                                                                                                                            A second important domain of analysis central to structuralist studies by Lévi-Strauss and his intellectual progeny is mythology and, more broadly, religion. For Lévi-Strauss, myths represent nonpractical forms of knowledge that code for deeper structural significance in human life. Specifically, he postulated that “mythemes” (a play on the linguistic term “phoneme”) are combined and recombined to create durable yet elastic weaves of logic. Although these differ across cultures, Lévi-Strauss observed that myths from very different cultural contexts nevertheless retained profound similarities to one another by way of deep structural connections. Mythic stories are “transformations” of paired units of meaning (especially raw/cooked, male/female, left/right, and nature/culture) that respond to the conditions of life that different social communities are obliged to confront and make sense of. Many scholars have found the structuralist approach powerful in their investigations of religion across a diverse range of societies, in time and space. Early examples of protostructural exposition (e.g., Propp’s analysis of Russian folklore [Propp 1958]) were followed by less linguistically focused works. Among these, Leach 1969 and Leach and Aycock 2011 are perhaps the prototypical examples of how structuralism can be deftly employed to understand patterns in religious symbolism. Later, Feld 2012 and Hunt 1977 analyzed the relations among ecology, ritual, and poetic narrative in Papua New Guinea and Mexico, respectively. More frequently, structuralist studies of myth and religion appear in edited collections, exemplified here by Izard and Smith 1982. Others, such as Friedrich 1978, have turned structuralism to the exposition of mythology in the ancient world. Readers may also find examples in the vein of structuralism in the Classic Structuralist Works section (e.g., Leach 2010 and Hugh-Jones 1988, both cited under Classic Structuralist Works: Great Britain and the United States).

                                                                                                                                                                            • Feld, Steven. 2012. Sound and sentiment: Birds, weeping, poetics, and song in Kaluli expression. 3d ed. Durham, NC: Duke Univ. Press.

                                                                                                                                                                              DOI: 10.1215/9780822395898Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                              First published in 1982, this very influential monograph in ethnomusicology employs a structural analysis of Kaluli song to show how different social institutions and ideas in Papua New Guinea are integrated.

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                                                                                                                                                                              • Friedrich, Paul. 1978. The meaning of Aphrodite. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

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                                                                                                                                                                                A quasi-structuralist analysis of how the goddess Aphrodite reflects Ancient Greek ideas concerning fertility, procreation, and sexuality.

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                                                                                                                                                                                • Hunt, Eva. 1977. The transformation of the hummingbird: Cultural roots of a Zinacantecan mythical poem. Ithaca, NY: Cornell Univ. Press.

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                                                                                                                                                                                  A structuralist analysis of Tzotzil Maya poetry that shows the integration of poetic meaning with the seasonal cycles so important to farming.

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                                                                                                                                                                                  • Izard, Michel, and Pierre Smith, eds. 1982. Between belief and transgression: Structuralist essays in religion, history, and myth. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

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                                                                                                                                                                                    Izard and Smith’s edited volume is a collection of essays examining religion through structuralist analysis, published at the height of the movement’s popularity.

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                                                                                                                                                                                    • Leach, Edmund R. 1969. Genesis as myth and other essays. London: Jonathan Cape.

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                                                                                                                                                                                      Leach’s landmark application of structuralist theory to symbolism in Genesis, as well as to the biblical story of Solomon and theological doctrine of Virgin Birth.

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                                                                                                                                                                                      • Leach, Edmund R., and D. Alan Aycock. 2011. Structuralist interpretations of biblical myth. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

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                                                                                                                                                                                        Leach and Aycock explore the application of structuralist theory to biblical scripture and provide some contextual background concerning the relationship between anthropology and Christian theology.

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                                                                                                                                                                                        • Propp, Vladimir. 1958. The morphology of the folktale. Bloomington: Indiana University Research Center in Anthropology, Folklore, and Linguistics.

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                                                                                                                                                                                          Originally published in 1928, this book represents a seminal, early use of proto-structuralist analysis in the study of Russian folklore and myth.

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                                                                                                                                                                                          Hierarchy and Social Organization

                                                                                                                                                                                          In addition to kinship and mythology, structuralist principles have been used to shed light on other forms of social difference and patterning—in particular, the way in which social value and authority are organized and reproduced within coherent systems of contrasted symbols. By way of example, Delamont 1989 employs structuralism to analyze the interconnections among gender, education, and social value in Scotland, while Merelman 1989 looks at the deeper, underlying structural values that inform conventional political practice in the United States. At a more general level of theory, Schwartz 1981 considers the universal tendency to employ spatial metaphor as a deep structure that informs the organization of human social life.

                                                                                                                                                                                          • Delamont, Sara. 1989. Knowledgeable women: Structuralism and the reproduction of elites. New York: Routledge.

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                                                                                                                                                                                            A structural analysis of gender and elite education in Scotland.

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                                                                                                                                                                                            • Merelman, Richard M. 1989. On cultural politics in America: A perspective from structural anthropology. British Journal of Political Science 19.4: 465–493.

                                                                                                                                                                                              DOI: 10.1017/S0007123400005597Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                              This article proposes structuralism as an alternative to conventional forms of political analysis popular at the end of the 1980s. In particular, the author argues that political attitudes and values should be seen as surface manifestations of deeper structures embedded in US national culture (especially “mythologized individualism”).

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                                                                                                                                                                                              • Schwartz, Barry. 1981. Vertical classification: A study in structuralism and the sociology of knowledge. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                This study in the sociology of knowledge aims to account for the cross-cultural human predilection to employ spatial metaphors to express stratified social relationships.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                Structural Marxism

                                                                                                                                                                                                In the early 1970s structuralist analysis was wedded to Karl Marx’s political theory of dialectical materialism to produce a new school of thought dubbed “structural Marxism.” The most immediate inspiration behind structural Marxism was French philosopher Louis Althusser (see Althusser 2001), who influenced a generation of anthropologists to inflect structuralism with considerations of institutional power and the hegemonies it produces. In particular, Terray 1972, Godelier 1977, Maybury-Lewis 1979, and Bloch 1975 applied Marxist ideas concerning political-economic transformation to the analysis of traditional, “precapitalist” societies. Writ large, this work drew on both Althusser and (to a lesser degree) Lévi-Strauss in crafting ethnological theory that sought to define the formation of cultural classes in relation to “infrastructural determinism”—that is, the ways in which different types of social and cultural meaning and organization (e.g., those connected to kinship or religion) might be critical to determining relations of power in some societies more than others. The relationship between French structuralism and Marxism, both fascinating and paradoxical, has been discussed and analyzed by many anthropologists, including Friedman (Friedman 1974) and McKeon (McKeon 1981).

                                                                                                                                                                                                • Althusser, Louis. 2001. Lenin and philosophy and other essays. New York: Monthly Review.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                  First published in 1971, Althusser’s collection of essays defending Karl Marx’s ideas within the context of various academic disciplines (including political science, economics, psychology, and philosophy) has been an important influence among structural Marxists in anthropology.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                  • Bloch, Maurice, ed. 1975. Marxist analyses and social anthropology. New York: Wiley.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                    A collection of essays by US and British anthropologists on the (then) new interest in Marxist analysis in the study of “traditional” cultures in a wide range of social and political environments (including Indonesia, China, and Burma).

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                                                                                                                                                                                                    • Friedman, Jonathan. 1974. Marxism, structuralism, and vulgar materialism. Man 9.3: 444–469.

                                                                                                                                                                                                      DOI: 10.2307/2800695Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                      A meticulous examination of the differences among varying forms of materialistic analysis and theory, focusing in particular on Marx, Marvin Harris, and Lévi-Strauss and using ethnographic case studies (e.g., the potlatch and “sacred cow”) as a foundation for discussion.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                      • Godelier, Maurice. 1977. Perspectives in Marxist anthropology. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                        A collection of essays arguing for the application of Marxist materialism to the understanding of precapitalist social, cultural, and economic structure.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                        • Maybury-Lewis, David, ed. 1979. Dialectical societies: The Ge and Bororo of central Brazil. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Univ. Press.

                                                                                                                                                                                                          DOI: 10.4159/harvard.9780674180727Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                          This study looks at the way in which material technologies in indigenous Brazil are reconciled with structures of kinship and descent.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                          • McKeon, Michael. 1981. The “Marxism” of Claude Lévi-Strauss. Dialectical Anthropology 6.2: 123–150.

                                                                                                                                                                                                            DOI: 10.1007/BF02078626Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                            A critical appraisal of the limiting and limited role of “infrastructure” and history in the theory of Lévi-Strauss.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                            • Terray, Emmanuel. 1972. Marxism and “primitive” societies: Two studies. Translated by Mary Klopper. New York: Monthly Review.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                              The two essays in this book investigate how Marxist theory might be applied to the study of “primitive” social and cultural structure.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                              Structural Historiography

                                                                                                                                                                                                              Roughly paralleling the interest in a politicized structuralism in the mid-1970s came an interest in applying structuralist principles to analyzing social and cultural change. Some of this work unfolded within anthropology, but much of it was embraced by historians, classicists, and others seeking fresh insight on transformations in such geocultural regions as the ancient Mediterranean (i.e., Détienne and Vernant’s work on Ancient Greece [Détienne and Vernant 1978]), the Near East (i.e., Dumézil’s study of the social role of the warrior in Proto-Indo-European society [Dumézil 1970]), and medieval Europe (i.e., Kantorowicz’s study on political theology [Kantorowicz 1997]). While much of this work lies outside the province of contemporary social and cultural anthropology, it is of interest for a better knowledge of the expansion of structuralist analysis and commitment to its analytical principles. Within anthropology, Marshall Sahlins’s work in particular ushered in a fresh enthusiasm for understanding how apparently immutable cultural structures (à la Lévi-Strauss) could be altered through historical contingency—for instance in the case of Captain Cook’s encounter with indigenous Hawaiians (the subject of Sahlins’s book Islands of History [Sahlins 1985]). Some worried that structuralism overemphasized apolitical integration of cultural worlds and consequently reified cultural differences (e.g., between colonists and colonized) that are better understood as the contingent outcome of power dynamics.

                                                                                                                                                                                                              • Détienne, Marcel, and Jean-Pierre Vernant. 1978. Cunning intelligence in Greek culture and society. Atlantic Highlands, NJ: Humanities Press.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                A sophisticated application of structuralist ideas to mythology and social organization in Ancient Greece.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                • Dumézil, Georges. 1970. The destiny of the warrior. Translated by Alf Hiltebeitel. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                  A quasi-structuralist study of the warrior role in ancient Indian, Persian, and Greek society.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                  • Dumézil, Georges. 1988. Mitra-Varuna: An essay on two Indo-European representations of sovereignty. New York: Zone.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                    A wide-ranging structuralist analysis of Indo-European religious and social systems that posits the centrality of three ideas: sovereignty, war, and fertility.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                    • Dumézil, Georges. 1996. Archaic Roman religion. Vol. 1. Translated by Phillip Krapp. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Univ. Press.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Volume 1 is an influential early structuralist analysis of Roman religion and looks at gods, myths, and Indo-European heritage, among others.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                      • Dumézil, Georges. 1996. Archaic Roman religion. Vol. 2. Translated by Phillip Krapp. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Univ. Press.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Volume 2 is an influential early structuralist analysis of Roman religion and looks at various forms of gods, the Second Punic War, and ideological changes in religion, among others.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                        • Gailey, Christine. 1983. Categories without culture: Structuralism, ethnohistory, and ethnocide. Dialectical Anthropology 8.3: 241–250.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          DOI: 10.1007/BF00244433Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          A critical analysis of the relations among historical and structural analysis, with special reference to Sahlins’s work on indigenous Hawaii.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                          • Goldman, Irving. 1970. Ancient Polynesian society. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Goldman’s writing on Polynesia emerged from similar intellectual currents in 1960s academia and, much as Lévi-Strauss did, treated non-Western systems of knowledge (past and present) as sophisticated patterns of cultural logic.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                            • Kantorowicz, Ernst H. 1997. The kings’ two bodies: A study in medieval political theology. Princeton, NJ: Princeton Univ. Press.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                              While not structuralist in the conventional sense, this “political theology” is a dense analysis of medieval European kingship and religion as an integrated weave of symbolism and logic that draws on some of the same intellectual currents as Lévi-Strauss’s theories.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                              • Ortner, Sherry B. 1989. High religion: A cultural and political history of Sherpa Buddhism. Princeton, NJ: Princeton Univ. Press.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Ortner’s work on Tibetan Buddhism demonstrates an important evolution of thought on cultural structures, to show how they are not static but embedded in everyday practice.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                • Sahlins, Marshall. 1981. Historical metaphors and mythical realities: Structure in the early history of the Sandwich Islands kingdom. Ann Arbor: Univ. of Michigan Press.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  A theory-laden exploration of the colonial encounter between Europeans and Pacific Islanders and how this engagement might be understood through a complex intermingling of cultural structures.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  • Sahlins, Marshall. 1985. Islands of history. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Sahlins’s work on the encounter between Captain Cook and native Hawaiians in the 18th century represents perhaps the best-known effort by an anthropologist to unite a theory of cultural structure with concern for social change—an intersection he refers to as the “structure of the conjuncture” (p. xiv).

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    • Valeri, Valerio. 1985. Kingship and sacrifice: Ritual and society in ancient Hawaii. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Valeri’s intricate analysis of the mirroring relationship between social hierarchies and cosmological hierarchy of gods in precolonial Hawaii. His view is that the dialectic between these was ritually achieved through royal sacrifice and the annual ritual cycle.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Discussion and Critique

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Since its emergence as a force within Anglophone anthropology, structuralism has provoked dissent, polemical debate and even vitriol among social and cultural theorists. The grounds for criticizing the perspective (and with it, its creator, Lévi-Strauss) have ranged from an alleged failure to fully consider the material and political circumstances that shape cultures, to an overidealized dependence on idea of a seamless system, to profound naivety about the biological foundations of cognition, to an abiding bias in favor of the rational and mental over and against the somatic and corporeal. In considering all such arguments—especially the most polemical (e.g., Marvin Harris’s evaluation)—one should remember that it is precisely because structuralism is powerful as an explanatory model that critics must scrutinize it so carefully. Today, most social and cultural anthropologists would agree that structuralism in its original form (developed in Lévi-Strauss 1969, cited under Claude Lévi-Strauss (1908–2009) and Key Works: Kinship) is flawed and inadequate to the task of thoroughgoing social analysis. But this is hardly the same as saying that it warrants dismissal out of hand. Were it not for the complex “high modernity” and austerity of structuralism, later generations of ethnologist and ethnographer might not have developed as deep an appreciation for the messy contingency, “inelegance,” and politicized ephemerality of cultures of everyday experience. The bibliographic entries in this section cut across a swath of discussions from various disciplinary quarters from the early 1970s through the late 2000s. Largely absent from this list are the myriad poststructural critiques, excluded because these tend to move on quickly from Lévi-Straussian orthodoxy to chart wholly new terrain in social analysis.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Classic Discussion and Critique

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Early critique of Lévi-Strauss’s perspective tended to focus on its inadequacy when set alongside competing perspectives Marvin Harris’s cultural materialism (Harris 2001), for instance, takes Lévi-Strauss to task for failing to understand how infrastructural modes of production and reproduction shape cultural meaning. From the late 1960s, other works—notably Gamst 1975, Korn 2013, Kultgen 1975, Neu 1975, and Nutini 1971—also began to document structuralism’s strengths and inadequacies from a variety of theoretical vantage points. In general, these argued that the perspective advocated an overly rational and altogether too seamless model that bore little resemblance to the messy contingencies of human culture (an effort that reached its culmination with “postmodernism” and “poststructuralism” from the early 1980s through the mid-1990s). Perhaps the best-known episode of disagreement involved a running debate between Marshall Sahlins (Sahlins 1985, cited under Structural Historiography) and Gananath Obeyesekere (Obeyesekere 1992) over the extent to which Sahlins’s historically informed structural theory concerning the encounter between Captain Cook and indigenous Hawaiians reflected “real” history versus a Eurocentric mythic hero-making. Excellent, “classic” general discussions and reviews of structuralism and its critics are provided in Carroll 1978, Kronenfeld and Decker 1979, and Maranda 1972.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      • Carroll, Michael P. 1978. The savage bind: Lévi-Strauss’s myth analysis and anglophone social science. Pacific Sociological Review 21.4: 467–486.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        DOI: 10.2307/1388696Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        An accessible discussion of the rise of structuralism in Anglophone anthropology by way of its key exponents, including Edmund Leach and Mary Douglas.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        • Gamst, Frederick C. 1975. Rethinking Leach’s structural analysis of color and instructional categories in traffic control signals. American Ethnologist 2.2: 271–296.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          DOI: 10.1525/ae.1975.2.2.02a00060Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          A fieldwork-based critique of a well-known structuralist analysis by Edmund Leach, concerning a purported culture–nature association of industrial color use and the visible light spectrum.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          • Harris, Marvin. 2001. French structuralism. In The rise of anthropological theory: A history of theories of culture. Updated ed. By Marvin Harris, 464–513. Walnut Grove, CA: AltaMira.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            First published in 1968, Harris’s essay is a highly polemical evaluation of structuralism by one of the leading materialist theoreticians in anthropology.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            • Korn, Francis. 2013. Elementary structures reconsidered: Lévi-Strauss on kinship. New York: Routledge.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Originally published in 1973, an influential critique of Lévi-Strauss’s theory of kinship organization.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              • Kronenfeld, David, and Henry Decker. 1979. Structuralism. Annual Review of Anthropology 8:503–541.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                DOI: 10.1146/annurev.an.08.100179.002443Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                A comprehensive survey of the origins and development of structural anthropology as promulgated by Lévi-Strauss and his intellectual followers in French and British anthropology.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                • Kultgen, John. 1975. Phenomenology and structuralism. Annual Review of Anthropology 4:371–387.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  DOI: 10.1146/annurev.an.04.100175.002103Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  This essay attempts to bridge the gulf between Lévi-Strauss’s rationalist, objectivist structuralism and the Husserl’s phenomenological insistence on the primacy of human subjectivity and embodied experience.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  • Maranda, Pierre. 1972. Structuralism in cultural anthropology. Annual Review of Anthropology 1:329–348.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    DOI: 10.1146/annurev.an.01.100172.001553Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    An early overview and evaluation of structuralism within cultural anthropology as practiced in a range of national settings.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    • Neu, Jerome. 1975. Lévi-Strauss on shamanism. Man, New Series 10.2: 285–292.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      DOI: 10.2307/2800499Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      A critical analysis of Lévi-Strauss’s arguments concerning the shaman and autobiographer Quesalid of the Canadian First Nations.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      • Nutini, Hugo G. 1971. The ideological bases of Lévi-Strauss’s structuralism. American Anthropologist 73.3: 537–544.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        DOI: 10.1525/aa.1971.73.3.02a00010Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        A discussion and critique of Lévi-Strauss’s conflation of the anthropological and scientific methods with humanistic and idealistic philosophy.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        • Obeyesekere, Gananath. 1992. The apotheosis of Captain Cook: European myth-making in the Pacific. Princeton, NJ: Princeton Univ. Press.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          A sharp rebuttal to Marshall Sahlins’s mid-1980s analysis of the 18th-century European encounter with native Hawaiians that illuminates the potentially essentializing, static, and apolitical effects of structuralist analysis.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Contemporary and Interdisciplinary Perspectives

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Structuralism has continued to inspire reflection, analysis, and critique despite having fallen out of fashion with mainstream social and cultural anthropology. Often, the perspective functions as something of a “straw man” for discussions of other theoretical orientations, such as interdisciplinary poststructuralism (Lizardo 2010, Turner 1990) and evolutionary theory (Rindos, et al. 1986). In this, the perspective still serves as a useful “foil” for more process-oriented or political theorization. Among nonanthropologists, meanwhile, structuralism is appealing as an alternate perspective from which to view social phenomena such as religion; examples of such discussion include Levi 2009, Strenski 1980, and Taylor 1982.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          • Levi, Jerome M. 2009. Structuralism and Kabbalah: Sciences of mysticism or mystifications of science? Anthropological Quarterly 82.4: 929–984.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            DOI: 10.1353/anq.0.0091Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            This paper investigates a number of unexpectedly shared epistemic assumptions between structuralism and Kabbalah, or Jewish mysticism; in particular, that overt diversity conceals implicit unity.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            • Lizardo, Omar. 2010. Beyond the antimonies of structure: Lévi-Strauss, Giddens, Bourdieu, and Sewell. Theory and Society 39.6: 651–688.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              DOI: 10.1007/s11186-010-9125-1Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              This paper compares the theoretical perspectives of four distinguished social theorists on the concept and ontology of “structure” and considers possibilities for future use of structure as a central motif among the social sciences.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              • Rindos, David, R. C. Dunnell, Susantha Goonatilake, et al. 1986. The evolution of the capacity for culture: Sociobiology, structuralism, and cultural selectionism [and comments and replies]. Current Anthropology 27.4: 315–332.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                DOI: 10.1086/203444Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                A provocative analysis of a hypothesized relationship between evolved genetic functionalism and cultural structures, together with replies.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                • Strenski, Ivan. 1980. Lévi-Strauss and the Buddhists. Comparative Studies in Society and History 22.1: 3–22.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  DOI: 10.1017/S0010417500009130Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  A study in the implicit similarities between structuralism and Buddhist thought by a leading theorist in religious studies.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  • Taylor, Mark K. 1982. Religious dimensions in cultural anthropology: The “religious” in the hermeneutics of Claude Lévi-Strauss and Marvin Harris. PhD diss., Univ. of Chicago.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    A comparative analysis of “religion” in structuralism and cultural materialism by a leading figure in religious studies.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    • Turner, Terence. 1990. On structure and entropy: Theoretical pastiche and the contradictions of “structuralism.” Current Anthropology 31.5: 563–568.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      DOI: 10.1086/203902Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      A critical interrogation of the assumptions and utility of structuralism.

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