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Claude Lévi-Strauss, notre contemporain

Abstract : Let us begin with a photo: here, we see Claude Lévi-Strauss going up the Seine from Rouen to Paris in a canoe, accompanied by paddlers from the Haida tribe of British Columbia. [1] It is the fall of 1989, and the exhibition “The Americas of Claude Lévi-Strauss” is on display at the Musée de l’Homme. The 18-metre canoe, made from red cedar, was crafted by Native American-Canadian artist Bill Reid; it acts as a symbol of the indigenous art of the ancient Pacific Northwest in its prime. The canoe follows the Seine from Rouen to Paris, where the anthropologist joins the oarsmen before being received together at City Hall by the mayor at the time, Jacques Chirac. You have to imagine this scene. The press has given us a partial account: [2] for six days, the countryside of Normandy and then of Île-de-France slipped past Native American bodies; on the bank, French children with multicoloured feathers in their hair cried, “The Indians are coming! The Indians are coming!”; and finally, the incongruous arrival in an occidental city at the end of the twentieth century. The political power of this staging – to which Lévi-Strauss graciously submitted himself – lies in the slow revival of the past it is presenting, symbolically inverting the terms of the discovery: this time, it’s the Native Americans who come to meet the white men. The terrible encounter of the sixteenth century, often called the “discovery of America”, which for Lévi-Strauss inaugurated the cataclysm of modernity, is hereby replayed in reverse. What was done can be undone. The past comes back in a present that can, sometimes, act as redeemer. In any case, one can hope so. [...]
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Submitted on : Monday, November 29, 2021 - 9:50:23 PM
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Emmanuelle Loyer. Claude Lévi-Strauss, notre contemporain. Bérose - Encyclopédie internationale des histoires de l'anthropologie, 2019. ⟨hal-03456041⟩



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