A Farewell to Claude Levi-Strauss

November 9, 2009

Claude Lévi-Strauss (Nov. 28, 1908 – Oct 30, 2009)

On Oct 30, 2009, Claude Lévi-Strauss passed away. He left quite a legacy in the world of anthropology. Born in Belgium on November 28, 1908, his family moved to France, where he studied at the university on Paris. During the mid-1930s, he taught at the University of Sao Paulo and undertook fieldwork among the Caduveo (or Kadiwéu) and Bororo peoples in the state of Mato Grosso, Brazil. His research resulted in a copious number of publications, including “The Raw and the Cooked.”

Disappearing Amazonian cultures
Creative Commons License photo credit: Cristina Mittermeier

He kept close watch on indigenous cultures as he transitioned from fieldwork to more academic endeavors. During his lifetime, Lévi-Strauss witnessed the disappearance of more than 90 tribes and 15 languages in that part of world. This process is ongoing.

This is not the place to expand on his many contributions to the field of anthropology; others have already done so. This brief note is meant to mark his passing, to acknowledge his contributions in the field of the indigenous people of the Americas.

His interest in Amazonian cultures led him to write a brief, but much appreciated note about the high quality of the Amazon artifacts in what is now the core of HMNS’ Amazon collection. Upon receiving exhibit catalogs in 1997, he wrote to Adam Mekler, HMNS  associate curator, Amazonia:

“This is to acknowledge receipt of and thank you for the two volumes on Amazonian art you were kind enough to send me. They are truly splendid as all the objects illustrated are of the highest quality. I am delighted to have them in my personal library.
With best wishes.
Sincerely, Claude Lévy-Strauss.”

Authored By Dirk Van Tuerenhout

As curator of anthropology, Dirk is responsible for the museum’s artifact collection and is involved in its temporary and permanent anthropology exhibits. Dirk is an expert in human cultures; he curates the Museum’s Hall of the Americas and specializes in native American cultures like the Aztec and Maya.

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