With the tree of subjects in anthropology, from physical, to linguistic, to archaeology, to cultural, it does not seem there is more than these main branches. But if you have been following this blog you know that from these branches there are so many more. Structural anthropology branches off from cultural. Levi-Strauss was the founder of this school of anthropology. The way he designed this idea was according to his “theories, universal patterns in cultural systems are products of the invariant structure of the human mind.” In layman terms he is saying that our minds are never changing and that is how the systems of culture are produced. Let us take the Native American culture as an example. Sure, the Europeans tried to turn them into God fearing “modern” peoples, but nowadays, even though much of their culture has been lost to the times, there are still things in modern Native American Culture in which their ancestors would be comfortable partaking in. Structural anthropology is as if saying “you can take the human out of the wild but you can't take the wild out of the human,” or something to that extent.
So where does language tie into this? This is not linguistic anthropology. Yes, this is not linguistic, but the kind of language Levi-Strauss was interested in was the type that had to do with kinship. When it comes to a cultures, and I mean any culture, what is the one thing that ties them together? Skin colour? No; with the rise in immigration throughout a myriad of counties, cultures have a whole array of colours. And it is not foods either. The thing that ties cultures together is language. If the peoples of a culture spoke entirely different languages, there would be no culture. Reason being is that a paramount of culture is being able to share information, either through speech or written words. Although, that said, this is the cultural part of Levi-Strauss' mind set, not the structural anthropological. When language is looked at from a structural point of view Levi-Strauss compares language to myth, "Myth is language, functioning on an especially high level where meaning succeeds practically at 'taking off' from the linguistic ground on which it keeps rolling." His reasoning for this is because myth has attributes that can only be in myth, so he sees it as its own language. What I mean by this is unlike poetry which can get lost in translation, myth can be translated into many languages but still keeps the core of “myth." “According to Levi-Strauss, this is due to the nature of the structural components which make up a myth which are irreducible and recurrent across myths.”
At the beginning of this blog I mentioned “magic.” The type of magic Levi-Strauss spoke of is not what you would think of. This type of magic, Levi-Strauss theorizes, were the first steps towards religion. What he means by this is for magic to work, you have to believe in it; so belief ties magic and religion together. Some of our (as in the human race) earliest experience in religion would be with the shaman. This magical doctor who uses all matter of liquids and powders, and those who go to them somehow get better; the major factor in this is belief. With this in mind, Levi-Strauss “seems to think that psychoanalysis and the shamanistic performance he describes are structured the same way. He seems to feel that psychoanalysis can learn from shamanistic performance.” He criticized psychoanalysis for basically only observing and grouping their patients together (OCD, ADHD, ect.), but not curing them.. All in all, I am glad I have delved into a completely different school of anthropology. It is so amazing to think that the theories of one man could have such an effect on such a wide practice. I have said it once, and I will say it again, as long as there are humans, there will always be a need for an anthropologist.
Please feel free to comment on what you thought of the blog, or other physical anthropological subjects you would like me to cover.