Levi-Strauss: Good to Think

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    Friends, colleagues, anthropologists,-lend me your minds. I come to bury Lévi-Strauss, but also to praise him. The evil that men do lives after them, the good is oft interred with their bones; so let it be otherwise with Lévi-Strauss. The theme of this year's AAS conference is the ethics and politics of anthropological engagement. Our session in honour of Claude Lévi-Strauss, however, in that it celebrates his death, sadly and rather awkwardly forces us to consider instead the ethics and politics of anthropological disengagement. As Robert Hertz observed exactly a century ago, in the regions where many of us here conduct our research, people's deaths are typically marked by the practice of double burial. And so it seems to be the case now with Lévi-Strauss. We are gathered here to acknowledge the death of perhaps the greatest anthropologist of the 20 th century, maybe the greatest anthropological thinker that has ever lived. Yet I suspect many of my generation will acknowledge that Lévi-Strauss, or at least the perspective that he almost single-handedly founded, had already undergone a more perverse death some time in the 1980s, one perhaps verging on regicide. So if Hertz was right and our celebrations today actually mark Lévi-Strauss's second burial, we can comfort ourselves with the belief that his spirit is now safely united with anthropology's other legendary ancestors-that we can respectfully disengage from the body of his works, since, after all, structuralism itself has been for quite a while now so obviously dead too. But before we abandon Lévi-Strauss this second time, and perhaps finally, I welcome the chance to offer a reflection or two of the man and his works.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)7-9
    JournalThe Australian Anthropological Society Newsletter
    Publication statusPublished - 2010


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