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Lévi-Strauss, Claude (1908–2009)

Traditionally, anthropology was dominated by detailed studies of particular peoples, but in the 1950s, Claude Lévi-Strauss developed an analytical approach to culture that provoked the linguistic turn throughout the humanities. Lévi-Strauss looked at the patterns of similarity and differences between aspects of different cultures—kinship, myth, religion, magic, food—and showed how they could be interpreted systematically. He introduced the idea of structural linguistics to help in this task of cross-cultural comparison and established the approach of structuralism that resonated far beyond anthropology. Structuralism offered a method that could be applied to instances of cultural form independently of the historical detail and ethnological specificity. In Structural Anthropology (1958 [English trans. 1968]), Lévi-Strauss argued that kinship systems could be analyzed with an approach, derived from the linguistics of ...

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