Doctoral Theses of Anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss Acquired by Ransom Center

May 10, 2010

AUSTIN, Texas — The Harry Ransom Center, a humanities research library and museum at The University of Texas at Austin, has acquired the manuscripts of anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss's major and minor doctoral theses.

Major and minor doctoral theses by anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss. Photo by Pete Smith.
Major and minor doctoral theses manuscripts by anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss. Photo: Pete Smith

The typed theses, annotated with handwritten corrections, were presented by Lévi-Strauss at the Sorbonne University in Paris in 1948 upon completion of his doctorate in humanities. Lévi-Strauss's major thesis, "Les structures élémentaires de la parenté," was published in English as "The Elementary Structures of Kinship" in 1949. In the thesis, he proposed the "alliance theory," a structuralist model for the anthropological study of relations and kinship. His minor thesis, "La vie familiale et sociale des indiens Nambikwara" ("The Family and Social Life of the Nambikwara Indians"), is an ethnography of an indigenous group of the Brazilian Amazon.

Frequently referred to as the father of modern anthropology and structuralism, Lévi-Strauss is known for works such as "A World on the Wane" (1955), "The Savage Mind" (1962) and the four-volume "Mythologiques" series, completed in 1971. From 1959 to 1982 Lévi-Strauss held a chair in social anthropology at the Collège de France, and in 1973 he was elected a member of the Académie Française.

"Claude Lévi-Strauss was one of the world's leading anthropologists and public intellectuals of his time," said Kamala Visweswaran, an anthropology professor at The University of Texas at Austin. "Discussion and debate about the nature of his legacy for the human sciences has only accelerated, not receded, after his death. The acquisition of Claude Lévi-Strauss's major and minor doctoral theses, the basis of his work, 'Elementary Structures of Kinship,' will be a major resource for students and scholars interested in anthropology and intellectual history. Scholars will be interested to know, for example, whether the 1948 dissertation is substantially different from the first French edition of the book in 1949. Understanding the relationship of the original dissertation to the second French edition of 1967, the basis of a contested English translation of the book, will likely yield new insights for English-speaking audiences."

The Lévi-Strauss manuscripts will be accessible for research once organized and housed.

The Ransom Center holds other significant research collections of modern French materials, including works of Samuel Beckett, Charles Baudelaire, Jean Cocteau, Valentine Hugo, Raymond Queneau and Henri-Pierre Roché.

High-resolution press images of the Lévi-Strauss materials are available.

For more information, contact: Alicia Dietrich, Harry Huntt Ransom Humanities Research Center, 512 232 3667;  Jennifer Tisdale, Harry Huntt Ransom Humanities Research Center, 512-471-8949.