Tuesday, November 3, 2009


Renowned French anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss has died, aged 100. One of the most influential French intellectuals of the 20th Century, he founded the structuralist school of anthropology in the 1950s. Levi-Strauss's books include Tristes Tropiques - a 1955 biographical book regarded as a classic - as well as The Savage Mind and The Raw and the Cooked. In a tribute, French President Nicolas Sarkozy called Levi-Strauss "one of the greatest ethnologists of all time".
Levi-Strauss applied the structural approach pioneered by linguistics to anthropology, arguing that family relations and belief systems are best analysed as complex sets of interrelated parts. The Savage Mind Levi-Strauss undertook his first fieldwork among Brazilian tribes in the 1930s. After the war he taught in the US, where he befriended and was influenced by anthropologist Franz Boaz. Returning to France to complete his doctorate in the late 1940s, Levi-Strauss published a book version of his thesis, The Elementary Structures of Kinship, which drew praise in academic circles. The publication of Tristes Tropiques in 1955 secured his reputation as a major intellectual. In 1959 Levi-Strauss was named to a chair in social anthropology at the prestigious College de France in Paris.
The Savage Mind was published in 1962 to worldwide acclaim. Levi-Strauss's death was announced on Tuesday by his publisher, Plon.


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