Structuralism In Anthropological Theory

Powerful Essays
This paper will focus on summarizing and reviewing structuralism in anthropological theory as discussed in class and as found in the assigned reading materials. The summary will be loosely in the format of Questions, Assumptions, Methodology, and Evidences as used in class discussions and reports. This paper will be tackling Claude Levi-Strauss’ “Linguistics and Anthropology” (1952) and Sherry B. Ortner’s essay “Is Female to Male as Nature is to Culture?” (1974), with supplementary analyses from Alan L. Barnard’s “History and Theory in Anthropology” (2004) and Jon McGee and Richard L. Warms’ “Anthropological Theory: An Introductory History” (2008). Barnard (2004) defines structuralism as “refer[ring] to those theoretical perspectives which give primacy to pattern over substance. For a structuralist, meaning comes through knowing how things fit together, not from understanding things in isolation” (p. 120). Furthermore, according to McGee and Warms (2008), “[s]tructuralists believe that cultural phenomena are the product of universal logical processes that organize human thought. And a fundamental characteristic of human thought, according to structuralists, is to sort data into binary oppositions” (p. 346). This notion of a binary structure was pioneered by the Prague School of linguists, whose theories greatly influenced Levi-Strauss’ structuralism. One key insight of the Prague School was that “words were built upon contrasts (binary oppositions) between phonemes rather
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