A tribute to Professor Claude Levi-Strauss born 28th November 1908

Daniel Miller, UCL

Few of us are not entranced by tales of discovery. The magical feeling when something which previously existed but, but we were entirely unaware of, become known. Humanity is given a new consciousness that once we have gained seems impossible that we should ever lose it again. It’s easier to think about such discoveries in terms of natural science, such as the discovery of the atom or of penicillin. But we have been equally transformed over the last century by a series of discoveries in social science. It’s now hard to explain to people what it meant and what it was really like to live before feminism, that things that seem totally obvious afterwards, were previously simply not available to be thought about. In my memory the most profound, most long lasting, extraordinary and singular moment of discovery came when I was a student in anthropology at Cambridge. When Edmund Leach, who acted as John the Baptist, to this French Messiah, gave us a lecture about Levi-Strauss, and I knew, instantly, that I would never see the world again in the same way.

three face of Levi-Strauss VIA


The great divide

20 November 2008

The discipline of anthropology has split firmly into two factions – social anthropologists and evolutionary anthropologists. Hannah Fearn asks whether or not the warring sides can be reconciled

Renowned anthropologist Eric Wolf once described his discipline as "the most scientific of the humanities and the most humanistic of the sciences".

Perhaps he was attempting to capture the uniqueness of a subject that can talk to both academic camps but, by the time he died in 1999, his words articulated the growing split within the discipline.

Trans-Formational Practices: A Report from Jean Lave’s Panel at the American Anthropological Association

Last week was a frenetic one for many of those who write for this blog. As the final report for the Digital Youth project jittered through the media, many of the project’s researchers were navigating the windowless corridors and “imperial ballrooms” of the San Francisco Hilton, home of the 2008 Annual Meeting for the American Anthropological Association.

News of the Digital Youth report first appeared in the media on Wednesday night when the New York Times’ website posted a story set to appear in their Thursday print edition. Shortly thereafter the sites of several other newspapers and blogs posted stories. Ever since, it has been like watching a game of telephone played inside a pinball machine.

Grand chieftain of anthropology lives to see his centenary
Independent – London,England,UK
Claude Lévi-Strauss, the father of structuralism and modern anthropology, born on 28 November 1908, is still alive. His work, after going out of fashion

Claude Lévi-Strauss at 100
Open Democracy – London,UK
By making their hearts beat faster with the promise of intellectual adventures, he attracted to anthropology generations of students – I was one – who

Claude Lévi-Strauss at 100, Dan Sperber

In people

Claude Lévi-Strauss, who is 100 years old on 28 November 2008, is perhaps the most famous anthropologist in the history of the discipline (with the possible exception of Margaret Mead). Among French intellectuals, he cut a singular and imposing figure, second to none and close to none. By making their hearts beat faster with the promise of intellectual adventures, he attracted to anthropology generations of students – I was one – who otherwise would have become philosophers, historians or sociologists.

Dan Sperber is a French anthropologist, linguist and cognitive scientist. He is research professor at the Jean Nicod Institute in Paris

This article is also published in the journal of the international cognition and culture institute

Raised Eyebrows over Keynote Choice

At the American Anthropological Association’s massive annual meeting last week, a few attendees passed out fliers for a smaller, regional conference – which will feature one of the most controversial figures in anthropology as keynote speaker.

The president of the Southwestern Anthropological Association invited Montgomery McFate to give the keynote address at the association’s spring conference in Las Vegas. As an architect of and senior social scientist for the Human Terrain System, an initiative that embeds social scientists with U.S. Army units in Afghanistan and Iraq to help them better understand local cultures and populations, McFate’s scholarly reputation is hitched to an initiative that has been formally opposed by the AAA’s executive board. In a statement issued last year, the board determined that HTS raises concerns on such fundamental ethical issues as voluntary informed consent and the protection from harm of populations being studied.

Fieldwork with Three Children

SAN FRANCISCO – When L. Kaifa Roland brought her then 9-month-old child to a (successful) interview at the University of Colorado at Boulder, she alternated between her professional, interview-appropriate voice and — she pitched her voice up, “Oh, honey” — a more motherly one.

“When I am somewhere, my daughter’s going to be there. If she’s not welcome, I won’t be there,” said Roland, an assistant professor of anthropology at Boulder. “I don’t know if I should consider that the Sarah Palin model…” she joked.

Anthropologist Levi-Strauss honored
Jewish Telegraphic Agency – New York,NY,USA
Much of his work dealt with myth, race and kinship. Among his best-known books are "Structural Anthropology" and "The Savage Mind."

Lévi-Strauss at 100
Al-Ahram Weekly – Cairo,Egypt
The Musée du quai Branly, the French capital’s recently completed museum of anthropology which opened with great fanfare in 2006, held a study day devoted .

How media covered Claude Lévi-Strauss’ 100th birthday

100 years ago he was born – Claude Lévi-Strauss – one of the most famous and influential anthropologists in the world. A quick Google News search revealed that there are some articles in a some newspapers around the world (not so many in English than in German, though – let alone French I suppose…).

What happened at the AAA meeting in San Francisco?

The American Anthropological Association’s annual meeting is over
– here a quick round-up of the conference coverage on the web.

Anthropology and the military was a hot topic this year as well as Inside Higher Ed informs in three articles:

More on HTS

It’s a pity that the month that Culture Matters won the Savage Minds blog award, we’ve been really slow. It’s the end of the semester right before everyone disappears for the summer, and I assume that everyone is either swamped with marking or making exciting travel plans. I have a huge backlog of work and e-mails to answer so I probably shouldn’t be taking the time to post something, but I couldn’t resist because I keep getting distracted from grading by a couple of Wired articles on the Human Terrain System.

Anthropology Subject Guide

By Erika(Erika)
It’s supposed to be a handout for students in anthropology (yes, of course I chose that topic!) to get them started with ideas of resources the library has. Some of these are great books and websites I could not have done without in

"Can Anthropology Ever Be Innocent?" by Gerald M. Sider
"Can Anthropology Ever Be Innocent?" by Gerald M. Sider: The point he was making is still brutally direct: at this moment in history there is no such thing as an innocent anthropology.

The great divide in Anthropology
By Simon Greenhill
Today, anthropology is at war with itself. The discipline has divided into two schools of thought – the social anthropologists and the evolutionary anthropologists. The schism between the two is simple but deeply ingrained.

Do cultural anthropologists consider archaeology as part of
By Carl Lipo(Carl Lipo)
Smith writes in his blog (Publishing Archaeology) this statement about 4-field anthropology (below). I have long argued that "4-field" anthropology was simply code word for "cultural anthropology" in that the emphasis was always placed
 Social media meets Anthropology 101
By aribadler
In one of her best posts ever, the up-and-coming social media maven Shannon Paul has laid out some great thoughts on social media and how to break in to it as a tourist breaks in to any new culture. Check it out at her Very Official

How designers get the edge with anthropology and Chuck E. Cheese
ITBusiness.ca – Scarborough,Ontario,Canada
Find out why – to outpace the competition – design firm Ideo often turns to anthropology and emulates Chuck E. Cheese in employing the theory of "experience

Whose Blood Is It?

The basic concept of informed consent in research is straightforward: People being studied should understand the research enough to know the risks and benefits and be able to make an intelligent decision on whether to participate. For anthropologists, whose discipline for decades studied native groups around the world without using the modern ideas of informed consent, the ethics involved are particularly sensitive.

engaging academia

I’ve read a lot about engaging anthropology, but I came across a program run through Concordia that works to engage academia. The University of the Streets Cafe is a program that hosts conversations about social issues. They invite participation from a broad audience, and their website and information pamphlets highlight the importance of conversation as a way of learning:

New Anthropology Matters out: Practicing anthropology "out of the corner of one’s eye"

Why do people wear and produce fake underwear, fake suits and fake jeans? In the new issue of Anthropology Matters, anthropologist Magdalena Craciun tells us in a well written paper about what it was like researching “the place of fake brands in lives lived in the margins of Europe".

She has been on fieldwork in Bucharest, Istabul and in her hometown in Romania – and this was no easy undertaking. “I hope that the paper contributes to the collective effort of sharing field experiences for the benefit of other anthropologists", she writes.

How anthropologists should react to the financial crisis


Anthropologists have largely left the global effects of economic globalisation to economists. Now in this worldwide financial crisis it is the time for anthropologists to renew an engagement with political economy, Keith Hart and Horacio Ortiz write in their guest editorial in the new issue of Anthropology Today:

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