[URBANTH-L]Lévi-Strauss session

Katherine C. Donahue kdonahue at plymouth.edu
Fri Jan 16 15:04:28 EST 2009

Dear Colleagues,

Given the enthusiastic response to an email Deborah Reed-Danahay and I sent
out in late December concerning a proposed session on Claude Lévi-Strauss,
we are moving ahead with organizing such a session. I have pasted in the
session abstract here, and have pasted in the AAA theme information below
that. If you are interested in participating in this session, which we
anticipate submitting to the SAE and possibly to AES or SCA as well, please
send a draft of an abstract by the end of January to both of us: Katherine
Donahue kdonahue at plymouth.edu and Deborah Reed-Danahay der5 at buffalo.edu for
our consideration and in order for us to work up the session, the
discussants, and submit it on time to the relevant sections. 

If you have questions, please don't hesitate to email me, Kate Donahue.

Best wishes,

Kate Donahue

Plymouth State University



Lévi-Strauss, Europe, and the Ends of Anthropology


This session considers the relationships between the work of Claude
Lévi-Strauss and the ends of Europeanist anthropology.  Lévi-Strauss
represents the last, or the end of, a certain type of European intellectual
that reigned during the 20th century: the anthropologist as hero 

and the anthropologist of grand theory.   His journeys to the ends of the
earth (or, rather, “an end to journeying”), including to the Amazon that he
chronicles in Tristes Tropiques, entailed a nostalgic quest for the exotic
and the primitive as a form of self discovery for the European
anthropologist.  Papers in this session will take a historical perspective
in order to explore and critique the applications of structuralism in
Europeanist anthropology as well as the personal influences Lévi-Strauss had
on French anthropology.  More broadly, the session considers the
implications of the Lévi-Straussian project for the idea of (“ends of”) an
anthropology of Europe and especially a contemporary, multicultural Europe.



Here’s the AAA theme information:

AAA 2009 CFP:



What is the relevance of anthropology in today’s world?  Where does our
discipline stand in the age of hyper-science and the genome; during an era
in which ethnography - as a method and form of textured representation - is
being mobilized with vigor and confidence by those working in other
disciplinary formations; at a moment when the questions we're asking are
also being answered by others in the humanities, social sciences, and media
(and often with much more popular recognition)?  Does anthropology still
provide a unique contribution? 

What are its contemporary goals, and are they different from those of
previous intellectual generations?  


The 2009 meetings of the American Anthropological Association will provide a
critical space to tackle these scholarly, theoretical, and political
concerns head-on as we examine our academic and public roles in relation to
the most pressing problems confronting our world today. 

We intentionally offer the double entendre of “ends”   (as both conclusions
and purposes) in order to focus attention on anthropology’s changing
relationships to other disciplines and to a variety of publics.  Perhaps
thinking collectively about our traditional subjects, objects, and projects
would allow us to find new sources of energy for anthropological work.  We
hope to generate serious conversation about these issues as we continue to
reinvent anthropology for this new millennium. Themes we hope to explore
include, but are not limited to, the following:


1)    The end/s of relativism?  While cultural relativism has been one

of anthropology’s foundational tenets, it has been under direct attack
because the rhetorics and realities of global terrorism over-determine
public discourse today.  How have anthropologists balanced their investments
in relativism with their understandings of their roles as cultural critics,
and how might we continue to redefine (and defend) the basic truths of
cultural relativism in such a hostile political environment?


2)    The end/s of identity?  Contemporary anthropologists have been

pioneers of scholarly analyses about how identities are forged and
politicized, and have been particularly vocal in demonstrating how cultural
identifications pass themselves off as natural.  However, in decrying the
essentialisms mobilized by previous generations of social scientists, we
still struggle to make sense of the complex relationships between identity
and power.  For example, deconstructing racial identity has been a necessary
project, but is it sufficient in our quest to challenge people’s robust
investments in racial and racist ideologies?

 Is denaturalization enough to challenge the continued deployment of
identity categories as mechanisms of social control?


3)    The end/s of publics?  While it has become commonplace to link

the concerns of particular localities to national, regional, and global
dimensions of practice and analysis, we still often struggle
methodologically to conduct ethnography in today’s world.  How must we
re-think notions of space and time in relation to the new kinds of publics
we analyze and engage today, whether these publics are migrant communities,
diasporic communities, transnational religious communities, scientific
communities, etc.?  How do we conceptualize the explosion of mass mediated
intimacies, and what can this tell us about new forms of social and economic
engagement? What kinds of publics might we seek to address (or even produce)
with our work, and how do we push the field’s epistemological and
presentational conventions in order to effectively do so?






Katherine C. Donahue

Professor, Anthropology

MSC 39

Plymouth State University

Plymouth, NH 03264


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