Support the news
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 structuralism - concepts about common patterns of behavior 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 honor his memory.
France reacted emotionally to Levi-Strauss' weekend death, with French President Nicolas Sarkozy joining government officials, politicians and ordinary citizens populating blogs with heartfelt tributes.
Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner praised his emphasis on a dialogue between cultures and said that France had lost a "visionary." Sarkozy honored the "indefatigable humanist."
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.
Beatriz Perrone Moises, an anthropology professor at the University of Sao Paulo, said "given his age, we were almost expecting this, but still I feel a kind of emptiness."
"The Brazil he described in "Tristes Tropiques" is a very particular world of the senses and as he himself said there, it was a bit like rediscovering Americans, like the explorers of the 17th century. He often spoke about this emotion, this feeling. (For him,) Brazil that was less about the county itself than about the Brazil of the Indians and the feeling of walking in the footsteps of the 17th century explorers," Perrone Moises told The Associated Press in a telephone interview from Sao Paulo.
Levi-Strauss left France during as a result of the anti-Jewish laws of the collaborationist Vichy regime and during World War II joined the Free French Forces.
Levi-Strauss also won worldwide acclaim and was awarded honorary doctorates at universities, including Harvard, Yale and Oxford, as well as universities in Sweden, Mexico and Canada.
A skilled handyman who believed in the virtues of manual labor and outdoor life, Levi-Strauss was also an ardent music-lover who once said he would have liked to have been a composer had he not become an ethnologist.
He was married three times and had two sons, Matthieu and Laurent.
This program aired on November 3, 2009. The audio for this program is not available.
Support the news