Claude Lévi-Strauss has Died

When I was first reading about Anthropology as a budding Archaeologist, Claude Levi Strauss was old. When I went to graduate school, I was shocked to see Claude Levi Strauss walking around at conferences, being old and revered. Every decade or so since then Claude Levi Strauss would show up in one place or another. And now, at the age of 100, he has died.

If you want to read one of the finest books ever written from the perspective of socio-cultural anthropology try Tristes Tropiques. It will blow you away.

There is a very good obit here at the NYT.

This is truly the end of an era, even if it is a golden era that ended decades ago.


  1. #1 Jared
    November 4, 2009

    I read about this about an hour or so ago. He and Mayr both ended up as living fossils, didn’t they? I kind of hoped he would write a magnum opus before his death.

  2. #2 Greg Laden
    November 4, 2009

    Mayr was way older when he died, though. Like 200 or something.

  3. #3 Jared
    November 4, 2009

    No, Mayr was actually younger, Levi-Strauss was only a few weeks from 101, Mayr was several months off the mark.

  4. #4 Stacy
    November 4, 2009

    Now I have the 501 blues. 🙁

  5. #5 csrster
    November 5, 2009

    That must be rather how I felt about seeing Sir Nevill Mott still floating around the Cavendish Laboratory when I was an undergrad. It was like meeting someone from the age of Einstein, Dirac and Pauli. (And he was only 90.)

  6. #6 Dacks
    November 5, 2009

    Listening to a talk show about him yesterday, I was reminded of the arguments I had years ago with my future father-in-law, a physics prof, when I was an anthro undergrad. I can see now where his discomfort came from: he conflated the idea of cultural relativism with moral relativism. And he felt, not without reason, that science was under attack from all forms of relativism at the university where he taught.

    I wish I could have expressed more coherently to him at the time what Levi-Strauss really had to say about understanding cultures within their own frame of reference. Hearing these ideas again made me realize the difference between the study of anthropology and the simplistic ideologies trotted out in the name of “ethnic sensitivity.”