Claude Levi-Strauss, 100: Reshaped Field of Anthropology

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The Toronto Star

Claude Levi-Strauss, 100: Reshaped Field of Anthropology


French anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss, seen here in 2005, has died at the age of 100. Levi-Strauss helped shape Western thinking about human civilisation with his 1955 book "Tristes Tropiques". (AFP/File/Pascal Pavani)

PARIS–Claude Levi-Strauss, widely considered the father of modern anthropology for work that included theories about commonalities between tribal and industrial societies, has died. He was 100.

The French intellectual was regarded as having reshaped the field of anthropology, introducing the concept of structuralism – concepts about common patterns of behaviour and thought, especially myths, in a wide range of human societies. Defined as the search for the underlying patterns of thought in all forms of human activity, structuralism compared the formal relationships among elements in any given system.

During his six-decade career, Levi-Strauss authored literary and anthropological classics including Tristes Tropiques (1955), The Savage Mind (1963) and The Raw and the Cooked (1964).

Jean-Mathieu Pasqualini, chief of staff at the Academie Francaise, said an homage to Levi-Strauss was planned for Thursday, with members of the society – of which Levi-Strauss was a member – standing during a speech to honour his memory.

Born on Nov. 28, 1908, in Brussels, Belgium, Levi-Strauss was the son of French parents of Jewish origin. He studied in Paris and went on to teach in Sao Paulo, Brazil and conduct much of the research that led to his breakthrough books in the South American giant.

Levi-Strauss also won worldwide acclaim and was awarded honorary doctorates universities including Harvard, Yale and Oxford, as well as universities in Sweden, Mexico and Canada.

He is survived by his sons Roman and Laurent.

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