“Not a year goes by without my receiving an order for jeans – usually from Africa.”
Claude Levi-Strauss, who died a few weeks short of his 101st birthday, was widely regarded as a founder of modern anthropology and one of France’s foremost thinkers.
He introduced structuralism to anthropology, an approach that seeks to identify common patterns of behaviour and thought in all human societies.
In 1955 he published Tristes Tropiques, an account of his time as an expatriate doubling as a philosophical meditation. The book – which starts with the arresting sentence: “I hate travels and explorers” – was immediately hailed as a masterpiece and turned the author into one of France’s best-known intellectuals.
He went on to publish hugely influential books, including Structural Anthropology (1958), the Savage Mind (1962), and The Raw and the Cooked (1964). The latter led to a series of works entitled Mythologies, in which Levi-Strauss found common threads underlying seemingly arbitrary myths across cultures.