Claude Lévi-Strauss and the Making of Structural Anthropology

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U of Minnesota Press, 1998 - Social Science - 292 pages
The most comprehensive, precise, and up-to-date account of the work of Claude Levi-Strauss yet written (and Levi-Strauss's favorite presentation of his own work), this book offers an unparalleled view of the thought of the man who single-handedly reinvented anthropology. With close attention to the wide range of knowledge that informs Levi-Strauss's work, Marcel Henaff has written an authoritative and accessible analysis of Levi-Strauss's research in anthropological theory and practice as well as his contributions to the debates surrounding linguistics, epistemology, ethics, and aesthetics.

The book begins with a clear explication of the concept of structure, both demonstrating the relevance and defining the limits of the structural approach to the social sciences. Henaff's focus, like that of his subject, is social anthropology. Within this field, he gives painstaking attention to three areas that distinguish Levi-Strauss's work: kinship systems, systems of classification, and mythologies. His discussion moves from broad questions such as "What differentiates 'historical' societies from those called primitive?" to particular ones, such as "What does Levi-Strauss mean by symbolism? totemism? wild thought?"

From these topics, Henaff goes on to consider general philosophical issues concerning the theoretical status of anthropology and the cultural status of the anthropologist. In light of Levi-Strauss's work, he looks at ideas about the universality of the human mind and logical categories, the representation of time in oral cultures and their relation to history, and the responsibility of Western societies to now-vanishing oral cultures. An extensive chronology and detailedbibliography present a valuable overview of Levi-Strauss's career.

As debates surrounding structuralism subside, and as anthropology continues to transform itself, this book at last affords a broad and balanced account of the remarkable accomplishments of one of the great intellectual innovators of the twentieth century.


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Claude Lévi-Strauss and the making of structural anthropology

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Originally published in French in l991, this book by Henaff (philosophy and anthropology, Univ. of California, San Diego) is a comprehensive survey and authoritative analysis of Levi-Strauss's ... Read full review


The Anthropologist the West and the Others
The Movement of Reciprocity
Structures of Kinship
Unconscious Categories and Universality of the Mind
Symbolic Thought
The Logic of Sensible Qualities
The Analysis of Myths
The Lesson of the Work of Art
Time in Societies and the Question of History
The Moral Issue

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About the author (1998)

Marcel Henaff is a professor at the University of California, San Diego, and a program director at the College International de Philosophie, Paris.

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