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Savage Thoughts: Interdisciplinarity and the Challenge of Claude Levi-Strauss

24-25 September 2010

Keynote Speakers:
Professor Boris Wiseman, Department of English, Germanic and Romance Studies, University of Copenhagen
Professeur Jean-Jacques Nattiez, Faculté de musique, Université de Montréal

The ‘bricoleur’ is adept at performing a large number of diverse tasks; but, unlike the engineer, he does not subordinate each of them to the availability of raw materials and tools conceived and procured for the purpose of the project. –Lévi-Strauss, The Savage Mind.

Claude Lévi-Strauss was one of the great interdisciplinary writers of the twentieth century whose influence has been felt far beyond his home discipline of anthropology. His inquiry illuminated the border lands between primitive and non-primitive, self and other, myth and history, human and animal, art and nature, and the dichotomies that give structure to culture. At the same time his method troubled those borders and dichotomies, through the bricolage he adopted that illuminated connections amongst literature, art, psychology, music, religion, and law.

Our call for ‘savage thoughts’ seeks out new work influenced by this inquiry and these methods, and reflections on Levi-Strauss’ legacy across the whole range of the humanities and beyond, including—

1) Recent interdisciplinary research in the reception, critique, and development, of Lévi-Strauss’ work. How have these inquiries been transformed in recent years? Are the children of Lévi-Strauss as savage as he?

2) Consideration of Lévi-Strauss’ larger intellectual influence, explicit or otherwise, right across the humanities. Perhaps there is something savage at the heart of interdisciplinary thought itself—refusing to be tamed by the intellectual borders of a discipline, it forages at will. Where has Lévi-Strauss’ method spawned such wildness and hybridity?

3) Looking beyond the academy to consider how Lévi-Strauss’ ideas have embedded themselves in the culture, values, social organization, and framework of modern society. What is the public life and impact of these ideas? In what ways has our world been altered by his mode of apprehending it?