In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Claude Lévi-Strauss

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Early Life
  • Intellectual Influences
  • Life in the United States
  • Mythologiques
  • Paris in the 1950s–1960s
  • Reception in the English-Speaking World
  • The 1970s–1990s
  • The 1990s and 2000s

Anthropology Claude Lévi-Strauss
Michael Harkin
  • LAST REVIEWED: 23 April 2021
  • LAST MODIFIED: 29 September 2015
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199766567-0034


Claude Lévi-Strauss (b. 1908–d. 2009) was the preeminent French anthropologist of the 20th century and one of the most influential thinkers on the subjects of myth, culture, religion, and social organization. He is the originator of the best-known version of “structuralism,” a theoretical framework that examines elementary units of cultural systems, such as myth, and the principles by which they are organized at a systemic level. His work has been highly influential within and outside anthropology, especially in fields such as literary studies and philosophy. Indeed, a generation of “post-structuralist” French philosophers, such as Michel Foucault, Jacques Derrida, and Jean Baudrillard, arose to modify and contest structuralism, and thus to affirm its importance.

General Overviews

Lévi-Strauss cast such a large shadow on the profession of anthropology, as well as the humanities and social sciences more broadly, especially in France and the English-speaking world, that inevitably scholars would examine his legacy, especially toward the end of his life. Izard 2004 examines Lévi-Strauss’s legacy primarily within France itself, and accounts for not merely his scholarship but his central institutional role in the development of anthropology in postwar France. Wiseman 2009 examines his intellectual influence globally, with attention to particular aspects of his thought that have been underrepresented in secondary literature, such as his concept of humanism. Mauzé, et al. 2004 examines his legacy in the study of American Indian culture and literature, from a primarily North American perspective.

  • Izard, Michel, ed. 2004. Claude Lévi-Strauss. Paris: Éditions de L’Herne.

    An authoritative edited volume on many aspects of Lévi-Strauss’s career, edited by a preeminent French anthropologist. Internationally prominent scholars examine biographical, theoretical, and historical contexts of Lévi-Strauss’s career, both within and outside France.

  • Loyer, Emmanuelle. 2015. Claude Lévi-Strauss. Paris: Flammarion.

    The authorized biography of Lévi-Strauss, by a prominent French historian. It adds considerable detail, based on interviews with family members and extensive archival research, to our knowledge of his life, although it does not depart significantly from the accounts by Lévi-Strauss himself in Tristes Tropiques and his several volumes of interviews.

  • Mauzé, Marie, Michael E. Harkin, and Sergei Kan, eds. 2004. Coming to shore: Northwest Coast ethnology, traditions, and visions. Papers presented at the Northwest Coast Ethnology Conference, Paris, June 2000. Lincoln: Univ. of Nebraska Press.

    An edited volume arising from a conference in honor of Claude Lévi-Strauss held at the Collège de France in 2000. Many of the contributors examine the contributions Lévi-Strauss made to American and Canadian anthropology.

  • Wiseman, Boris, ed. 2009. The Cambridge companion to Lévi-Strauss. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

    DOI: 10.1017/CCOL9780521846301

    A less encyclopedic volume than Izard 2004, but with many of the same authors. The focus is more directly on the theoretical dimensions of Lévi-Strauss’s work. Its thrust is in the direction of considering Lévi-Strauss in new contexts, such as aesthetics, philosophy, and humanities.

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