Beyond structural wholes? Introduction to part 3

Bubandt, Nils, and Otto, Ton (2010) Beyond structural wholes? Introduction to part 3. In: Otto, Ton, and Bubandt, Nils, (eds.) Experiments in holism: theory and practice in contemporary anthropology. Wiley-Blackwell, West Sussex, UK, pp. 177-186.

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[Extract] Structural wholes, one might say, began with Marcel Mauss. This is of course wrong in both a logical and a chronological sense, for before Mauss there was his uncle, Durkheim, and beside Mauss there were many other sources for French structuralism: de Saussure, Jakobson, Levi-Strauss, and Trubetzkoy, to mention but a few. At the same time, it is striking how Mauss is represented as an explicit and decisive inspiration by many of the central figures of structuralism. Claude Levi-Strauss, the founder of structuralism in anthropology, wrote an introduction to Mauss that hailed him as the founder of "modern ethnology" and a precursor to his own structuralism (Levi-Strauss 1987). Louis Dumont authored a short essay in which he did the same (Dumont 1986). And in his book The Enigma of the Gift, Maurice Godelier remembers his reaction to reading Mauss' most famous essay, The Gift (1990 [1924]), for the first time: "I felt I had suddenly emerged onto the bank of an immense tranquil river bearing along a mass of facts and customs plucked from a multitude of societies" (Godelier 1999: 6). The first chapter of Godelier's book is more than 100 pages long and is entitled "The Legacy of Mauss." This explicit influence of Mauss' thinking on not only Claude Levi-Strauss, Louis Dumont, and Maurice Godelier, but also Mary Douglas, Pierre Bourdieu, and even Jacques Derrida (1992), appears to a large extent to have either obviated the figure of Emile Durkheim or at least passed from Durkheim through Mauss. Even though Levi-Strauss, for instance, paid homage to Durkheim's Elementary Forms of the Religious Life (Durkheim 1971 [1912]) by entitling his first book The Elementary Structures of Kinship, the substance of the analysis was a sustained application and extension of Maussian exchange theory (Levi-Strauss 1969). Indeed, Gane has suggested that Levi-Strauss "always makes a detour round Durkheim by appealing directly to Mauss" (1990: 128). Similarly, Dumont's inspiration from the group of people around the journal L'Annee Sociologique, founded by Durkheim in 1898, came primarily through Mauss (as well as from Hertz). This was in many ways obvious, since Durkheim had died in 1917 and other members of this circle, including Robert Hertz, had been killed during World War 1. But Mauss was not merely a broadcaster of a Durkheimian vision. He was a charismatic figure who made his own distinct contribution. Indeed, as a biographer of Dumont notes, Dumont's roots in the Durkheimian school were "based chiefly on his discovery of Mauss, whose courses he followed and who seems to have inspired him more than anyone else in Parisian intellectual circles at that time" (Parkin 2003: 2).

Item ID: 15837
Item Type: Book Chapter (Research - B1)
ISBN: 978-1-4443-3323-7
Date Deposited: 19 Apr 2011 21:55
FoR Codes: 16 STUDIES IN HUMAN SOCIETY > 1601 Anthropology > 160104 Social and Cultural Anthropology @ 100%
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