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The Ritual Experience of Continuity

Flow and Participation in Punu Twin Dancing

Carine Plancke

While focusing on its dynamics, Bruce Kapferer considers ritual as a means for readjusting the flow of life, thus undermining Claude Lévi-Strauss's vision of ritual as a vain search for continuity. This article shows the potential of Kapferer's approach for understanding the dance rituals that the Punu of Congo-Brazzaville dedicate to twins, who, as waterspirits, embody the source of life. Advancing Victor Turner's attempt to account for the generative power of ritual, it discloses the means through which these rituals afford a lived experience of revitalizing continuity whereby the part embraces the whole and a focused, self-intensifying energetic dynamic unfolds and continuously readjusts its own flow. The analysis of rhythm and its actualization in song and dance turns out to be essential in this regard.

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Sally Price

Susan Sontag seems to have been on to something when she placed her word portraits of Michel Leiris and Claude Lévi-Strauss back to back.2 An elaboration of her comparison (which was more implied than explicit) may help situate anthropological practice in France—and Leiris’ special role in it—within the larger context of trends elsewhere in the world.

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Jablonka et la question du sujet en sciences sociales

Le cas de Laëtitia ou la fin des hommes

Nathan Bracher

With its compelling portrait of a young woman who was savagely murdered after having endured various forms of male violence throughout her life, Ivan Jablonka’s Laëtitia ou la fin des hommes also provides a stark depiction of French society and politics in the second decade of the twentyfirst century. In deconstructing the sensationalism of the conventional crime story, the researcher-narrator seeks to draw as near as possible to the vivacious, yet fragile young woman while at the same time viewing her life in relation to various sociological and historical contexts defining its parameters. Jablonka’s own singular investment in the investigation and narration of Laëtitia thus poses the question of subjectivity in the social sciences. Recalling the landmark stances of Claude Lévi-Strauss and Emmanuel Lévinas, this article argues that Jablonka’s insistence on the explicit intervention of the researcher-narrator offers an epistemological gain and more precise knowledge.

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“Like Alice through the Looking Glass”

Claude Lévi-Strauss in New York

Vincent Debaene

What were the significance and the impact, for Claude Lévi-Strauss, of his experience as a refugee in New York between May 1941 and December 1944? If one follows Lévi-Strauss's late reconstructions, his exile appears surprisingly as an almost enchanted experience, marked by various encounters (Roman Jakobson, André Breton, Franz Boas), the first contact with North-West Coast Amerindian art, and the discovery of New York, an almost surrealistic city “where anything seemed possible.” Without contesting such an a posteriori reading, this article shows how such a reconstruction has been made possible through a complex reorganization of a traumatizing past. It then appears that the exile, and its remembrance in later texts, played a pivotal role in the development of Lévi-Strauss's anthropological work to come: his experience as a refugee was at the root of his reinvention of symbolism as well as of his reflections on humanity as a whole.

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At the Threshold to the New World

Equator Crossings, Sunsets, and Claude Lévi-Strauss’s Tristes Tropiques

Michael Bies

This article deals with representations of equator crossings in travel literature. Focusing on the accounts of European travelers to Brazil, it considers descriptions of crossing-the-line ceremonies that were performed on board ships since the sixteenth century and shows that, since the late eighteenth century, writers have increasingly staged crossings of the equator as an individual and private experience. Furthermore, it addresses the relation of travel and knowledge that descriptions of equator crossings establish by referring to distinctive epistemological approaches to the New World and by producing a “liminal knowledge” characteristic of travel narratives. The article draws on travel literature from the sixteenth to the twentieth century, paying special attention to the postromantic description of an equator crossing in Claude Lévi-Strauss’s famous memoir Tristes Tropiques.

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Stephen Reyna

This article analyzes certain aspects of the work of Jonathan Friedman, especially as they are relevant to an "insurrection of subjugated knowledges" that Foucault imagined began in the 1960s. The article traces Friedman's critique of Marvin Harris's cultural materialism and of Edmund Leach's interpretation of highland Burma's socio-political systems. It discusses Friedman's pioneering development of global systems theory based on an integration of Marxist and Lévi-Straussian structuralism. Finally, it argues the insurrection that Foucault spoke of was febrile, and suggests how Friedman's work might be employed to help develop a fiercer struggle against subjugation.

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Introduction

Human-Animal Relations

Rebecca Feinberg, Patrick Nason and Hamsini Sridharan

In studying the lives and livelihoods of human beings, the social sciences and humanities often find their lines of inquiry tugged in the direction of other, nonhuman beings. When Claude Lévi-Strauss (1963) suggested that “thinking with” animals was relevant and fruitful to the study of humankind, scholars began to follow these leads with academic rigor, enthusiasm, and creativity. Propelled into the new millennium by the passion of the environmental movement, compounded by natural and anthropogenic disaster, and now entrenched in the discourse of the Anthropocene, recent scholarship has simultaneously called into question the validity of human exceptionalism and expanded our social and political worlds to include animals and myriad other nonhuman beings. This move is paradoxical: as the significance of human action on this planet has increased, the category of the human is continually challenged and redrawn. While contemporary posthumanist critique rethinks the importance of animals and strives to destabilize long-standing ontological exceptions, it does so just as the effects of human presence overwhelmingly single out our species as the dominant agents of planetary change (see Chakrabarty 2009; Steffen, Crutzen, and McNeill 2007).

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Ronald Aronson

When published, Sartre's Critique of Dialectical Reason appeared to be a major intellectual and political event, no less than a Kantian effort to found Marxism, with far-reaching theoretical and political consequences. Claude Levi-Strauss devoted a course to studying it, and debated Sartre's main points in The Savage Mind; Andre Gorz devoted a major article to explaining its importance and key concepts in New Left Review. Many analysts of the May, 1968 events in Paris claimed that they were anticipated by the Critique. But the book has had a very quiet 50th anniversary: it is now clear that the project has had little lasting effect beyond a narrow band of specialists. It has not entered the wider culture, has not been picked up beyond Sartre scholars except by one or two philosophically interested social scientists and feminist thinkers; and after the energy of 1968 wore off the Critique faded as well from the radar of political activists. This article asks and attempts to answer the perplexing question: Why? What became of the great promise of Sartre's project?

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Debate

In Response to Charlie

Faisal Devji, Jane Garnett, Ghassan Hage and Sondra L. Hausner

There is a close relation between satire and secularism as the latter came to emerge in Europe. Secularism, as is well-known, gained strength historically as a reaction to an era of European interreligious violence and massacres. It was not only a desire for the separation of church and state, as the classical formula has it. It was also an attempt to keep religious affect out of politics. This was in the belief that religion, because it is faith rather than reasoned thinking, produces too much of a narcissistic affect—that the faithful are unable to ‘keep their distance’ from what they believe in. It was thought that this narcissism was behind the murderous intensity of religiously driven conflicts. Being able to laugh at yourself literally means being able to not take yourself overly seriously. This, in turn, is crucial for the deintensification of the affects generated by the defense of what one believes in and for the relativization of one’s personal beliefs. Such relativization, as Claude Lévi- Strauss argued, is crucial for thinking oneself comparatively and in relation to others (the opposite of narcissism).

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Christine Winberg

Narratology is the study of the ways in which narrative organises perception and experience. Narratologists understand narrative as a ‘meta-code, a human universal’ (White 1987), which is instrumental in enabling the re-organisation of time, space, character and event in the construction of meaning in texts. Narratologists draw on different epistemological traditions, and develop different approaches and practices. These approaches can be roughly categorised as belonging to textual, inter-textual, and extra-textual traditions. The textual approach is exemplified by the work of Vladimir Propp (1928/1968), Claude Levi-Strauss (1958/1963), Roland Barthes (1966/1977), Algirdas Greimas (1966/1983), Paul Ricoeur (1985), and Tzvetan Todorov (1990). Narratologists in this structuralist tradition categorize and taxonomize narrative form. Propp identified 31 ‘narratemes’ (the smallest narrative units, equivalent to morphemes at the sentence level), which occur in all narratives in unvarying sequence; Greimas developed a typology of narrative ‘actants’; and Ricoeur investigated connections between time and narrative to typify ‘configurational activities’ in narrative plots and sequences. These, and other, textual approaches to narrative, show how texts selectively draw on narrative resources (emplotment, ways of representing character, hermeneutic and proairetic codes) in the construction of narrative meaning.