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Claude Lévi-Strauss est mort
November 3, 2009 10:16 AM   Subscribe

Claude Lévi-Strauss has died just short of his 101st birthday. An anthropologist, and one of the founding "structuralists," he has been a strong influence in many fields, including anthropology, linguistics, sociology, literary criticism and philosophy.
posted by wfitzgerald (74 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite

 
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posted by zeugitai_guy at 10:20 AM on November 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


101 years is quite a long lifetime. Death is always sad, but he certainly had a good run. Is there a link to a good obituary in English? My French isn't quite up to snuff.
posted by explosion at 10:23 AM on November 3, 2009


English obit.
posted by Jaltcoh at 10:23 AM on November 3, 2009


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posted by malpractice at 10:27 AM on November 3, 2009


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posted by sciurus at 10:27 AM on November 3, 2009


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posted by ageispolis at 10:30 AM on November 3, 2009


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posted by Obscure Reference at 10:36 AM on November 3, 2009


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posted by Panjandrum at 10:36 AM on November 3, 2009


Claude Lévi-Strauss has died

According to your modernist, scientific, culturally imperialist definition of "life", perhaps.
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:38 AM on November 3, 2009 [18 favorites]


This obituary has given me the most visceral flashback to that class I took on the history of anthropology theory.

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posted by palindromic at 10:38 AM on November 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


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posted by HumanComplex at 10:39 AM on November 3, 2009


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I recall my philosophy professor noting that even as late as 2004, Levi-Strauss would still get envelopes filled with cash requesting that he send a pair of blue jeans to the return address.
posted by jefficator at 10:45 AM on November 3, 2009 [5 favorites]


NYTimes obit
posted by oinopaponton at 10:49 AM on November 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


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posted by louche mustachio at 10:49 AM on November 3, 2009


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A relatively minor but not insignificant aspect of this is that the last thing the Académie française needs is another vacant seat.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 10:50 AM on November 3, 2009


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posted by Schlimmbesserung at 10:50 AM on November 3, 2009


Don't mourn, organize.

And, by organize, I mean continue with your inherent and instinctual tendency to structure the world into distinct binaries.
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:50 AM on November 3, 2009 [9 favorites]


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posted by juv3nal at 10:51 AM on November 3, 2009


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posted by fook at 10:55 AM on November 3, 2009


Structuralism was the first big mindfuck for me in college, and I've never quite recovered. He provided material for countless hours of spirited debate.

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posted by rottytooth at 11:07 AM on November 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


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posted by Rumple at 11:07 AM on November 3, 2009


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posted by Iridic at 11:09 AM on November 3, 2009


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posted by Benjamin Nushmutt at 11:13 AM on November 3, 2009


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posted by spindle at 11:13 AM on November 3, 2009


A genius has left the building.

Describing his world view as one of “serene pessimism,” he viewed humans as having no privileged status in the universe and said they would become extinct without leaving significant traces of their existence.

Interesting binary contrast with today's post on sacrificial Laika.
posted by bearwife at 11:15 AM on November 3, 2009


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posted by odasaku at 11:15 AM on November 3, 2009


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posted by tweemy at 11:19 AM on November 3, 2009


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I would never have imagined that he had been alive this long. He was 18 in 1926; how amazing that is to think about.
posted by demonic winged headgear at 11:25 AM on November 3, 2009 [3 favorites]


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posted by cgk at 11:30 AM on November 3, 2009


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posted by with hidden noise at 11:30 AM on November 3, 2009


;-/
posted by semmi at 11:32 AM on November 3, 2009


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posted by box at 11:37 AM on November 3, 2009


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posted by whimsicalnymph at 11:38 AM on November 3, 2009


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posted by gingerbeer at 11:40 AM on November 3, 2009


My life and work were so deeply influenced by his writing. Structuralism was more than an academic fad or a mere paradigm. It was a whole new way of thinking. I find myself very moved by his death.

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posted by fourcheesemac at 11:44 AM on November 3, 2009


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100 years - that's a good innings though.
posted by Paragon at 12:07 PM on November 3, 2009


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posted by ursus_comiter at 12:10 PM on November 3, 2009


I hear Lévi-Strauss tried to work for Levi Strauss, but they fired him for reducing all the jeans to their component denemes.

Yes I might be a bad person.
posted by Schlimmbesserung at 12:19 PM on November 3, 2009 [12 favorites]


So many of my classes in college -- religious studies, literary theory, anthropology -- began with this man's ideas and then continued through a series of reactions to those ideas. I was really learning to think at that time, and now his work is a core piece of my own perspective.

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posted by cubby at 12:22 PM on November 3, 2009


I find that I've internalized the premises of structuralism so deeply that I can't imagine how I saw the world before I read Levi-Strauss.

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posted by jokeefe at 12:28 PM on November 3, 2009


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posted by cobaltnine at 12:40 PM on November 3, 2009


he started so much. He was a capital-T Teacher.

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posted by kalimac at 12:46 PM on November 3, 2009


Count me among those who had their minds blown by Levi-Strauss in college. For me, it was a 20th-century intellectual history course that completely radicalized how I thought about literature, culture, history, politics -- really, everything. Seriously, I may not have become a structuralist, but what I have become owes a lot to having encountered structuralism 20 years ago.

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posted by scody at 12:47 PM on November 3, 2009


The raven always wins. That said:

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posted by joe lisboa at 12:52 PM on November 3, 2009


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And, in his honor, let us debate what the binary complement of "." is. I'm voting for "The" or maybe "…"
posted by LMGM at 12:58 PM on November 3, 2009


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posted by hatutah at 1:03 PM on November 3, 2009


I wrote a paper in college called "Surrealism, Structuralism and Zen." I'm sure I would be embarrassed to read it today, but at 19 or 20, ideas from those three areas of thought (or no-thought) were truly exciting to me. I would add something about postmodernism here, but instead of a thread derail: R.I.P. Monsieur Levi-Strauss.
posted by kozad at 1:05 PM on November 3, 2009


Fuck. He was one of the pantheon of thinkers that had come before, it never occurred to me that I shared space on this planet as the same time as him. I assumed he'd passed long ago.

However, I will think of him every time I pull on a pair of blue jeans.
posted by stet at 1:14 PM on November 3, 2009


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posted by daniel_charms at 1:20 PM on November 3, 2009


Was he the last great twentieth-century intellectual to pass away?

Fascinating that many of the comments here either shrug and make reference to jeans or have a head-scratching component to them, as though to acknowledge (perhaps) that there are no longer any real great original (public) intellectual giants of his stature -- just shadows, simualcra, and spectacles replicating what has come before.
posted by blucevalo at 1:41 PM on November 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


It's true. Few cut from the same cloth as he...
posted by stenseng at 1:43 PM on November 3, 2009


I am distressed. His thought has influenced a lot of my understanding of the world.

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La pensée mythique dispose d'un trésor d'images accumulées par l'observation du monde naturel : animaux, plantes avec leurs habitats, leurs caractères distinctifs, leurs emplois dans une culture déterminée. Elle combine ces éléments pour construire un sens, comme le bricoleur, confronté à une tâche, utilise les matériaux pour leur donner une autre signification, si je puis dire, que celle qu'ils tenaient de leur première destination.
posted by winna at 1:43 PM on November 3, 2009


Holy crap. Count me in with the group who had no inkling he was still alive. And by the looks of it, he was still speaking and publishing well into his retirement. This is a little like learning Les Paul had — past tense — been alive and gigging regularly in New York.

We need a phrase meaning the opposite of "the late So-and-so," for use when So-and-so is still alive and kicking doing awesome shit despite what you might assume. This is not some kinda structuralist joke about opposites. I really do wish there was a standard, quiet way of alerting each other when one of the demigods was still walking among us.
posted by nebulawindphone at 1:50 PM on November 3, 2009


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posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 1:54 PM on November 3, 2009


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posted by motdiem2 at 2:07 PM on November 3, 2009


I'm glad so many of these comments are falling on the correct side of the tasteful/crass dichotomy.
posted by Panjandrum at 2:37 PM on November 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


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One factoid from the Times obituary that caught my eye was that, in the early '30s, he taught high school with Sartre and de Beauvoir at the Lycée Janson de Sailly. That must have been some erudite conversation in the teacher's lounge.
posted by strangely stunted trees at 2:47 PM on November 3, 2009 [2 favorites]


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posted by exlotuseater at 2:48 PM on November 3, 2009



posted by Smart Dalek at 3:21 PM on November 3, 2009


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posted by the_bone at 5:23 PM on November 3, 2009


I think the jeans jokes are weak. Long after no one remembers the clothing brand, we will remember the ideas of the great anthropologist.

There was actually a thread here on his 100th birthday but I'm on an iPod so can't search and link right now.

His only equal in the history of anthropology is Boas.
posted by fourcheesemac at 5:24 PM on November 3, 2009 [2 favorites]


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posted by anansi at 6:11 PM on November 3, 2009


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posted by smoke at 7:32 PM on November 3, 2009


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posted by Menomena at 9:36 PM on November 3, 2009


As penance for my jeans joke, here's the 100th-birthday thread.
posted by Schlimmbesserung at 12:24 AM on November 4, 2009


Waitasecond, fourcheesemac. That was YOUR Claude-Lévi-Strauss-at-100 thread! I have fallen for the ploy!
posted by Schlimmbesserung at 12:27 AM on November 4, 2009


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posted by lapolla at 3:59 AM on November 4, 2009


Ha. I had forgotten that was my thread, entirely, I swear!
posted by fourcheesemac at 6:15 AM on November 4, 2009


But, for those wondering who this guy is, I must say it wasn't a bad thread. There are some good links there for a basic introduction to Levi-Strauss' life, work, and contribution.
posted by fourcheesemac at 6:16 AM on November 4, 2009


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posted by artsygeek at 6:49 AM on November 4, 2009


I think the jeans jokes are weak. Long after no one remembers the clothing brand, we will remember the ideas of the great anthropologist.

Except my professor knew Levi-Strauss personally. This wasn't a joke. Confused people actually believed he had invented blue jeans and wanted a pair from the inventor himself.

Apparently he had a sense of humor about it. If they sent enough cash, he would sometimes pop down to the market, buy a pair of Levi's, sign them, and mail them back.

Even brilliant philosophers need a sense of humor about themselves.
posted by jefficator at 7:10 AM on November 4, 2009 [4 favorites]


Susan Sontag's 1963 essay on Levi-Strauss from the NY Review of Books.
posted by Rumple at 9:27 PM on November 6, 2009


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