Happy 100th Birthday, Claude Levi-Strauss

And Le Nouvel Observateur marks the occasion with a great special issue on Levi-Strauss.

There is no disputing the fact that Levi-Strauss is the last of the great post-War public intellectuals that France has produced and an enormous influence on the social sciences. His structuralism revolutionized anthropology and sociology and is still considered a foundation for the social sciences. Structuralism is the first course I taught at the University of Nice in 1997 along with structural linguistics as part of a course on language and society. His analysis of myths was truly a revelation of the power of structural analysis that definitely made all other approaches seem childish. And of course, his influence on the rest of the French intellectual scene, from Foucault to Bourdieu is undeniable even as both men criticized structuralism for its underestimation of power (something that will be at the heart of the post-structuralist movement.

Germaine Tillion – RIP

Germaine Tillion is probably not a familiar name outside of France, but she was very famous there, for an academic. She died today, at the age of 100.

L’ethnologue et résistante Germaine Tillion est morte
LEMONDE.FR | 19.04.08

© Le Monde.fr

Germaine TillionGermaine Tillion was a famous ethnologist and member of the French Resistance. As an ethnologist, she started her career in Algeria, in the 1930s, studying Berber culture in the Algerian Aures. She said she literally threw up when she heard on the radio the capitulation speech of Marshall Petain in 1940. Once in the Resistance, she created the secret network “Musee de l’Homme” (the great “temple” of French anthropology). She was turned in by a priests, arrested, and deported to the concentration camp of Ravensbruck, with her mother. She wrote about this experience in Ravensbruck.

Even after the war, Germain Tillion remained what the French called an “intellectuel engage” (an activist intellectual), mediating between De Gaulle and the FLN during the independence war in Algeria, saving lives in the process while denouncing the systematic torture of what she called the “bloody monkeys” of the OAS (the fascist terrorist group operating largely to derail Algerian independence).

Germaine Tillion was one of the most decorated French women.

Photo source: AFP/MANOOCHER DEGATHI, from article, Germaine Tillion, le 22 novembre 2000.

Les Combats de Germaine Tillion

The official website

Germaine Tillion: Une Ethnologue dans le Siecle, by Tzvetan Todorov