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Monday, July 23, 2018

Race for culture: Forum remembers French scholar

“It was the late 1950s,and UNESCO was determined to prove that different races are not differently endowed (but) Claude Levi-Strauss turned the idea on its head”...

Written by Vinay Sitapati | New Delhi | Published: January 13, 2009 3:22:25 am

Arguably France’s greatest living intellectual,Levi-Strauss is at 100 inarguably the country’s oldest

“It was the late 1950s,and UNESCO was determined to prove that different races are not differently endowed (but) Claude Levi-Strauss turned the idea on its head,” eminent sociologist Andre Beteille told a packed auditorium at the India International Centre on Monday.

In a speech on the subject,the renowned French anthropologist said “race doesn’t determine culture,” Beteille said. “Culture determines race. Because of marriage rituals,certain biological features are reproduced within the same race’.”

Beteille was speaking at the inauguration of an international conference: ‘My Favourite Levi-Strauss’.

At a time when the words Levi-Strauss brings up images of denims rather than French structuralism,a conference on his ideas comes not a moment too soon. Levi-Strauss pioneered the field of structural anthropology — the concept that people think of the world in opposites — high and low,or life and death. Strauss’s work on family structures,for instance,saw nuclear family as being defined not by relations within the family but by the nuclear family’s relation to its distant relatives.

What you exclude defines who you are,Strauss said.

Arguably France’s greatest living intellectual,Levi-Strauss is at 100 inarguably the country’s

oldest.

The conference features several prominent anthropologists and scholars,and is organised by the French Embassy and noted JNU sociologist Dipankar Gupta. French Ambassador Jerome Bonnafont inaugurated the conference. Panels — including by Gupta and Columbia

University’s Vincent Debae — will be chaired by London School of Economics’ Maurice Bloch and cultural historian Kapila

Vatsyayan.

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