Wednesday, November 04, 2009

L'ethnologue Claude Lévi-Strauss est mort

French is not a language I ever attempted seriously, but even I can understand this headline. Last year for Claude Lévi-Strauss' 100th birthday I did a series of posts about him and his works. (I even learned how to type the accent mark on my Mac keyboard -option 'e' - doing that series.) He would have been 101 on November 28, 2009.

After  recently spending several weeks in LA in the company of people ranging from 87 to 94, I think that wishing someone to live to 101 is more of a curse than a blessing. There are exceptions, and even those with the most challenging problems, can still live a meaningful life if they have some purpose, some task, some relationship to which they are still dedicated. And Peter Dunlap-Shohl's Parkinson's blog reminds me that life, not as we expected it or idealized it, still has great value to those who know how to find its blessings.

Good bye, Professor Lévi-Strauss. You've made great contributions to what humans know about humans.

From Le Monde:

L'ethnologue Claude Lévi-Strauss est mort

L'ethnologue et anthropologue Claude Lévi-Strauss est mort dans la nuit du samedi 31 octobre au dimanche 1er novembre à l'âge de 100 ans, selon le service de presse de l'Ecole des hautes études en sciences sociales (EHESS) contacté par Le Plon, la maison d'édition de l'auteur de Tristes Tropiques, a également confirmé l'information diffusée par Le en fin d'après-midi. Claude Lévi-Strauss, qui a renouvelé l'étude des phénomènes sociaux et culturels, notamment celle des mythes, aurait eu 101 ans le 28 novembre.

Here's how the LA Times started off their report for those, like me, who need an English version:
Claude Levi-Strauss dies at 100; French philosopher's ideas transformed anthropology

By Thomas H. Maugh II November 4, 2009

Claude Levi-Strauss, the French philosopher widely considered the father of modern anthropology because of his then-revolutionary conclusion that so-called primitive societies did not differ greatly intellectually from modern ones, died Friday at his home in Paris from natural causes. He was 100.

Part philosopher, part sociologist and entirely humanist, he studied tribes in Brazil and North America, concluding that virtually all societies shared powerful commonalities of behavior and thought, often expressing them in myths. Towering over the French intellectual scene in the 1960s and 1970s, he founded the school of thought known as structuralism, which holds that common features exist within the enormous varieties of human experience. Those commonalities are rooted partly in nature and partly in the human brain itself.
The rest of the French and English articles can be found at the links.  A more eclectic perspective of his life and work can be found in last year's 100th Anniversary series on this blog.  Thanks PM for the alert. 

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